Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, the pressure is off for another year, right?
Whether you believe in celebrating the day or you think it is just a bunch of hype, there is something to be said for taking time to do something with the one you love. In fact, research indicates that if more couples focused on nurturing their love for each other, the quality of their marriage relationship would be dramatically enhanced.
A report released by the National Marriage Project found that couples who devote time to one another at least once a week are more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another.
"The best advice we ever received was from a married couple who told us to make sure we continued to date after we got married," said Patrick Patterson. "We schedule a baby sitter and do a date night every Thursday. The only thing that interrupts it is if one of us is traveling or the baby sitter is sick."
After 15 years of marriage, the Pattersons consider date night essential for staying connected and keeping their relationship on track.
"Date night is in our budget," said Patterson. "We don't spend lots of money every time we go out. Sometimes we just go to the library, for a walk in the park or to Dunkin' Donuts. It is our time to catch up with each other, and we have definitely learned that when we skip date night, it impacts our relationship. We are short with each other, and there are more opportunities for things to get off track. Quite frankly, I think our daughters appreciate the break from us, and it is good for us to get a break from them."
Consistent date nights started for the Pattersons when their oldest was 6 months. Now that their daughters are 7 and 5, the girls actually get excited about their parents going on a date and want to know their plans.
"My wife would much rather have my time and attention than some fancy gift," said Patterson. "The time together has helped to keep our relationship fun and adventurous."
Most marriages begin with romantic love linked to passion, excitement and an overwhelming sense of attraction. Over time, the passion can fade if you do nothing to nurture it. Date nights have the potential to take your ho-hum marriage and make it spicy, meaningful and fun again.
Don't let money be the reason you don't date. There are plenty of ways to have an inexpensive or "at home" date. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
• Scour the house for spare change and let that be the budget for your date night activity.
• Once the kids are in bed, play a board game, watch a movie or ...
• No baby sitter? Schedule a breakfast date while the kids are at school.
• Take a blanket to the backyard and star gaze with baby monitor in hand.
For more creative date ideas, check out Date Night Explosion at firstthings.org.
Email Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First, at email@example.com