They say the secret to any lasting relationship is consistent communication. Or was it date nights?
Maintaining a relationship with your significant other is hard, especially since you’re busy with the daily grind of work, kids, errands, and life. But taking the time to stop and connect with your partner is a must if you want the relationship to last.
Before you dive into the following date night ideas to have with your boo, think about why you’re searching for more ways to connect and spend time with your special someone.
Is it because you want to find new and creative ways of spending alone time together to enhance your healthy, loving relationship?
Or is it because you’re searching for ways to repair a damaged relationship? If you’re having deeper problems with your mate that haven’t been addressed at its core, date nights aren’t going to help. Perhaps couples therapy or a marriage counselor would be a better place to start.
I thought it would be helpful to assess your relationship by finding out what happy couples do. Incorporating these elements in addition to planning date nights are solid ways to get on the same page with your mate and be more intentional about spending time together.
5 Things Happier Couples Do Together
This is what research says about couples who tend to be happier, which in turn means they’re not divorcing or breaking up and are in it for the long haul.
1. They Share Household Chores
It’s not like you’d ever get upset at your mate for doing the dishes or taking the trash out. A study from Pew Research showed that 56 percent of couples who were satisfied with their relationship said they shared household chores.
Couples who communicated more fluidly about what chores needed to be done tended to be the happiest. This means they were more relaxed and natural about who was better at doing a particular task. On the other hand, couples who were rigid and expected a 50/50 equal split of household chores tended to be the least happy.
2. They’re on the Same Page With Finances
The two biggest things couples fight about are sex and money.
Effective money management means both people need to be on the same page about where their money is going and how it’s being saved. Some money habits are formed from how you were raised and what your personality is like, so if your mate happens to be the complete opposite it’s easy to butt heads.
Not only that, if you’re the man in the relationship and you’re not bringing home the bacon, studies show this can be a potential problem.
A survey from Pew Research indicated that 71 percent said it was very important for a man to be able to support a family financially to be considered a good husband or partner.
Couples who shared the same money values and consistently understood and trusted the other person with the finances showed a stronger tendency to stay together.
3. They Have Their Own Friends
I have yet to meet a couple who want to spend every waking moment together.
Facebook and Cornell University released an extensive study that analyzed 1.3 million users and came to the conclusion that couples who have their own groups of friends are 50 percent less likely to break up.
In my opinion, this makes a lot of sense since each person would be able to tap into their own network of social circles as an outlet or way to connect with others outside of their partner.
Conversely, I know couples where their circle of friends is unbalanced — meaning, one person has lots of friends while the other person has very few or none. This may sometimes cause resentment or guilt.
The Facebook study says the best case scenario for couples to stay together is when they share a common circle of friends in addition to having their own groups of friends.
4. They’re Intimate at Least Once a Week
You knew this was coming. Intimacy is up there on the list, and a study showed that increasing your frequency of sex from once a month to once a week can cause happiness levels to be similar to making an extra $50,000 a year.
According to the Pew study, 61 percent of people believed a satisfying sex life was crucial to a successful marriage or relationship.
5. They Celebrate Each Other’s Achievements
This sounds like common sense, but sometimes jealousy or competition causes tension in a relationship.
Giving your partner the attention and praise they deserve is critical. It essentially says you care about what happens in their life, rather than staring at your phone mumbling, “That’s great, Honey.”
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that couples who genuinely celebrate their partner’s accomplishments as if they were their own claimed more satisfaction in a relationship.
24 Date Night Ideas You Can Do From Home
The date night ideas on this list are geared to improving your relationship, and in order to do that, it involves lots of communicating. Therefore, I’m leaving out movie night marathons and activities that involve zoning out, because frankly, you can do that any night of the week and slap the label “date” on it. Watching Hulu is relaxing but what will you really gain from it, as a couple?
These at-home date night ideas involve lots of interaction, communication, and can be done inexpensively.
Spending time together is simply being present and having a shared experience. Unless the activity involves the internet, try to put away your electronic devices.
Hopefully, it’ll be fun… or sexy, or both!
1. Write Your Bucket Lists Together
I love this idea.
The busyness of the daily life can sometimes make it hard to stop and think about what you’d like to accomplish before it’s too late.
Come up with 5-10 bucket list items and share it with your mate. It might be an eye-opener — especially if you’ve never talked about it before and is a meaningful way to learn something new about your significant other.
2. Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
If you’re like most people I know, you probably don’t take the time to look at your old photos very often.
Dust off those old photos or screencast your laptop to your TV and press play on your albums from your wedding, engagement, or fun travel adventure.
Don’t forget the wine and good food!
3. Plan Your Next Vacation
Depending on how much you and your partner enjoy planning, this could be delightful or tedious.
If you don’t have any vacations coming up, you can simply talk about places you dream of traveling to, what you’d like to do while you’re there, and why. This could also be a part of your bucket list discussion.
4. Write Each Other Thank You Letters
Write each other a letter about what you appreciate most about your dear partner.
Maybe your guy has really stepped it up with taking care of the kids this week and you noticed. Perhaps you’d like to sing the praises of your mate’s delicious chicken dinner that you enjoyed the week before.
This not only strengthens your bond but shows you’re really noticing the little things they do for you or your family each day.
5. Journal Together
I could see how this could seem corny, but there’s scientific evidence that shows writing actually improves your actual health. Journaling can strengthen immune cells and decreases symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Writing down your thoughts accesses your left brain — the part that’s analytical and allows you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, understand yourself better, reduce stress, and solve problems easier.
In short, journaling is a tool that helps you strengthen your awareness muscle. This may be beneficial to you and your partner if you often experience stressful moments or fight frequently.
There are few ways you and to get started. You can write daily for ten minutes and focus the journal on the following:
- Challenges you faced during the day
- How you felt about them
- How you handled the situation
- Anything you learned
Then, on date night, you can share highlights from the week and discuss them.
There are no real rules to writing in a journal. The point is to get your thoughts down so you can build your self-awareness, improve yourself, and your relationship.
6. Reminisce and Tap Into Your Inner Child
Talk about your favorite childhood activities or your favorite memories.
Maybe you loved making oatmeal cookies with your mom because your mom was always working when you were little. Or perhaps you recall backyard BBQs and gatherings to celebrate birthdays.
Write down a list, and you can even recreate similar memories for your own kids (if you have them) or share the experience with your partner.
7. Write a Poem
Without going full cheesy romance novel on you, this can be done in a realistic way.
You don’t need to tap into your inner poet, you can keep it simple. Think about the poems you did in elementary school:
Use the first letters of your mate’s name to express what you love most about them or write a haiku of your fondest memory together.
8. Learn Something New
Get out of your comfort zone and learn something together to open up new lines of communication and create a new experience.
These are new things you can try together (take advantage of YouTube for the recipes):
- A game (video game, board game)
- A dessert recipe: get the ingredients for the recipe ahead of time
- A specific ethnic dinner: maybe your favorite place you traveled to was Thailand — so cook up a delicious curry dish together and recall the happy moments galavanting around in Thailand!
9. Teach the Your Mate Something New
Are you a whiz at making jewelry or dancing?
Teach your significant other how to do something new. Each person should get a chance to teach and be a student.
10. Play Would You Rather?
There lots of variations and themes to this game, including politics, sports, romance, or things that are just plain gross. Rrrather has over 200,000 would you rather questions. Pick a few and ask away.
11. Play Couple’s Truth or Dare
Sure, this is a slumber party game that you played with your elementary school buddies, but it can still be fun with your significant other.
You can make it as sexy as you want!
12. Play Your Favorite Card Games
Remember playing Speed as a kid? Or how about Deuces? Goldfish?
Bust out your deck of cards and play a few rounds of your favorite card games. Throw in some strip poker while you’re at it.
13. Do a Puzzle Together
I know a few couples who take their puzzles pretty seriously. They explained that they enjoy putting intricate puzzles together because it helps them decompress from the day and relax while doing an activity they enjoy.
Not only that, you’re actively using your brain, which I personally prefer over doing something more passive, like vegging out in front of the TV.
14. Do a Crossword Puzzle
Get last Sunday’s paper or open an old magazine sitting around your home. You can also find crossword puzzles online, but to limit screen time, it would be best if you printed it out.
15. Games That Stand the Test of Time
These evergreen games can be played with your kids, friends, and of course with your mate. Play it with some snacks and wine.
16. Have a Picnic
If you have a backyard, set up a lovely spread of your favorite picnic goodies on a blanket. If you don’t have a backyard, you can do this in your living room. Don’t forget to turn on some music.
Tap Into Your Inner Artist
Doing a project together can sometimes be fun, especially if you’re not the creative types.
17. Paint, Draw, or Color
Get some paper and sketch or paint your mate in a portrait. If you don’t have any art supplies, check out inexpensive coloring books for grown-ups. These are so therapeutic!
18. Have a Photo Shoot
When’s the last time you took some photos together? Set up the tripod and snap a few photos to highlight your date night together.
19. Record Your Love Story
Videotape each other giving each other a recap of how you met and fell in love.
This could be a great video to give to your future kids, share with your current ones, or just keep for each other and watch again when you’re old and gray.
20. Make a Wine Bar in Your Living Room
If you and your mate enjoy different kinds of wine, get different kinds of wine from various countries and do a wine night and pair it with cheese and fruit.
Find fun and interesting tidbits about the wine from each country.
21. Spa Evening, Anyone?
If you’d like some pampering while on your date night at home, try the following:
- Give back rubs or foot rubs — if you want to take it even one step further, go on YouTube and discover special techniques that you might not otherwise have tried.
- Take a bubble bath together
- Do a mud mask together
22. Sing and Dance
If you enjoy singing, try bringing the karaoke bar to your living room.
You don’t need to invest in a karaoke machine either, just go to YouTube and search for their karaoke channels.
23. Dinner and Romance
There’s nothing wrong with bringing it back to the basics and having a romantic home-cooked (or take-out) dinner at home.
If one person usually cooks, switch it up and try cooking together. Set up the table with candles or flowers. It’s date night!
24. Pick a Theme
To differentiate your date night from other nights, choose a special theme for the evening.
Many ideas revolve around food, including:
- Sports-themed: watch your favorite sports team (or YouTube some of the most awesome moments) eat some wings, and drink beer
- Country-themed: pick a few places you’d love to travel to and indulge yourselves in some of their most popular dishes. Pick a few trivia and facts about the country to share with each other.
- Book-themed: if you share a love for books, pick your favorite all-time books and tell your mate what was so special about it and why. If you want to take it one level further, read their favorite book and be ready to discuss it for the next date night.
The Secret to a Great Relationship (and Awesome Date Nights)
Kindness. Yes, that’s it. Couples who exhibited kindness throughout their relationship were more likely to stay together, happily.
Professor John Gottman, who has authored such books as “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” and owner of The Gottman Institute, explained that the common thread of kindness within a relationship is what binds couples together.
Why? At the end of the day, it’s about feeling loved. Kindness and emotional stability are the two most important predictors of satisfaction.
Kindness helps each person feel cared for, understood, and validated. Let kindness be the backbone of your relationship with not only your spouse but with your friends, family, and colleagues.
The Worst Thing That Can Tear Apart Relationships
The opposite of kindness is being mean and according to Gottman, contempt is the number one factor that causes breakups and divorce. Couples who focus on criticizing each other tend to overlook 50 percent of the positive things the other person is doing. In general, they tend to view negativity all around them.
Contempt can sometimes morph into resentment and cause people to retreat into silence. People who ignore their partner on purpose (i.e. giving the cold shoulder or silent treatment) are also damaging the relationship by making their partner feel invalidated and invisible. No matter how wrong the other person was, subjecting them to these kinds of punishments will only make them feel worthless or angry.
3 Tips on How to Improve Your Relationship
Tip 1: Meet Requests With Kindness & Appreciation
Professor Gottman talks about a specific kind of interaction between couples called “bidding.” Bidding refers to making small requests for connection throughout the day from your partner.
It can be anything from asking that they look out the window to look at the colorful spring flowers to commenting about something that happened at work.
The response from the other spouse is critical. The response should be emotion-based, which means, are you meeting your partner’s bid with criticism or appreciation? Indifference or enthusiasm?
Gottman said couples who divorced only used bidding interactions 33 percent of the time, while couples who stayed together had turned towards each other for bids 87 percent of the time.
Tip 2: Kindness Isn’t a Fixed Trait
It’s easy to confuse kindness with something you’re born with, when in fact, it’s a skill that you can train and improve with practice.
When you think of it this way, it’s not so black and white and allows you to focus on improving how you can be more kind.
Practice kindness every day with your partner. Maybe it’s as simple as, “I noticed you came home early from work the other day to tidy up the kitchen. Thanks for doing that.” Or maybe you greet them at the door with a kiss and hug instead of in the kitchen while you’re cooking.
It really is about the little, daily interactions that signify how much you care for and are committed to the other person.
When you practice kindness as a skill, you give yourself some leeway to make mistakes, because no one has it all figured out. Mistakes are OK because you can learn from them and figure out how you can do better the next time.
Tip 3: Always Assume the Best in Your Partner
It’s easy to get frustrated at your partner for not taking out the trash or forgetting to pick up the 12 lemons on the way home from work. (Remember the “lemon” argument between Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in “The Breakup”?)
You get upset and then your inner voice fuels the flames for why this happened: He hates taking out the trash, she always forgets something when I ask her to pick something up from the store.
Rather than assuming the worst and focusing on the history of your partner’s negative traits, try replacing that narrative with something more positive. It also helps when you don’t take everything so personally. He/she isn’t doing this just to spite you.
Perhaps he was in a rush to take the dog on a walk and didn’t want the dog to pee in the house — because that’s way worse than not taking out the garbage. Or maybe your partner had a long day at work and was mentally fried — but hey, she managed to get 95 percent of the other things on your list, so is it really that big a deal?
Kindness + Date Nights = Lasting Relationship
Date nights are a wonderful way to keep the relationship fresh and fun, while also finding new ways to communicate and spend time together.
When you lead a relationship with kindness and love, you’ll not only let petty annoyances roll off your back, but you’ll learn to maintain a strong bond with your partner. You’ll both be better prepared to endure a lasting relationship that stands the test of time.
How do you and your partner keep the kindness alive in your relationship?