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Date night is a must for parents to ensure a healthy relationship

Date night is a must for parents to ensure a healthy relationship

Most people agree in theory that date night is an important ritual for parents, but making it a reality can be a lot tougher. Here are some suggestions that will help you and your mate avoid common traps that stop many couples before they even get started and help you get the most of your time you set aside for your relationship. When done right, date night really can be the royal road to reconnect with your mate!


Do

Do put it on the books

Make sure you and your partner sit down with your calendars and schedule dates in advance, and make any necessary arrangements for childcare. Couples who tell themselves they will have date night as soon as the opportunity arises usually won’t ever find the time. Life almost always gets in the way and it takes discipline to start saying no to the things you prioritize over spending time together.

Do make it a routine

Nothing sounds as unromantic as a routine. But couples fall into the habit of filling in the space between them with all kinds of activity, especially when it’s child related. The truth is that while there is almost always a legitimate excuse to not spend time alone, actually doing it is scary for couples when they have grown unaccustomed to connecting that way. So it takes some commitment and discipline to jump back in and re-establish new patterns.

Do keep it simple

For some people, the word date immediately brings to mind things like tickets to shows or hard to get reservations at a special restaurant -- things that require a lot of time, effort and money. And then of course are the old reasons not to have a date are invited back in. Most of the time you should keep it simple. The point here is to simply spend time alone. A date might be going to your favorite local restaurant, catching a movie together, going on a hike, or even shutting off the phones and computers and making a special dinner at home. Of course throwing in the extra special event in once in awhile can’t hurt!

Do take turns planning

Couples often fall into a rut where one party feels like they take more initiative when it comes to their romantic life. And the other might end up feeling controlled, coerced, or like their own voice is excluded from the picture. Date night is a great place to practice taking turns, letting each take the lead by planning what you will do.

Do remind yourself that your family benefits too

Many parents, especially of younger children, will cite their children’s needs as a reason for not spending time alone. They argue that their children won’t survive their absence. In reality, it’s usually the parent that can’t tolerate being away from their child. Organizing your life around this unchecked fear is bad for everyone involved, especially your kids. So do them a favor and model healthy independence.


Don't

Do not let one missed date turn into many

There will come a time when you will probably miss a date or two and head back into the habit of letting date night fall to the way side. That’s perfectly normal -- life really does make it hard to set aside the time, and there are often undercurrents in your relationship that might continue to make one or both of you want to avoid the contact. But plan for slip ups and when you catch yourself there, get back on track.

Do not get discouraged

Like missing a date, a date gone awry can knock you off course. When you are stuck in a rut, people tend to look for any excuse to go back to their old ways. Be on the lookout for defeatism - you probably will have some failures along the way and you will be tempted to give up. Don’t.

Do not have unreasonable expectations

You may have visions of a perfect evening filled with warm exchanges of love over candlelight, where the usual bickering is replaced with affection and endearments. And it can be a big disappointment when you find yourself sitting across the table from the same person you yelled at that morning across the breakfast cereal. Couples should toss out expectations and just let things unfold. This is all path, no destination!

Do not talk about the kids

Many parents make the easy mistake of filling any time they have away from the kids with talking about them. The point here is to reconnect outside your roles as a parent. This may revive an awareness of the things that brought you together in the first place, or introduce you to new parts that have developed in each other but went unnoticed under the constant focus on domestic matters. All of this opens a space to appreciate the unique individual you married!

Do not use the time to talk about tense subjects

If you use date night as your opportunity to let lose all of your grievances, its not likely to be a pleasant experience or one that your mate will want to repeat. Sure, there may be some issues that are worthy of quiet time for real discussion. But try to reserve this for a time other than your date night, which should be associated with pleasure.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Finding the opportunity, and the courage, to spend time alone with your partner isn’t easy for many parents. Not only are there the very real demands of modern family life, fear and hesitation may build between you and your mate the longer you go without revisiting intimacy, which after all requires some vulnerability for both parties. But some commitment, a dose of self-discipline, and open minds can ensure that you and your partner have the kind of dating life that keeps love and connection alive and well.


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Stephanie Manes, LCSW, Esq.Psychotherapist for couples, families and adults

Stephanie Manes is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in with extensive experience and training in Individual, Couples and Family Therapy. She received her MSW from New York University School of Social Work and completed post-graduate certificati...

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