Want to know the secret to a long-lasting marriage?
Ditch the kids and enjoy the occasional date night – it could mean the difference between living happily ever after or divorce, according to researchers at Lincoln University and the Marriage Foundation in the UK.
In fact, married couples who do carve out the time for date nights have 14 per cent lower odds of their relationship dissolving when compared to other couples who rarely or never spend an evening together without their kids.
Interestingly, researchers found that when date nights became a weekly event, they lost their benefit. About 11 per cent of couples who had weekly date nights (or more) were often no more likely to stay together. This, researchers say, stresses the importance of spontaneity for a successful date night.
The study looked at Millennium Cohort data from over 9,900 couples with nine-month-old children.
From the data, researchers saw no change in the odds for cohabiting couples with similar date night plans.
Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, speculates the difference between married and unmarried couples is the level of commitment involved.
“A marriage is a contract, a public commitment to make a relationship work for the long term,” he says in a press release statement. “We are geared to make more effort and to compromise more readily to make such an arrangement work.”
Relationship expert Kimberly Moffit believes the difference comes down to lifestyle.
“Most of the time when people are in a long-term marriage and there are potentially children involved and they have hectic schedules, or course a date night is going to benefit that relationship,” Moffit told Global News. “But usually when I see people who are not yet married or don’t plan on getting married and there aren’t any children, they already have that opportunity to be doing regular date nights. I feel that adding that extra time together in these cases wouldn’t be as significant as it would be for a couple that doesn’t have that regular time together.”
Date nights are important for married couples because it offers an opportunity to challenge the other partner on an intellectual level, Moffit says. They should also ideally be scheduled bi-weekly (despite the researchers saying “spontaneity” is key).
“We don’t often get the time to sit face-to-face at a table over dinner and chat about the things that are important to us,” Moffit says. “What I’ve learned from most couples is that they’re so exhausted from their day that at night they’re usually just sitting down and watching television and on their smartphones. So even if they are physically together, they’re not actually carving out that time to mentally and emotionally connect.”
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She suggests that partners alternate making the plans and try to limit the amount of times each falls back on dinner and a movie as a choice date night.
“If you engage in a new and novel activity you are a lot more likely to feel bonded with your partner,” Moffit says. “A good date night in my opinion is doing something that you two have never done before.”
Visiting a haunted house on Halloween, visiting a theme park or ice skating during the winter are just some examples Moffit suggests couples try.
“It doesn’t matter what it is for you and your partner and your relationship,” Moffit says. “But if you try something new, those experiences are a lot more likely to be pressed into your memory as something that was enjoyable with your partner and the romantic feelings can blossom from there.”
According to recent Statistics Canada data, there were over 70,000 divorces in 2008, a decline of 4 per cent from the previous year. It’s estimated that 41 per cent of marriages will end in divorce before the 30th year of marriage, an increase from 36 per cent in 1998.