- Melissa Petro is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two children in New York City.
- While the family has been quarantining at home, Petro and her husband have started having a weekly date night to prioritize more quality time together.
- Occasional date nights can enhance a couple’s emotional connection and help rekindle intimacy, researchers say.
- Watch a movie, draw a candlelit bath, or create art together – the point is to do something enjoyable together, just the two of you.
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When my husband, Arran, first suggested we start having a weekly “date night,” I assumed that was some sort of euphemism for sex. But no, he clarified almost immediately: “I don’t mean sex. I think we ought to do something out of the ordinary at least once a week. You know, spend some quality time together as a couple.”
To be honest, date night has never really been my thing, even before this decidedly unsexy coronavirus situation. When I’d get a text mid afternoon from Arran suggesting we go out for dinner that evening, I was typically full of excuses. On the rare occasion, I’d agree. I’d reluctantly throw whatever I’d planned to cook back in the fridge, wash my hair, and slap on a little makeup. After the sitter showed up, my husband and I would slip off to a restaurant for an hour or two. A few hundred dollars later, we’d come home, I’d peel my bra off and finally get to relax.
Sure, it was nice to spend a little time together as “Arran and Melissa” as opposed to “mommy and daddy.” At the same time, it always felt, well, a little like work.
At the end of the day, when all I want to do is devour a pint of ice cream and zone out in front of90 Day Fiancé,my husband wants us to turn off the TV, put away our phones, and connect.
Date nights are important— even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of a pandemic.
Foto: Quarantining in close quarters with small kids isn’t easy for any couple.
These days, there’s no babysitter to look after the little ones, no glowing theater to transport us into another narrative, no bustling bistro with a smiling hostess at the door inviting us to sit at a romantic table for two. Thanks to COVID-19, our favorite businesses are shuttered and my husband and I are sheltering in place, making “date night” even harder.
Even so, we agree as a couple that it’s important- now more than ever- and so we make an effort.
As for its importance, the experts agree. A 2016 study, for example, found that for married couples, occasional date nights reinforce and strengthen stability.
The study was conducted by the Marriage Foundation, and analyzed data on 9,969 couples in the Millennium Cohort Study. Researchers compared how often the couples went out together when their child was nine months old with whether they were still together when their child was aged eleven.
How often do you need a date night? Experts say once a month is enough.
Foto: The more frequently you make time for each other, the better the outcome.
The team assumed, like many of us might, that the more frequently a couple went out, the better the outcome. Instead, they found that married couples who went out monthly or less had a 14% greater chance of still being together, compared to married couples who had date nights more often, or couples who rarely or never went out at all.
In other words, weekly date nights didn’t increase the chances of a couple staying together any more than no date nights at all (and date nights had no affect on unmarried couples). But occasional date nights for married couples, these researchers surmise, has a positive effect by enhancing a couple’s emotional connection and rekindling intimacy.
A date night under lockdown can be kept simple.
Foto: Petro and her husband on their wedding day. Source: Photo courtesy of Melissa Petro
After the kids (finally) go to sleep, it’s just the two of us in the same 1,300 square feet home where we’ve spent the last six plus weeks, amidst the unfolded laundry and two flatulent dogs. Because this setting is not exactly romantic – and because we’re both exhausted by full-time parenting, as well as stressed by all the concerns brought on by coronavirus – my husband and I have learned to keep date night simple.
We keep it simple – but nottoosimple.
Our first “date night,” for example, we agreed to watch a movie and trade back rubs. As Arran queued up the movie, I snuggled into my spot on the sofa and promptly fell asleep.
Our following week was more successful. While Arran put both kids to sleep, I turned our bathroom into a “spa.” I dimmed the lights, lit some candles, and filled the tub with fragrant bubbles. Instead of falling asleep ten minutes intoTiger King,that night my husband and I shared a warm bath, massaged a homemade scrub into one another’s hands, and actually talked.
“Dates” don’t need to be complicated or expensive. They don’t even need to happen at night.
Foto: A “date” can be a fancy dinner at home. Source: Photo courtesy of Melissa Petro
Feed the kids macaroni and cheese and order yourselves takeout. Set the table like a five-star restaurant or “picnic” in the living room or on the front lawn. Livestream your favorite performer and “go to a concert.” Take a virtual museum trip. Play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, listen to music, have a dance party, make art together. Have crazy sex. Whatever you do, do it together.
To say that my husband and I have a weekly date night is a bit aspirational, but that’s our intention – and by setting an intention, we sometimes succeed. There’s no excuse, not even a pandemic.
Melissa Petro is a freelance writer, former teacher, sex-work advocate, wife, and mother living in New York City. Sheholds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the New School and a masters in childhood education from Fordham University. Follow her onTwitterand Instagram.