Can date night really save your marriage?

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Seating for two at the Galileo Open Air Cinema
Seating for two at the Galileo Open Air Cinema

I can't remember when I first heard of the concept of 'date night', but I remember thinking it was a silly idea.

Several years of marriage and two kids later, I see it very differently.

If you've ever tried to have a serious conversation in the same room as two small children, you'll know how impossible it can be. It's as it they are tuned in to the gravity of the topic, and the more important it is the louder and more demanding they become.

Until one day you and your spouse find yourselves barking commands or shouting snippets of crucial information at each other, and a calm considered conversation seems impossible.

Caught up in the day to day grind of work and home, errands and commitments, commuting and cooking, it's easy to let time go by and one day find yourself waking up next to a stranger.

This may sound overly dramatic, but I know many parents can relate.

So this is where date night comes in. 

And sure, even thinking about finding the time, finding a babysitter, deciding what to do and then actually having an adult civilised conversation about anything other than the family is, well... exhausting. 

Time together

You don't need to be a couple's therapist to know that time together, without the kids and without distraction of friends and family, will enhance your friendship and improve your emotional connectedness. 

This serves to make you a stronger team, and raising a family together takes a a level of teamwork that puts any of our national sports teams to shame. 

And what to do?

Do what suits you. When my husband and I went on our first date night, we had dinner and a drink and found ourselves on our way home at 8pm. Two full hours earlier than we'd booked the babysitter for.

So we took a detour and did our weekly grocery shopping at a late-night Pick'nPay. Romantic? Not really. Fun? Actually, yes! 

Over the next few dates we realised we ran too many errands or only talked about the kids, so we started going to a movie instead.

A couple of hours of mindless distraction later, we could turn to each other refreshed, and chat about lighter topics than whether or not we should have a third baby, or immigrate, or change jobs, or renovate the bathroom. 

Now, when we can get away we go for a walk, grab a coffee, see a movie... and we try to make it an event that we can't do with kids.

One memorable night was when we watched A Star is Born under the night sky. We laughed and cried together, nibbled on some popcorn and didn't once mention the threat of rising damp or load shedding.

The carpool karaoke on the drive home scared the owls from the trees, but we had a lot of fun. 

How often?

When you add the cost of a meal and a movie to the expense of a babysitter, it starts adding up quickly. 

In 2016 Drum reported that researchers found that married couples where 14% less likely to split up if they went on regular date nights.

Lucky for most, just one date night a month was enough, researchers at the Marriage Foundation revealed, adding that weekly dates didn't improve these odds. 

So you don't have to go often, and you don't have to spend a fortune.

For context, too: a session with a marriage counselor can cost around R900 for an hour. And while incredibly valuable, there are more fun ways to spend that money. 

Look here date ideas for every kind of parent, from adventure-packed to staying in. And there's nothing wrong with a date night at home, just make sure that's the focus of the evening and don't let the dishes or un-mowed lawn distract you. 

Can date night really save your marriage though? 

I don't have all the answers, but time alone together is crucial to meaningful communication, in my experience, and making the time for this will make your marriage stronger. 

Have you found date night to be a critical part of your relationship after children? Share you story with us! 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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