Romantic partners who have spent any time searching on Google or through the shelves of Barnes and Noble looking for the solution to their troubled relationship have undoubtedly come across oodles of blogs and self help books extolling the benefits of a weekly or monthly “date night.” We often hear from an unhappy spouse that it’s because they do not have date night that their relationship has fallen into disarray.
John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
Once a week or once a month date night can be a great idea for couples who already share a strong emotional and intimate bond with one another. For these couples, the night out alone doing something they love will serves as solid relationship self-care. But for those partners already in a bunch of trouble who are looking for a real solution to the corrosive patterns in their relationship, a night a week at a restaurant or a bowling alley is simply too little too late!
In most cases we have worked with, the relationship is generally suffering significantly by the time date night appears on the menu as a solution to the problem. It is true – when used as a “dessert” in a romance, a date night can be a very pleasurable distraction from the routine and challenges of daily life and as a source of rejuvenation. However, when date night is the only “meal” the relationship gets during the course of the week, not only haven’t we seen the success of date night as the answer – we have seen instances in which it actually created more problems than it solved.
Putting aside one night a week to focus on the relationship will give some partners the license to become totally preoccupied with work, independent hobbies or interests and supporting a steady stream of their children’s extra curricular activities and community projects the remainder of the week. We often see relationships whose total intake of romantic nurturance decline when they pick one block of time per week to focus on their needs as a couple.
Additionally, “date nights” set up one or both partners to suffer the pains often associated with performance anxiety. If you and your partner are only meeting for quality time once a week, expectations are likely to be pretty high that the event be absolutely fabulous.
What is our alternative suggestion? (We are so glad you asked!)
So instead of once a week, we strongly encourage you to invest in your relationship on a daily basis. Date night every day, if you will. Use this time for self disclosure. If things are still rocky and safety has not yet been established between you and your partner, we would suggest not using this time to review all the standing resentments the two of you have. If you often think “there is no trust in my marriage” or you do not feel emotionally safe to share freely with your partner, you may want to consider attending some marriage counseling for additional help.
Your daily date night is a perfect time to read an inspirational book together, discussing how the ideas can apply to you; pray or meditate together; journal together, and read your writing to each other when you are done; or just share about yourselves. These are just a few of many ideas on how you can utilize your daily date time.
Yes we know, “there is no time,” and “we don’t have that much to talk about” or “we’re just going to end up fighting every night.” These are typical arguments we hear when we present our date night every night idea.
Our response is that it is alright to be afraid. It is okay to feel doubtful about your ability to communicate clearly. Unsure about opening up on a deep emotional level. It is normal to feel confused about where you are going to get the time from. There is work, and kids, and family obligations. Social commitments, separate interests and hobbies. The list can and does go on and on.
A couple’s commitment to be IN Love however requires that each partner invest considerable time and emotional energy into the development and maintenance of an emotional bond. Emotional Bonding is a critical part of the foundation for being IN Love.
So it is sad for us when we hear couples present a barrage of obstacles to investing time into their relationship. Usually our answer to a challenge from a partner that they “don’t have the luxury of working on the relationship everyday” because they “have too much too do” is:
It just ain’t so. You have all the time you need to make the relationship a priority. Give it the time it needs or you might end up giving it up. Every day.