The Date Night Myth
As a marriage and couple’s counselor I am fully aware that many of my fellow couple’s therapists recommend having a date night as a way to partially or fully resolve marriage or relationship challenges. The conversation may sound like this:
Couple: We are not getting along. All the romance and passion is missing. We fight and argue what seems all of the time.
Therapist: Okay, tell me when was the last time you guys got away from all the negativity and spent time with one another?
Couple: We can’t remember the last time.
Therapist: Then I want you to go on a date. Find a sitter for the kids and plan a time where the two of you can unplug and get to know one another again.
I am simplifying the conversation but you get the point. The marriage therapist views the problem as the couple being stressed, not having enough time, and that they just need to date one another. Let me be clear: I am not against date night. I think it is healthy for couples to get away for the night or even longer when they can. In fact, date night may work for a period of time. The couple seemingly gets better.
The problem is that date night often makes matters worse for couples who are experiencing relationship difficulties. Date night between and emotionally disconnected couple shines the spotlight on everything that is lacking in the relationship. For instance, you may have been to eat and noticed a couple who is either fighting like cats and dogs or giving one another the cold, silent treatment. Either way, being on a date for these couples is not working.
Couples who do not feel emotionally connected to one another can go on several dates and it will not help. Heck, they could even go on a 7 day cruise that promises romance and it will not produce long term change. Date night in an emotionally disconnected relationship only leaves partners feeling empty and hopeless.
Date Night Alternative
As a marriage and relationship counselor I very seldom recommend that the couples I work with go on a date or spend more time with one another as a solution to their marriage or relationship problems. Instead, I encourage couples to dig deep within themselves to identify what they are missing in the relationship. Most of the time couples are missing a deeper sense of feeling emotionally safe, secure, and loved. They are stuck in defensive emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration.
To help couples navigate through what are inevitably tough questions there are many tools that can help. One is to recognize that couples who are not emotionally connected will fall into universal patterns of withdraw and pursue. This is where one person is closed off and distant. The other is angry and trying to engage. The more one pursues the more the other withdraws and vice versa. Identifying your relationship’s specific pattern and working together as a team to overcome it is imperative to growth.
Second is to understand that underneath each partner’s defensive emotions and reactions there is usually fear, hurt, loneliness, sadness, and feelings of abandonment and rejection. The goal here is to create enough trust and safety so that each partner can take risks and reach out with their deeper emotions and needs.
The date night myth that many couples and therapists have bought into is that date night can save a relationship. The truth is that date night between an emotionally disconnected couple sucks. On the flip side, date night is so much better between a couple that is emotionally connected to one another. You can have fun, learn more about each other and have deep conversations. If you would like a tool to help you and your spouse or partner go deeper in your conversations click here.
Finally, my wife and I recently had discussed date night on our radio show, The Connected Life. You may listen by clicking below. Also, if you would like counseling for your marriage or relationship call a Crossroads therapist today at 623-680-3486.
The Date Night Myth: To be aired on April 11, 2015.