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Commit to date night

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Examine your date night ritual

Date night was probably a priority before you had kids, but when little ones come along, this honored tradition takes a back seat and sometimes disappears altogether. If this describes your situation, it's time to make a change.

Couple on a date

Need some inspiration to get you back on track? Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, Marriage and Family Psychotherapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, has some valuable tips to help rekindle your passion for date night.

Longing for the past?

The thought of dating may bring with it some nostalgic thoughts of romance, elaborate plans or magical nights. While those memories are fun, they don't represent reality for those of us who are married with kids, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "What we had before marriage and kids isn't what we need afterward," says O'Neill. "We need to revise! We may long for our 'dating years,' but it just doesn't work any longer."

A new perspective

The concept of date night undergoes a dramatic transformation after kids are involved. What used to be a carefree experience full of adventure and romance sometimes becomes a difficult obligation. "For married couples with jobs, careers, kids and a myriad responsibilities, doing all that it takes to make a date happen becomes hard work," says O'Neill. "In order to make it work, my husband and I have reframed date night into a ritual. Every Thursday night, we make our favorite meal, share a bottle of wine and watch our favorite show." When a couple adopts a new perspective on date night, spending time together is more than feasible.

Building block

At one time, date night was an opportunity to get to know somebody better. After kids, it can be a valuable building block for a solid relationship. "Date night can be a weekly ritual that provides a sense of safety," says O'Neill. "No matter what happens, a couple can look forward to a shared time to talk and be away from the rest of the world. It provides stability, something the marriage and individuals can count on as part of the fabric of your life together."

Practical tips

Whether you have completely neglected date night, need some motivation to reinstate it or have been enjoying it regularly, O'Neill's tips for establishing a marriage ritual that never ends may be just what you need to get the most out of date night:

  • It is best done every week, at the same time, and for at least two hours.
  • It should be something that is simple, doable and works for both of you as a team.
  • Only emergencies should take precedence over your ritual. It is time together you can always count on.
  • This is not a "date night." It is special time that becomes a ritual that you truly look forward to and enjoy 52 times a year.
  • No matter how badly you may be feeling at times about your marriage and spouse, your ritual must go on!

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