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Two Words that Save a Marriage : Date Night

The physics of primary relationships – especially marriage – are not unlike the aging of the human bodies that engage in them. Time has its way with both, and without careful and loving maintenance it consumes us more rapidly than we’d like it to. Where the untended marriage is concerned, time atrophies the very essence of what started it all: intimacy. Time has allies in this erosion process, most of them masquerading as the stuff of life itself – the diversions of separate careers, the settling into domestic patterns that leech passion and hope from the core of the relationship, the acidic effect of unforgiven sins and festering resentments, or simply the cessation of a common bond once based on youth and shared dreams. One of those diversions is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or perhaps more aptly put, an intimacy-killer in diapers and toddler-wear. It’s parenting. From the moment our children are born they put intimacy in harm’s way, largely – and perhaps ironically – through the placebo effect of your shared love for this miracle you have brought into the world. Because there’s only so much time and so much love to go around, and the bulk of it is heading down the hall toward the baby’s room.

But just as our culture has cultivated the means of battling the inevitable erosion of time on our bodies – gyms, diets, and, for some, cosmetic surgery – a panacea cure is at hand for the marital tedium that feels forced upon us by the responsibility of parenting. It’s called Date Night. When done right, with regularity and committed passion, and with an eye toward the prize of an enduring spark of pheromones, it can accomplish everything from saving your marriage to reenergizing your entire existence.

Date Night isn’t rocket science, though inherent to its potential to changes lives and resurrect a comatose mojo is a healthy dose of psychology. Date Night is nothing more than the choice made by parents to set time aside for themselves as a couple – to schedule it, to put it in ink in a day planner – that is completely separate and detached from their role as parents and the lives of their children, at least for an evening. Date Night isn’t about catching up on errands or hanging with friends. Date night isn’t solitary time and it’s not rest and recovery time, it’s shared time. In short, the objective of Date Night is for parents to focus their complete focused attention on each other and nothing else. What that looks like and what it means is without definition – words such as romance and fun and meaningful exchange spring to mind – and that’s the inherent fun of it all. Because each couple gets to define Date Night for themselves.

There are no rules for Date Night. But there are recommendations. It can simply mean time to talk, and not just about the kids and about your problems, but more productively, about each other and the future of your relationship. It can be an evening out or an evening in. It can be a return to the folly of youth – shooting pool and drinking beer, going dancing, taking in a movie, or just walking next to the river holding hands. It can be all about sex, or fantasy (preferably both), or that can be the natural result of what goes down earlier in the evening. You get to decide, but the criteria for the best kind of Date Night remains inviolate (okay, there are rules): it’s something you share, not something that is given, and it is something that brings you closer. Date Night is time just to be together. Whatever that might mean for you.

Think of Date Night as a B-12 shot for your relationship with a side of steroids. A chance to make a memory or even revisit a dirty little secret, either of which can be a ray of hope in an otherwise cluttered existence. Life can be challenging and difficult, especially for parents, and the dark forces of the time you must invest to make it work have their eyes on the very thing you need to fight to maintain – intimacy. Date Night can make you whole again, both as individuals and as a couple, enough to make even the hard times seem worthwhile.

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