A majority of married couples do not date enough and when they do, they’ve got it all wrong, one organization says.
“So many couples get stuck in a ‘dinner and movie’ routine that they need simple ideas on what to do on a date night,” Greg Smalley, executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family, told The Christian Post in an email. “Research shows that when you add new or exciting activities into your date night that it activates the same part of your brain that was ignited when you first started to date.”
With National Marriage Week less than a few weeks away, Focus on the Family is doing what it can to teach couples how to date the “right” way through their Date Night Challenge – where couples are encouraged to go on three dates in three weeks.
To kick-start the challenge, the ministry is setting up the first date on Valentine’s Day, hosting a two-hour webcast at churches nationwide, featuring comedian Jeff Allen, singer/songwriter Michael O’Brien and best-selling authors Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley.
During the event, Smalley and his wife will explain “the power of dating your mate.” Afterward, they will encourage couples to take the Date Night Challenge and also provide free, downloadable materials and content for the next two dates, as well as a monthly guide throughout the year.
Smalley lamented that many couples “do date night wrong.”
“When couples go out, many ‘administrate’ their marriage (deal with budget, kid problems, etc.) and end up fighting,” he commented. “Guys, especially start to wonder, ‘Why pay a babysitter to argue when you can do that for free in your own home?’ We need to administrate our marriage but do not call this a date.”
Date night is about having fun, being playful, reconnecting, and asking each other questions, strengthening the marriage, the expert shared.
On each date night, the ministry will give couples some questions to ask each other as to deepen or update their knowledge of their spouse. “One lifetime isn’t long enough to truly get to know someone,” Smalley noted.
The idea for the Date Night Challenge began two years ago, when Smalley started a monthly date night program at the Northwest Arkansas Healthy Marriages. His good friend Tim Popadic followed suit, creating the Date Night Challenge in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2011 and 2012.
While Popadic wanted couples to go on five dates in five weeks, Smalley encouraged couples to go out on three dates in three weeks, and also commit to go out one time per month for the next year.
Ninety-two percent of couples that participated in the Date Night Challenge in West Palm Beach saw an increase in their relationship satisfaction, Smalley explained to CP.
“The Date Night Challenge is a proven way to strengthen relationships,” The DNA of Relationships author affirmed.
“In one research study, couples spending 90 minutes on ‘exciting’ activities that they did not typically do (i.e. plays, concerts, hiking, dancing, etc.) showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction. Another study found that the amount of fun partners had together emerged as a key factor in predicting their overall marital happiness.”
So what makes dating so special and effective?
“It's so effective because it's simple and easy for couples to do together,” Smalley revealed.
“We are taking something that most couples do together anyway (spending time together) and adding ways that they can do it more effectively. Date night helps to combat the busyness that most couples experience. We all live busy lives and often don't have time to spend together. Date night is an easy way to spend time together in the midst of busyness.”
Though many couples hope they could maintain a marriage on “autopilot or cruise control,” the father of four stated that there was no cruise control setting in marriage.
“We need to regularly invest in our marriage to make it work. Date night is a perfect way to invest in our marriage,” he concluded.
Focus on the Family aims to get 500 churches to participate in their challenge, and have 5 million dates taking place across the country during the month of February.
For more information on the Date Night Challenge, click here.