But I've Already Tried... Dating
As you might imagine, I work with lots and lots of couples looking to reconnect and find happiness in their relationship. They’ve somehow become distant and can’t find their way back to one another. In these situations couples try to have “date nights” often with disastrous results. So let me say this now: No. More. Date. Nights. That’s right. I don’t care if your last three marriage counselors assigned this to you, I don’t want you to even think about going on a date if you’re having ongoing trouble in your relationship. Let’s face it: if you could do a date night, you wouldn’t need to go to counseling or read this blog post! You’d be working all this out on your own and wouldn’t need a professional to help.
Think about the idea of “date night” with your partner for just a minute. Now, what are you feeling as you think about it? My guess is trepidation, anxiety, worry, nervousness, outright terror or any number of other more “negative” emotions. Why? Because there’s just too much pressure!
Here’s the likely scenario you’ve played out a few times by now: You get a babysitter for a Friday or Saturday night and then make big, expensive plans (it’s date night after all, you know you need to make this good). You make it through an uncomfortable dinner and somewhat forced conversation only to find yourself at a movie or show worrying about having sex later. I mean, you’ve got to have sex later, right? It’s friggin’ date night! So, you finally get home (exhausted after the long workweek and the pressure of date night) and now you’re supposed to have rock star sex to show that you’re interested in improving the relationship. What’s the usual result? Decidedly non-rock star sex (if any happens at all) because women have to feel some connection and closeness to get excited about sex and being tired at the end of a long and stressful day and week is not getting her there.
So, no more date night. Instead, I’d like you to focus on building small connections and intimacies throughout the day and week. For example, make it a goal to do one nice thing for your partner, every day, for 14 days. This could be putting away the dishes without being asked, cooking a favorite meal, filling up the gas tank or any number of other tasks to make your partner’s life just a tiny bit easier. Just the act of thinking of nice things to do for your partner will have you in a better headspace.
Along with this, I’d also like you to schedule time to “hang out” (not date) a couple times per month. Here’s the key: do this on a Monday or Tuesday night. One of the reasons date nights fail is that couples schedule them on a Friday night at the end of a long week and everyone is tired going in! On a Monday or Tuesday you’re feeling rested from the week-end (OK, those of us with kids aren’t so much rested as “less exhausted,” but anything helps when you’re trying to connect). There are also less people out on these nights so if you do end up sharing a quick bite to eat, you won’t need a reservation. It makes the night more casual and easier to “go with the flow.” Relaxed couples are much happier couples. You can use these evenings to catch up on things you need to talk about, check out the book store, go mattress shopping or whatever. Just don’t call it a date; you’re just hanging out.
If you start practicing this combination of doing random acts of kindness for one another and creating time that’s more relaxed together, you’ll find that you’ll start to talk more and argue less. You’ll find yourselves moving towards one another again. It took time to become distant, so give yourselves time to become close. If you do these practices consistently, you’ll be going on that date (and enjoying it) before you know it.