Over the years of working with couples, I have found that the majority of couples express a desire to go on dates in order to feel more connected. This makes sense since most couples build an emotional foundation through dating and the process and effort it involves. In the beginning stages of dating or courtship, we are more likely to plan and follow through with dates than we are later on in a relationship which is a typical pattern that most couples experience.
As I discussed in my previous article on limerence, otherwise known as the ‘honeymoon phase’, the adrenaline and excitement that a new relationship offers significantly influences our motivation and willingness to be creative and open to participating in regular dates. Unfortunately, limerence has an expiration date, which is often associated with changes we experience with the onset of more responsibilities in our relationships that tend to come with a typical progression. The stressors and responsibilities that come with children, work, caring for older family members, financial obligations, and other factors are common reasons couples slowly decrease the frequency of going on dates.
Couples often feel fatigued and stretched thin emotionally, physically, and financially and the thought of having to plan and follow through with a date can feel like an insurmountable task that is often easier to forgo. Over time couples may find themselves going through the motions of sticking to routines and managing day-to-day tasks, which often creates distance if the relationship is not being nurtured.
Time, energy, and money are the primary constraints that couples I work with say prevent them from going on dates despite their interest and desire to do so. In order to manage these constraints effectively, I assist couples with identifying creative ways they can date without having to leave their home, pay for a babysitter, or put in energy to get dressed up. This requires a minor shift in how couples think about what it means to go on a date and the ability to change the meaning of how time is spent at home together. Here are some ideas for “dating at home”:
• Unplug from technology for an hour and catch up on the “highs and lows” of the week
• Have a picnic in the living room or outside
• Exchange massages or foot rubs
• Listen to favorite or meaningful songs
• Karaoke (YouTube has channels)
• Put a puzzle together
• Dance lessons in your living room (YouTube helps with this too)
• Reminisce over photos from the beginning stages of your relationship, engagement, and/or wedding photos
• Talk about your dreams and goals for the next 5, 10, and 20 years together
• Take turns cooking a meal from a different culture
• Plan a vacation or trip together
• Order take out and watch a movie
• Stargaze together
Most couples engage in some of these activities on a regular basis however they don’t tend to think about them as dates because they don’t leave the house. I encourage couples to have a discussion about what date activity they are going to engage in at home each week. When couples begin to label these activities as dates, it creates more opportunities for connection that seem easy and realistic to follow through with.