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Monday, January 11, 2016

"I don't know, what do you want to do?" If your date night planning includes this sentence, you might need to up your game.

We're talking about date night this month, and I'm encouraging every couple to take a fresh look in 2016 at their date night habits. Regardless of how you did last year, I'm asking you to up your dating game and take it to the next level in the new year.

So far, in my current poll, What Do You Want More of In Your Marriage?, I'm finding lots of couples looking for more emotional connection (34%), fun and adventure (30%), romance (19%), and more time together (18%). The good news is that all of these can and should be fueled by having more regular dates.

Often, the first question that comes up after you've gotten past the obstacles to date night is the question of what to do. (See my last post for more on obstacles.)

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Wife:  "What should we do for date night this week?"

Husband:  "I don't know, what do you want to do?"

Wife:  "Whatever you want to do."

Husband.  "No, whatever you want to do."

Both shrug. And round it goes, with no one wanting to make the decision.

Who Plans?

In my survey, I asked about who did the planning for date night.  Here's what I found:

  • I do most or all of the planning - This was the most common answer. 54% of husbands and 41% of wives said this was the case.
  • My spouse does most or all of the planning - 15% of husbands and 15 % of wives said their spouse did the bulk of the planning, 
  • We plan dates together - About one in five couples plan their dates together.
  • We take turns planning - one in four wives and one in ten husbands said they usually took turns planning their dates.

Who is Happiest?

Regardless of who planned them, people were not all that happy with their date night activities. The average "content happiness score" was only 2.2, and basically the same for men and women (scale was 1 to 5, with 5 being most happy).

You would expect that the one planning dates would be the happiest with the content, but that wasn't the case. In fact, happiness with the content of date night was about the same for all but one kind of planning: taking turns. Taking turns planning date resulted in a higher reported degree of happiness, especially for wives, but to some extent also for husbands.

Takeaway: take turns planning what you will do on your next few dates.

There are several reasons I like this approach. First, it allows each to take the initiative in turn, which is an act of pursuit. Second, there tends to be fewer "default dates," where you decide to just do the same old thing because it's easier, or because no one wants to decide.  Third, taking turns creates an opportunity to surprise your spouse with something special, interesting or even adventurous once in a while. Fourth, it's an opportunity to bless your spouse with something that you know would interest him or her, even if it isn't your cup of tea.

Finally, taking turns works - and I have the data to prove it.

What Couples Do

Here's what the folks who took my date night survey said their date nights consisted of:
Among the "other" answers were: shopping (more men than women mentioned this!), camping, church activities and various at-home activities (See next week's post for more on date-night-at-home options)

Dinner out seems to be the go-to date night option for most, with 94% dining out often or sometimes. About half took to outdoor activities (49%), with coffee/desert coming in third at 42%. Movies (42%), shows & concerts (31%) and sporting activities (28%) were next, with drinks/cocktails coming in last at 19%.

What Couples Want to Do More

I asked couples what kind of dates they wish they had more of. Here is what they said.

To my surprise, the top two were the same between what people did and what they wanted to do more: outdoor activities (54%) and dinner (51%). In fact the only significant difference between the two charts above was that my survey takers wanted to to more cultural events like shows, concerts or other performing arts than what they were currently doing.

Despite not being all that happy with their current date night activities, I got the impression that people were just asking for more of the same.

Takeaway: splurge once in a while on tickets to a special event. It takes more planning a little more money, but it might be just what you need to give your date night routine a shot in the arm.

Second Takeaway: If you aren't that happy with your date nights, change them!

Our Date Night Life

My wife and I are fairly protective of our date nights, and I would say most weeks we manage to have a date of some kind. It's easier for us to be consistent now that we are empty-nesters and have more control over our time. But I've been convicted by writing this series that I need to take my own challenge and step up our date nights as well. For her part, Jenni can't remember the last time she planned an outing for us.

We haven't been particularly innovative or done much planning ahead, so we have tended to default to many of the same activities, which often  means dinner out and the occasional movie. We love spending time together no matter what we do, and neither of us puts pressure on the other to create a "wow" experience every week, but we can definitely do better at making our dates more special. We've decided to  take a crack at taking turns planning our next few dates.

We also do a lot of date nights in. Sometimes we are just too tired and harried to go out, and a quiet night at home sounds like just the ticket. My survey also covered date nights at home, and around 30% said half or more of their date nights were spent at home. We'll dig into date nights at home in my next post. Be sure to stick around - sign up for posts by email if you want to get the rest of this series delivered right to your inbox!

So what does your date night look like? What do you wish you could do more? Who plans your date nights? How's it all working. Tell us your story. Leave a comment.


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