Date nights are always the first thing to go in times of stress or change—how can you possibly enjoy a romantic tête-a-tête when the baby has you up bleary-eyed every 90 minutes? But if a long, happy marriage is your goal, then you should reprioritize, pronto. Studies show that couples who set aside alone time at least once a week have healthier, more fulfilling relationships and lower divorce rates. Need some inspiration? We asked experts for date night suggestions to get you out of your slump and back in the saddle again.
You’re in a Boring Date-Night Rut
Have you been to every restaurant in your area a hundred million times? Get out of your same old-same old routine by rethinking the goal of your date. This time, focus on nostalgia. Psychotherapist and sex and relationship expert Ian Kerner, PhD, suggests thinking about something you guys used to do back PK (pre-kids) and riff on that. “One couple I worked with used to love to go to a piano bar in the West Village and sing show tunes all night long,” he says. “They moved to NJ and stopped going, but went after one of our sessions and they had a blast all over again.” What’s more, a recent study from the University of Southampton in the UK found that nostalgia had all kinds of good-for-couples benefits including heightened optimism and a brighter outlook for the future.
Where to go:
Mine your best memories and go wherever they take you. Used to hit the clubs? Try Iron Bar in Morristown. Love karaoke? BYOB and head to Volume Up Karaoke in Edgewater to belt out your favorites. First fell in love at the college coffee house? Try &Grain in Garwood for a cup of Stumptown or the Coffee Mill Roasters in Millburn.
You’re Having Money Issues
Paying for pricey appetizers on date night is a little harder to justify when you’re worried about covering the bills at the end of the month. Do it anyway, says Kerner. “Spend a little money. “It sounds counter-intuitive, but your relationship is just about the best thing you can invest in,” he says. “It is truly trickle-down economics and will have a positive impact on so many aspects of your life.” Still skeptical? “Money anxiety sucks, and those issues are real, but money issues are also the number one cause of divorce,” explains Kerner. “And guess what—divorce is way more expensive than date night.” No need to break the bank, but don’t skip a night out since it will pay dividends later.
Where to go:
You Just Had a Baby and You're Exhausted
There’s nothing that’ll morph your marriage and make date night a distant memory faster than that eight-pound bundle of cooing cuteness in your arms. It’s worth it, of course, but you’ve never felt more worn out. Relationship counselor, sex educator and author of The New Sex Bible Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, says it’s time to get out of Dodge. She suggests making a break for it when baby is three to six months old. Yes it feels early, but it’s 100 percent okay. Invite a trusted family member to come stay at your house, then splurge on a hotel room that’s close-by. Sleeping out of the house is critical. “Sometimes you need physical distance to distance yourself from your parental roles,” she says. Bring your pump (if you’re nursing), hit a romantic restaurant or get room service and reconnect. If you wake up every three hours out of habit in your fancy hotel bed, at least you can go right back to sleep.
Where to go:
Use the travel and loyalty points you’ve been hoarding to book something convenient nearby, or splurge and head to the W Hotel in Hoboken for some four-star snoozing.
You’ve Been Fighting Over the Small Stuff Lately
All that bickering can take a toll on your desire to, well, hang out together. Kerner suggests you structure your date night so that you can stay positive the entire time. “Studies show that the difference between couples who succeed and fail is those who succeed have a much higher ratio of positive to negative interactions,” he says. And even though you haven’t been getting along so well, try to end the night with a little time between the sheets—the ultimate connector and mood booster, says Kerner. Not exactly sure how you’ll be able to achieve the positive spin in your current state? “Pick an activity that’s side-by-side, like going to a movie or taking a stroll—things that are less eye-to-eye are less confrontational,” says Kerner.
Where to go:
Bundle up for an outside date—head to Sandy Hook for miles of strolling along the gorgeous ocean paths, or stay inside and go to one of AMC’s dine-in theaters (Bridgewater, Essex Green or Menlo Park), where you can watch a movie and kick back with a cocktail and a bite to eat.
All the Sitters on the Planet are Busy
Don’t live down the street from your in-laws? Never let the lack of easy childcare keep you from spending time alone together. Remember when you first moved into your place and you didn’t have any furniture? Pretend you’re back in those days. “There’s nothing like ordering in Chinese food and having a picnic on the floor,” Kerner says. Don’t include the kids though: Instead, feed them their normal dinner, put them down and then call up your favorite delivery place.
Where to go:
Lots of NJ restaurants are signing up with Seamless, a meal delivery service that has taken over takeout in NYC. For a couple bucks (and sometimes even for free) they’ll pick up from restaurants that may not otherwise deliver, and bring the food to your door.
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