Why Date Nights Fail
In any given couples therapy at some point they will likely be given the assignment to set up regular date nights. The reason for this popular treatment tool is because relationships are difficult and without time set aside to reconnect and have fun that’s all they are- difficult. This is even more important for couples in conflict whose main interactions are through heated arguments or cold silence. We are social beings and making meaningful connections and having intimate interactions are integral to our wellbeing. Encouragement to have more of these positive encounters makes good common sense.
Date nights are a good idea and couples agree. Why then is it that time and time again a couple who sets out to have weekly date nights is lucky if they make just one date in a month, or two months, or three months? Well there are a lot of excuses. One or both partners complain “I’m just too tired after a long week of work”. “I don’t want to leave the kids with a babysitter.” “I feel guilty spending the money when we are trying to save for [insert- a house, a new car, the kid’s college, to get out of debt].” “We had something planned but someone [insert- sister, brother, mom, dad, neighbor, friend, co-worker] really needed my help so we had to cancel.” While the lists of excuses are seemingly infinite the main theme is clear: “Everything and everyone comes before our relationship.” In the ever-demanding complex puzzle of our daily lives the relationship becomes the only moving piece. The relationship is the one thing that can and does get pushed aside and right along with it the date night.
Positive relationships support our wellbeing. The most central relationships are the ones we come home to each night. They can serve as the foundation which nourishes our capacity to confront the challenges of each day. For many couples this foundation has become emaciated through neglect and they are seeking help through therapy to regain the sense of caring support they once felt. However, we cannot have this meaningfully supportive relationship if we are not willing to make the relationship a priority. If everything and everyone else always gets our attention then the relationship will simply capitulate to its eventual demise.
Sometimes the true therapeutic kernel of the date night assignment, the need to make your relationship a top priority, gets lost in translation. Your relationship is too important to be at the bottom of the list. Let other people and tasks become the moving pieces. If your relationship is to serve as your foundation let this be the piece that doesn’t move and you will succeed in making date nights commonplace.