6 Steps To A Date Night That Actually Sparks Romance, From A Couples' Counselor

Even if you’ve relegated COVID concerns to the back burner, I’ve found that many couples are still feeling the effects of having had to dramatically alter their lifestyle over the last two-plus years. That pandemic lifestyle of hunkering down, binge-watching shows, eating takeout, not exercising, and working in your bedroom didn’t lend itself to a lively vibe in your relationship with your partner.

Just as cars don’t run without gas, relationships don’t thrive without dedicated attention. Quality time together doing something fun and relaxing can put some needed pizzazz back into pandemic-weary relationships. Yet another movie isn’t the answer. Instead, it’s time to bring back the date night.

Do you cross off date nights as too much work to plan? One of the fallouts from the lockdown is that staying home glued to a screen became just a little too comfortable. You may be one of the many people who now finds it daunting to go out and about as you once did. The tendency to permanently adopt a couch potato way of living is an impulse worth resisting, however. We humans become dull without stimulation—and very poor company.

We are a species that loves variety when it comes to romance. When the pandemic brought us all to an abrupt halt, we went into survival mode, and sameness became the norm. Now it’s time to burn those baggy sweats, banish the worn-out pajamas to the back of the drawer, and don some more attractive attire in your most flattering colors. Put a spark of aliveness back into your day-to-day, even if you’re still working from home. Making this simple effort sends the message, “I’m back! And ready to connect and have fun with you!”

Here are a few ways to kick date night back into gear if it’s been a minute:

Do you cross off date nights as too expensive, especially amid the highest inflation in decades? It’s time to be creative—and date night doesn’t have to be at night. How about a hike in the woods, bringing along a picnic to enjoy along with the setting sun? Or a museum visit followed by a walk to a wine bar before eating at home (avoiding the cost of a dinner out)? Or take a walk or bike ride through a part of town that you haven’t been to in a long time.

2. Do it from home—but be intentional about it.

Date night can also mean staying at home but just dressing it up a bit. Being intentional is the important piece. Arrange an earlier bedtime for the kids, find that outfit or dress shirt that’s been decaying in the closet, pop the cork, and eat dinner by candlelight.

3. Line up some conversation starters.

sleep support+

sleep support+

Great relationships start with great sleep.*

sleep support+

Do you worry that you have nothing to say to each other after two years of seeing each other way too much? Get one of the many available card games for couples, some that include conversation starters on topics that just don’t occur to you. Some games are designed for a group dinner, so consider inviting friends over for a potluck and pool your resources to hire a babysitter to entertain the kids.

4. Make it feel different from your usual routine.

When it comes to planning a date night, what’s most important is to do something different. We need routine to feel secure, and we need novelty to make us feel alive. Doing something different, however commonplace the activity itself may seem, can lift up your spirits and put some energy back into your relationship. Think once a week, not once a month—we’re creatures who need frequent recharging.

As well, consider day trips or an occasional overnight out of town. It can take time to unwind and find a new rhythm of being together. Changing gears from a work mode or managing the household isn’t a snap for most people.

5. Prioritize intimate touch.

Intimate touch took a huge hit during the pandemic for many couples, and it can be a struggle to figure out how to get back on track. Intimate touch doesn’t always mean sexual touch. Couples get hijacked away from pleasure-oriented touch by the idea that all touch should lead to high arousal and orgasms for all, every time.

Prolonged hugs, a casual arm slung over her shoulder, or an affectionate swipe across his back as you pass by are ways to make your partner feel connected—and tend to create a vibe that puts an element of sexuality in the air.

6. Don’t wait for the mood to strike.

Some of what creates sexual disconnection in any scenario is misinformation, brought to you by almost any screen you’ve ever watched. You may be one of those people who walks down the street with every sixth thought being sexual. You may be partnered with someone who never has a sexual thought walking down that same street. The world often divides into these two groups, known as spontaneous and responsive sexual styles, and they usually partner with someone from the other group. Both are completely normal, but the spontaneous style is often the only one that is known.

For responsive people, context is everything. Fatigue, preoccupation with a worry about a child, or a work deadline are total buzzkills. Another prominent feature of this group is that sexual desire tends to show up after they’re engaged in touching. The biggest mistake people make is to assume that sexual desire should always be a prerequisite. This mistake leads to much lost opportunity!

“I’m not in the mood” is not an uncommon thought for a responsive person. However, “What could put me in the mood to be open to engage in physical touch?” opens up possibilities. Perhaps a conversation, a shared glass of wine or cup of tea, a foot massage, a hot bath, or your partner putting the kids to bed could change the context. There’s a bridge between where your head is at the moment and where it could be—you just have to build it.

Getting back on that track of enjoying each other isn’t about the stars aligning just right. It’s about making your relationship a priority and tending to it in an active way.

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