Committed couples all around the world are having “date nights.”
They schedule it in their calendars, hire a babysitter, and make reservations at fancy restaurants.
They do it with the hopes that it will bring back the spark that existed between them when they were first going on dates.
They do it because if they don’t put a night on the calendar, many of them wind up spending very little time together. Daily demands and chauffeuring the kids around means that some days, they barely see each other at all.
They do it because they’ve heard from therapists or read in advice columns that date night is good practice to keep connection alive.
It makes sense: carving out time dedicated entirely to each other should feel special and stoke the romantic flames.
Getting dressed up and sharing a meal means they are putting their relationship first and giving it the attention it needs.
I know, I know: everybody tells you how important date night is.
And sure, date nights can be fun and romantic, but NOT as an antidote to an ailing relationship. Let me explain.
I’ve been counseling couples for over 40 years. These couples, not surprisingly, are unhappy with the state of their union.
They complain that their partners don’t prioritize them. Or that there’s not enough sex. Or that one of them is spending too much money. Or that they’re always arguing about who does what around the house. Most of the time, these little problems add up to a feeling of malaise about the relationship.
There’s a loss of energy for the relationship and for each other. They’re drained from asking each other for what they need and still not getting it. Or they get it for a little while, and then everything goes back to the way it was before:
The relationship feels more like a grind and a chore than the joyful partnership they had imagined. There’s no fun, no laughing together, no holding hands. They don’t wake up excited about being together. Instead, they secretly wonder to themselves: “Surely it should be better than this?”
Simply put, the relationship doesn’t feel good anymore. Vitality is down and lethargy is up.
Maybe you can relate. You don’t necessarily want to leave your partner, but the thought of things grinding on as they are makes you feel sick.
If you’re like most of the couples who come to me, you’ve tried several strategies to inject more vitality into your relationship:
More money didn’t help, and less money made it worse. In therapy you paid to talk about your problems but solutions were nowhere in sight.
You are both using “I messages,” validating feelings, and making sure sex happens, but the foundation of your marriage keeps sliding toward destruction.
And of course, you tried date night. Only to spend $100 to look at your phones.
Common strategies like date night seem great on the surface, but they’re still not enough to save a relationship.
And the reason is because they are only scratching the surface.
Strategies aimed at creating a more vital relationship system will fail unless they look at root-causes, not just the boring results.
If you and your partner aren’t connected and enjoying each other, a fancy dinner isn’t going to change that. You typically go on a date with someone you already like, not with someone you feel is taking you for granted or treating you poorly.
When things aren’t going well in your relationship, date night can feel as exciting as prepping for a colonoscopy or being stuck in an elevator with a colleague you can barely tolerate.
Couples who religiously do date night break up every day, and there is a simple reason why.
But you won’t find the answer in advice columns, podcasts, or broadcasts; and most self-help books never manage to mention it. Because all of these sources make the same common mistake.
Corrective changes—like date night—while somewhat helpful, fail to stop the five fateful forces that can bulldoze your relationship downhill toward demise because they focus on the symptoms, not the system.
Date night might make you feel better, but the high is short-lived at best. You’re only delaying the inevitable.
Discouraged because they cannot find the right key to generating more energy, couples give up and settle back into their comfortable ways.
Vitality, first and foremost, starts with two energetic people who join forces to create a living, breathing relationship that feels robust to the partners and anyone who relates to them.
It’s not harder, it doesn’t take more time, and it gets the job done.
Because instead of focusing on the same old issues you’ve dealt with before, it addresses the five invisible forces pulling you away from the relationship you long for and deserve. The better way is a more efficient way.
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solutions.”
No wonder the man is considered brilliant. You can come up with hundreds of solutions, but until you have identified the problem, solutions will be hit or miss at best.
Once you see the real problem in your relationship, the solutions will become self-evident.
If you have a relationship worth protecting, there is no better way to preserve and improve it than identifying the five forces that threaten it and taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen.
When you identify the five forces and learn how to create a vital relationship system, then the symptoms of relationship malaise melt away.
You no longer NEED to go on date night in order to feel attracted to each other again. A date night is the icing on the cake—because you actually WANT to spend time alone together. You feel energized and revitalized, reminding you of how great it feels to be with your partner in the first place.
So, what are the five invisible forces can destroy a relationship?
Most couples in crisis spend too much time focusing on the symptoms that represent the particular force—or relationship system—instead of working on addressing the underlying reason that system is broken or weak.
For example, you may complain that you’re a different person than you were when you first met your partner, but your partner hasn’t changed, and therefore, you’ve “grown apart.” You feel bored with your partner and think you need to “spice things up.” But all you’re doing is addressing the symptom of a lifeless relationship (by doing on date night) instead of doing what it takes to strengthen the system (taking effective steps to add vitality to a lifeless relationship).
In other words, once you know the underlying cause of your dissatisfaction, you can go about making the changes in your relationship that will actually make a difference.
When I work with couples to help them see what’s really behind their fighting, boredom, conflicts, and disconnect, they have a huge “AHA.”
They finally “get” what’s missing, and exactly what they need to do to get their love back on track.
But I can’t possibly work individually with everyone who needs that kind of help. That’s why I’ve partnered with Flourish, so I can extend that help and guidance to as many people as possible, since almost all couples can benefit from these insights and tips.
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A relationship doesn’t need to lose passion and connection, just because you’ve been together for a long time. Just the opposite! It should get sweeter and more loving with time.
Marriage CAN be enlivening and wonderful, if you have the right knowledge and tools.
The advice contained in the articles I’ve written for Flourish will help you uncover the hidden issues that are draining your relationship of joy and passion, and help you create and maintain a strong foundation of love and respect, so that your relationship can last a lifetime.
May you have an extraordinary day,