Raise your hand if your romantic relationship has lost its mojo. Eliza Morrow’s arm is up and waving. The Austin, Texas mom of Chloe, 7, and Eli, 3, who runs a thriving ceramic-jewelry business, has steadily felt the “honeymoon giddiness” drain from her connection to husband Neal. Mind you, kids and work aren’t the only romance vampires here. “The more Neal and I neglect date nights, the duller our love life becomes,” Eliza admits. “Sure, children and jobs make things tricky, but when we used to commit to fun and intimate kid-free time, all our responsibilities just felt easier to deal with.”
Not surprising. “A relationship is a living thing that needs to be nurtured and fed or it doesn’t make it,” suggests Ojai, Calif.-based psychotherapist and couples specialist Adaya Walsh. “Things can start to feel depleted, tense and distant. That’s when work, parenting, everything gets harder.” Walsh confirms Eliza’s thoughts by noting that date nights are the food your relationship needs. “Time and attention are our most valuable offerings,” she says. Give them to your relationship and watch it grow.
Just how often do you two need this nourishment? Consider this: Married couples who engage in one-on-one time together at least once a week are 3.5 times more likely to express being “very happy” in their relationship than their counterparts who don’t have weekly couple time, according to the national Survey of Marital Generosity, funded by the Science of Generosity initiative at the University of Notre Dame. That’s significant. But it looks like most of us aren’t even coming close to that goal. A recent study of 2,000 families found a majority of parents (81 percent) say they haven’t had a date night in three years, and three in 10 couldn’t remember the last romantic date they went on.
We could, of course, just tell you to date more, but we know you need extra inspiration to carve out time from your crazy schedule. That’s why we’ve come up with a slew of enticing date suggestions certain to add sustenance to your relationship and personal wellness. So say “see ya later” to dinner and a movie and “let’s give it a try” to our irresistible date-night menu. Just order, add to your shared calendar, and enjoy!
If you’re looking for…Pure Fun
1. Relive your childhood. Ignite your sense of playfulness by making a list with your companion of all the pastimes you both enjoyed as kids. Then pick your top four and have a child-free date engaging in these youth-centric activities. According to a study in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion, the childlike wonder that blossoms from these excursions can enhance your health.
2. Play dress-up at a thrift store, and take photos! Thrift stores are rich with ridiculous outfits just waiting to be worn. Go to one, and set a rule that you each get to assemble three outfits for the other, and they must be tried on. There’s no “no” on this date. Make sure your phone is fully charged, because the photo ops are an essential part of the experience. Decide beforehand whether you’ll share your adventure on Instagram.
3. Make a movie … not that kind. Go to different locations around your neighborhood and take mini videos of you each letting loose with wacky dance moves, speaking in accents to strangers, and creating other screen-worthy moments. To amp up the Hollywood factor, film each other in a few of the outfits from the thrift-store outing.
If you’re looking for…Budget-Friendly
4. Check out of parenthood and into board games … and TV binge-watching. Stock up on your favorite “off-limits” sugary and salty carbs, set up sleepovers for your kids, build a nest of blankets and pillows in your living room, and pull out a few nostalgic games. When your mind needs a break, grab the remote and binge, baby, binge! (P.S. pillow fights are encouraged.)
5. Plan a fantasy vacation. Remember when you and your spouse used to daydream about what your future life would be like? Remember the hope, fun and bonding? Go to a bookstore and flip through travel books and magazines to garner inspiration for a dream trip. Plan activities you would enjoy, types of accommodations you would seek, and juicy memories you would make. Purchase a few of the magazines or books, clip out images featuring the object of your wanderlust, and create a mood board or collage to hang in your bedroom. Shut off the lights, and let your imagination—and bodies—go wild.
6. Write letters of adoration. Insert a few awws here. Or some hesitation from your partner, because yeah, love letters can sound cheesy. But cheesiness aside, the sweet connection on the other side of writing and reading what you value in each other is what true love is made of. In preparation for the date, purchase beautiful paper and calligraphy pens from a craft store and set up a special space to write together.
If you’re looking for…Hotness
7. Have a racy-reading night. A week before your date, task yourselves with finding a few sexy stories to share from books or magazines. During the date, read the passages in a private location so you can easily move into re-creating them.
8. Have a “blind date” with your mate. Shake up your perception of yourself and your spouse by planning a rendezvous where you both dress up and act like alter egos you’ve been interested in exploring. For example: a sultry woman who shirks slacks and conservative tops for bright, form-fitting dresses, and opts out of conversations about schedules and children in favor of topics like fantasy jobs, sexual philosophies and exhilarating memories or dreams. Meet at a bar or restaurant you’ve never been to and stay in character. Act like you would if you were angling for a second date. Steamy.
9. Share intimate massages. Set up the clichéd romantic ambience—you know, candles, dim lighting, amorous aromas, soft sheets and oil (lots of oil)—and resist the temptation to giggle as you and your boo take turns massaging each other all over. Put on slow jams and take your time with the body work, making sure to complete the rubdown before moving on to the more strenuous activity you’re likely to develop a hankering for.
If you’re looking for…Fitness
10. Make training dates. Being physically daring and committed with your partner is a combo sure to create premium bonding. So sign up for a half marathon or an obstacle-course competition, and create a weekly training plan. Schedule in a reward (like reflexology or açai bowls) after each prep session, and revel in the endorphin-full love vibes flying between you.
11. Be extreme—or kind of extreme. Leaping out of the proverbial safety net with your partner will allow happy-hormone-fueled passion to flow through your relationship. No need to go hyper-fear-factor by jumping out of a plane or doing tandem hang gliding. But you can go semi-extreme by trying out a nontraditional class (aerial yoga, anyone?) or other adrenaline-pumping activity that piques your interest.
12. Get weird with your workout. Engaging in physical activities you initially feel embarrassed by (think: Polynesian dance lessons, mud running) will help you both take yourself less seriously—which translates into your egos taking a back seat. And when you and your partner give your egos a break, fighting fades and fun prevails.
If you’re looking for…Romance
13. Have a honeymoon déjà vu. Find a locale with vibes similar to the site of your honeymoon and relive a piece of that special time with activities, food, conversation topics, a custom cocktail, or other elements that take you back. Not married? Re-create the first date where you knew you were spending time with the right person. If you want to turn your date night into date nights, and amp up the romance, travel to the actual site you’re looking to replicate.
14. Create a book of your love story. Send the kids out to friends’ houses for the evening. Then spend a couple of hours at home sifting through your photos, searching for gems from the rose-hued days of your romance through the current goodness you’re living in. Using a program that allows you to create a book of photos with captions, organize the shots in chronological order with captions telling a simple version of the unfolding of your love. Then keep it on your nightstand to share instant late-night affection.
15. Add a surprise ending. Infuse any date with extra passion by finding overnight care for the kids and booking a room at your favorite hotel or B&B. Instead of going home after your date night, head to your secret hideaway and treat your relationship to a night of active romance, or maybe just restful sleep in the spooning position—or both.
If you’re looking for…A Big Night.
16. Buy hot tickets. Keep an eye out for an upcoming live show by a band or other performer you and your spouse both drool over and snatch up tickets when they become available. Set up an epic surprise date by keeping your purchase a secret, or enjoy the anticipation of the event together by presenting the tickets to your special person in a creative way. You can hide them in a wallet, under a dinner napkin, or somewhere else you know they’ll be discovered, or set up a scavenger hunt with the tickets as the final prize.
17. Go to your favorite country, but in your home. Love the pasta sauces and lively music of Italy, or the refreshing drinks and bright colors of Mexico? Evoke the energy of a place you and your mate have been pining for by creating an in-home experience with your favorite food and drink, music, decor and other prime pieces of culture from your location of choice. Splurge by having it catered if you can, or at least order in from a fancy eatery. Spare no expense to make this an immersive experience. If you really want to make it a big night, surprise your sweetie with plane tickets to the locale you’re evoking.
18. Organize a three-event competition for two. Did you know that healthy competition can wake up your libido? To that end, choose three activities you can do nearby at which you and your partner are equally skilled—or equally awful—such as a game of darts or pool at your local dive bar, a karaoke sing-off, or dodgeball at a trampoline park. Then head out the door with your we-can-do-this attitude. End the night with the enjoyment of a mutually beneficial award like a decked-out ice cream sundae—or sex, if you have any energy left!