The Scientific Case for Regular Out-of-the-Box Date Nights

Why your date nights should be more creative.

My wife and I are starting a new habit this year: regular date nights.

We currently don’t have kids, which means every night can feel like a date night. This is probably why we’ve waited five years to make regular date nights a priority.

But as I dove deeper into my study of joy, one thing became increasingly clear: couples who date regularly are stronger. In fact, studies show that married couples who go on monthly (or more often) date nights are 14 percent less likely to split up.

As my wife and I discussed doing regular date nights, we agreed we didn’t want to do the typical dinner and a movie. We want our dates to be fun, exciting, and out-of-the-box. We believed that if our dates were creative, they would provide a greater benefit. Turns out, science supports this idea.

Here’s why regular out-of-the-box date nights are becoming a priority for us this year:

1. The brain craves novelty experiences to stay motivated.

Did you know that 40% of our day is run by routine and habit?

I believe this, especially as I look at my schedule. I love routine. But I also know routine isn’t the best ingredient for love.

When we perform habits and routines, our brains are running along familiar neural pathways. They go back and forth, never creating new pathways. You know what to expect when you perform a habit or routine.

This is why novelty is such a powerful force in the brain. When we try new things, our brain travels along new neural pathways. Then, we get a rush a dopamine, the chemical in our brain associated with reward, pleasure, and motivation. Trying something new and enjoyable gives us pleasure.

Because the brain releases dopamine, something interesting happens: we become motivated. This means, when our dates are more creative and outside-of-the-norm, we’re more motivated to go on more dates. And this in turn increases the quality of a relationship.

If 40% of your day is run by routine and habit, let your date nights be the activity that breaks the mold. It’ll give you a rush of dopamine, which then, makes you motivated to go on more dates.

2. Positive emotions reframe the negativity in our minds.

Relationships are not always happy and bright. Sometimes, we experience negative moments that build bitterness and resentment inside us.

These moments will remain negative in our minds unless we actively do something to change the story.

The obvious solution to stop the buildup of bitterness and resentment is to have a healthy discussion with your partner. But once the discussion is over, you’re not always left with happy feelings. In fact, you’ll still have the residue of dealing with tough emotions.

This is where regular date nights step in and save the day.

Having a regular date night gives you the opportunity to experience positive emotions with your partner.

A study on resilience discovered that resilient individuals use positive emotions as a tool to bounce back from negative, stressful experiences. When they feel stress, they’ll use something like humor or relaxation to come back.

If you make regular date nights a habit, you’re also making resilience a habit. You can have a stressful week, but with a date night thrown in, the positive emotions can help you bounce back faster.

3. We’re more likely to have a higher quality relationship with date nights.

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia did a study to learn the impact of date nights on marriages. They discovered that date nights leads to a higher quality relationship by fostering greater communication, novelty, eros (passionate love), communication, and stress relief.

When they dug into the numbers, the results were surprising.

Husbands and wives who have couple time (time where they are intentionally together) at least once a week enjoy at least 3x more sexual satisfaction in their marriage than couples who have couple time less than once a week. The same number applies to their satisfaction with communication.

With commitment, husbands and wives who have couple time at least once a week are at least 2x more committed to their marriage than couples who have couple time less than once a week.

There you have it. Your intentional date nights can increase your communication, sexual satisfaction, and commitment up to 3x.

Schedule your next date now

40 to 50 percent of married couples in the US end in divorce. It’s a sobering statistic, but I believe we can do something to ensure we’re not on the wrong end of this data.

It’s easy to drift through life and it’s just as easy to drift apart from each other. Intentional, out-of-the-box date nights give us the opportunity to reconnect and enjoy each other. It’s an investment that lasts a lifetime.

To encourage you, here’s how my wife and I are approaching our date nights:

  • We’re doing a bi-weekly date night. With our work schedules, we know we can’t do a weekly date night. But a bi-weekly date night gives us more time to be creative.
  • We alternate ownership for the date night. One week, my wife will plan a creative date night with something I like to do. The next time, I’ll plan a creative date night with something she likes.
  • We plan for it on the same night every other week. This helps us take the brainpower out of scheduling.

We don’t have kids, so we can afford to just have a date night at a moment’s notice. If you have kids, it’ll take extra planning to get a babysitter. But if this article showed you anything, I hope it’s that date nights are important. Schedule your next one now and you’ll reap the benefits for a lifetime.

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