Date your spouse with intention: the 3 part formula

Could your relationship use a tune-up?  Do you sometimes feel like you live with a roommate rather than your spouse*?   

It seems that the slow death of romance has become the new norm in American marriages and long-term relationships these days.  But good news — if you seek connection rather than just commitment with your partner, there’s a simple four-letter word that just may solve your problem.

No, not that oneD-A-T-E.

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The status quo of relationships

Relationships are work, but we’re not putting in the effort

In a society where you are juggling so many priorities at once, it’s easy to let your relationship fall to the bottom of the list.  Based on results from the 2023 National Marriage Project study at the University of Virginia and the staggering 42% divorce rate in the United States, it is clear that not prioritizing your romantic relationship has become the status quo these days.  Over half (52%!) of couples in the study admitted to “never” going on dates with their partner.  

The happy couple’s secret

On the other hand, the study also indicates that couples who prioritize date nights as part of their normal routines report 15% greater satisfaction in their relationship and sex life.  As a bonus, habitual daters were 14% less likely to consider divorce in the future.   

I like those statistics better.

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Are you overdue on dating?

When was the last time you and your spouse had a real date?  We’re talking about a real one-on-one, intentional date to focus on your person and create a meaningful connection.

If you laughed at the idea or struggled to remember your last rendezvous, then you and your spouse are long overdue for some quality time.

Why dating?  

Remember the good ole days

Think back to when you first met your partner; the wonder, the spark, the mystery.  Every phone call and encounter brought you closer together.  No matter if you had reservations at a Michelin-star restaurant or ate pizza on the floor of your apartment, it was simply enough to just be together and connect.

That’s what you’re trying to recreate.  

While it’s normal to lose some of that fire and excitement as time goes by, it’s also possible to maintain the bond of those early dating days.  

Dating prioritizes your relationship

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The primary objective in dating at any point in your relationship is to foster connection, no matter the activity or location.  There is no requirement for a fancy night out with champagne and caviar in order to spend some quality time together.  You don’t even have to leave the house if you don’t want to!  

For a year and a half while JB and I were engaged, we had to find creative ways to stay connected when he was sent 1,300 miles across the country for work.  While I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, we discovered a formula that helped us maintain a healthy, supportive relationship regardless of our locations.  By prioritizing quality time with some planning and intention, we were actually able to not only grow stronger as a couple but also have fun together even from far away. If that isn’t evidence of the power of prioritization, I don’t know what is!

The bottom line is you have to put in the work for your relationship to thrive.  It’s not complicated, but does require effort.  If you’re in the 52% majority and need a refresher on how to make the most out of your dates, let’s dive into our 3-step approach.

The three-step formula to date your spouse with intention

#1 Focus on each other

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It is extremely difficult to create a real connection with so many daily distractions.  Between the dings and pings on your phone, the dog scratching to go out again, the buzz of the washer and dryer, the small voices calling “Mommy, I need some water!” for the fourth time that night …

Wait, what was I talking about?

The truth of it is, you have to make the right environment to focus on each other.  This means setting aside time, turning off your phone, letting the laundry sit for one more day, or booking the babysitter — all with the purpose of giving your partner your undivided attention for a few hours.  

Yes, this aspect requires some preparation, but it is an investment worth making if you’re seeking a meaningful connection.

#2 Get out of your routine

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As the old saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  

Routines are not a bad thing in a relationship.  In fact, they are actually one of the wonderful aspects of being in a committed relationship!  However, in order to maintain that spark and grow in your relationship, you are going to have to leave your comfort zone every once in a while.  

In desperate need of some fun?  Plan a night out listening to live music or go to a comedy club.

Need to relax after a long week at work?  Move from your usual spots on the couch to the kitchen table to play board games or chat over a glass of wine. 

Looking for a nice meal out last minute?  Hit up the happy hour at a local high-end restaurant for a discounted price tag on the same luxe ambiance.

Have 30 minutes before you have to pick up the kids from soccer and just need to get out of the house?  Swing by a drive-thru and listen to some music while you eat and catch up in the car.  

You get the picture.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you go into it with that dating mentality.

Try mixing it up with your dates to see what you gain from each experience.  There is no right or wrong way to date, as we all can appreciate from our eating-pizza-on-the-floor days.

#3 Communication, communication, communication

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Hopefully, you and your partner already communicate effectively on a daily basis.  Between coordinating household responsibilities, juggling family obligations, and general daily to-do’s, most individuals talk a lot with their significant other just to keep things running smoothly at home.  However, these mundane conversations have little chance to ignite that dim little flame smoldering on the back burner of your relationship.  

Be honest, how emotionally connected do you feel during your weekly game of its-your-turn-to-take-the-trash-out hot potato?

No, the real fire happens during true communication.  The story-telling that has you crying tears of laughter.  The drawn-out philosophical discussions shared over too many glasses of wine.  The whispered confessions of a life you’ve dreamt up together. 

The kind of communication that brings you back to the beginning of your relationship and reminds you why you fell in love in the first place. 

Of course, after a year (or 10, or 20) together, you may feel as if you’ve run out of things to talk about.  At least, outside of the usual household chore and scheduling discussions.  

If that’s the case, one little hack I suggest you try is to make a game out of conversing.  To get a little help with conversation starters, there are a ton of free couples questionnaires you can download from Pinterest. When is it ever not entertaining to play your own version of the newlywed game with your partner?

If that doesn’t feel right, try one of the many couple’s card games available to help ease you into a meaningful discussion.  JB and I still use games such as these in our date night rotations!  The couple’s edition of We’re Not Really Strangers includes questions for light and fun conversations.  If you’re looking for something more serious, we love the {THE AND} card game to encourage deeper discussions.  There are also some fun and sexy card games (such as the Talk Flirt Date card game) available if you’re looking to let the conversation progress to the bedroom.

The more you incorporate meaningful conversations into your dates (and daily interactions), the more natural it will become.  Start with a small topic or question and see how it goes.   You may be surprised to learn something new about your long-term love!

Maximizing the return on your dating investment

So you and your significant other went on a date.  Yay — I hope it was a blast!

But if you’re looking to check “date your spouse” off your to-do list, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  This task is going to need to stay on your list, from now until “death do you part.” 

What’s next?

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Keep the dating mentality front and center in your relationship with a few small habits.

  • Always have the next date scheduled!  This way you have something to look forward to and there’s never the risk that your busy schedule pushes the next date off your radar.
  • Incorporate “mini-dates” into your household routines.  Little tasks such as walking the dog or cooking dinner together can make a big impact in improving daily communication and feelings of connection.
  • Find small ways to reach out daily.  A short, flirty text out of the blue is a great way to brighten your loved one’s day.

1 + 2 + 3 = ? (A formula for big returns)

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Remember that dating your spouse is not a one-and-done objective, this is an investment in your relationship.  The numbers don’t lie; the biggest takeaway in the 2023 study is in order to keep your connection thriving, you must make dating a priority in your relationship.

For me, the return on that investment seems well worth the effort. 

Happy dating!

* Note — Any mention of spouse or partner within this article is a generalized reference to a long-term romantic partner and does not require marriage or any other legal commitment.  This could mean life partner, long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, wife or husband, or any arrangement a couple may choose.  Get back to reading

Have you made dating a priority in your relationship?  How do you think this has impacted your connection with your partner?  Is there any activity that has been particularly fun or helpful in rekindling the spark?  Tell us all about it in the comments!

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