Creating the Date Night Habit
Date nights don't have to be grand spectacles, but your marriage will improve if they're consistent… here's how.
We humans live a well-worn path, often living the same life over and over, day after day. It takes true effort to blaze a new trail because we’re simply not wired for change; we’re wired for habit. Our brains like reliability and consistently.
This is why creating a new practice, like regular date nights (or anything for that matter), isn’t always easy. Even if you really want to have regular, quality couple time, there’s a very good chance that you’ll naturally revert back to your old ways of not prioritizing date night.
Luckily, there are ways to hack your brain and life to create habits with ease. Here’s how:
Discover Your Why
If you’ve had trouble sticking to a regular date night, it’s not because couple time isn’t important to you. Of course, it is. It’s likely because you haven’t taken the time to identify why it’s important to you. Your "why" is the fuel behind any new endeavor. It’s what we lean on when we face an obstacle or any friction that makes the achievement of our goal difficult or inconvenient.
Give this a try—spend a few minutes together answering this question: Why is date night important to us?
When Marc and I started our date night habit over a decade ago, we were working at a company owned by a husband-wife team. Rich and Sue Robbins were not only our bosses and friends, but they were true role models in a multitude of ways. After nearly 20 years together, the Robbins’ marriage was still fun, connective and light. Date night, they told us, was a cornerstone of that connectivity. As a newly married couple, Marc and I very much admired the bond they had created and so readily sought to solidify our date night habit. Our "why" was that we could see where we wanted our marriage to be in 20 years and we knew intentionally setting aside "us time" was one way we could get there.
So, what’s your why? What are you committed to creating together? Write it down. Stick your answer on the fridge. Keep it present to remind you when it feels like date night is just another ‘to do’ on your list.
Anything that happens once in a while simply won’t become a habit. By definition, a habit is a "settled or regular tendency or practice," the key word being regular. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll be doing a date night every day, you can settle on a weekly routine.
For some, a weekly date night out of the home is just not feasible or affordable. That’s totally fine. Set aside the time at home. Your date night could simply be a cup of tea together every Tuesday at 8pm or a pizza and a glass of red wine every Friday night.
Consistently having a weekly date night doesn’t require you to make elaborate plans or spend hundreds of dollars. Start small. Cup of tea. Glass of wine. Game of Scrabble.
The Calendar Is Your Number One Ally
The BFF of consistency is the calendar. When a commitment is scheduled, as in actually given a devoted block of time in your calendar, it’s faaaaaar more likely to happen than a passing "Hey babe, let’s do something Saturday." Which Saturday? What time? What’s the plan? Do we need a reservation or tickets? You get my drift.
Iron out those details and schedule them into your calendar and now you’ve got a date night.
Researchers have yet to agree on the magical "21 days" in terms of how long it takes to solidify a habit. It might take you a few weeks to firmly cement date night into your life or it might take a few months. The aim here is to put it on auto-pilot, like brushing your teeth or brewing your morning coffee. You don’t decide to complete these tasks each day; the decision has already been made thanks to the auto-pilot (habit) part of your brain.
The same concept can be applied to date night. Once date night becomes part of your groove and a scheduled part of your life (the schedule part is key, especially if a babysitter factors into your plans), it will begin to happen naturally. In fact, if a week goes by without your "us time" you’ll sense its absence. You’ll miss it.
Get Back On That Horse
No doubt, life will derail you. Family vacation plans, work deadlines, the flu, visiting relatives, and a litany of other disruptions are sure to thwart your best intentions and efforts. Knowing that going in will help you avoid throwing up your hands in defeat when your date night habit goes off course.
It will go off course from time to time. Life is unpredictable and filled with unexpected hurdles. When it throws you a curve ball, simply steer yourselves back on course the following week. Setting aside "us time" is a practice that you can always come back to and the benefits will be patiently waiting for you when you return.
Originally posted on DateNightGuide.com. Kristen Manieri is the Founder and Editor of Date Night Guide, as well as a prolific freelance writer. She regularly appears on FOX35 Orlando and has been featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine and on Babble.com. Kristen lives in Orlando with her husband, Marc, and her two daughters.