Regular Date Nights Won’t Save Your Marriage

Regular Date Nights Won’t Save Your Marriage

There’s more to connecting with your spouse than leaving the kids at home.

By Leah Maxwell

Whenever I tell people that my husband and I have been on only five actual dates since my oldest child was born (in 2008), they look at me like I’m on fire. “You mean you don’t go out alone together?” “Nope, not really.” Their responses hover somewhere between pity and horror, and yet, although I know I’m in the minority here, I don’t think that means I’m in the wrong.

Yes, I understand how regular date nights help couples reconnect, and can help balance the trend of over-parenting that often threatens the spousal relationship. But I take issue with claims that traditional date nights are somehow “necessary” to maintaining a healthy marriage, especially once kids are part of the picture. I’m proof that a good relationship does not have to include a babysitter.

According to a 2013 report by child care service UrbanSitter, one-third of parents surveyed said they hire a sitter one to two times per month specifically for date nights, and an additional 32 percent go out at least four times a year. To those folks I say, “Good for you! Enjoy! Order the extra large nachos!” And then, I check on my sleeping kids and wander into the living room to reconnect with my husband over a bowl of popcorn we made ourselves and a movie we recorded off cable.

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I won’t say what we’re doing is better than a traditional date night, but I will say there’s nothing about leaving the house that could magically transform our togetherness into something more than what it is at its core: simply taking the time to be with each other.

Date nights can take many different forms and serve many different purposes, and it’s the how and what and why that really matter, not just that you went through the motions of going on a date. Maybe leaving the kids behind is your only chance to see a film on the big screen, or maybe it’s how you stay in touch with the interests you had before kids joined your family -- whether that’s going to rock concerts or spending a few hours at the rock climbing gym. The point is that spending time with your main squeeze is only as effective as the effort you put into making it about connection.


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Consider, for instance, which is more valuable: taking a traditional date night to sit in a movie theater in silence for 90 minutes or putting the kids to bed and then snuggling under a blanket on the porch while you talk and talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED our date nights (all five of them), but what I know for sure is that they aren’t the key to our happiness as a couple. Date nights may be good, and even “necessary” for people who can’t ignore housework or tear themselves away from the laptop, but for me -- someone who has no problem leaving dishes in the sink in favor of sitting at the kitchen table and having a late night dessert with my husband -- the magic is in being together, no matter where that happens.

How often do you and your spouse go on regular date nights?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

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