How to Date Your Spouse

A fascinating New York Times article discusses recent psychological data: “Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain-scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic love that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.”

The article’s discussion continues in the same vein. Some snippets:

“Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment.

But several experiments show that novelty — simply doing new things together as a couple — may help bring the butterflies back, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship.”

. . .

“Dr. Aron cautions that novelty alone is probably not enough to save a marriage in crisis. But for couples who have a reasonably good but slightly dull relationship, novelty may help reignite old sparks.

And recent brain-scan studies show that romantic love really can last years into a marriage. Last week, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in Albuquerque, researchers presented brain-scan data on several men and women who had been married for 10 or more years. Interviews and questionnaires suggested they were still intensely in love with their partners. Brain scans confirmed it, showing increased brain activity associated with romantic love when the subjects saw pictures of their spouses.

It’s not clear why some couples are able to maintain romantic intensity even after years together. But the scientists believe regular injections of novelty and excitement most likely play a role.”

Great stuff. Who woulda thunk it?


Now, here’s your challenge, if you’re married: Go on a novel and exciting date with your spouse this Valentine’s Day (or Valentine’s Day weekend).

No more dinner-and-a-movie. Go explore someplace different. Visit a new place. Do new things. Take pictures. Have fun. Make it all something new and unusual. Do something different to fire those synapses and build that bond.

If you’re not sure quite how to proceed, feel free to use this thread for thoughts and discussion about date plans or ideas. And we’d also be happy to hear your (positive, I hope!) reports about how those dates went. (Keep it family-friendly, please.)

28 comments for “How to Date Your Spouse

  1. Richard O.
    February 13, 2008 at 8:07 am

    David O. McKay said someplace, “Make your home your hobby.” My wife and I like to do woodworking, stone working, stained glass making, and gardening, together. We always have some project going in our home. Since our physical environment if always changing as the result of our own “together” designs and craftsmanship, home is never a visually stale place. Our home has become a very literal expression of how fun life is together as we are surrounded by the result of many years of fun art projects. It even makes travel more fun because we are constantly on the lookout for interesting visual ideas that we can incorporate into new projects for our home. Thus our home becomes an exciting (for us) visual history our marriage.

  2. Naismith
    February 13, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I think dinner is actually good, because you are facing each other with the leisure to talk.

    But try this assignment: No talking about the children or work or church callings.

    This is one of those things that sounds much easier on paper than it is to implement, at least for us. We do this regularly for lunch. Of course, in this election year, we would probably just talk about politics for an hour:)

    But we’ve found it a good exercise to maintain our friendship and share our dreams.

  3. February 13, 2008 at 9:34 am
  4. February 13, 2008 at 9:34 am

    This is great advice. I’ve seen it work recently in my own life- simply getting out of the routine has brought us closer together. Now that it’s science, I’m going to make it a goal.

    Here’s something strange- the election year has helped our marriage. We frequently discuss politics, government, the economy and the founding fathers- having deep discussions about theology and not about work.

  5. Jason J
    February 13, 2008 at 11:01 am

    My wife and I are new parents and have a beautiful four-month old daughter. My wife still does not feel ready to leave her with a babysitter (not even with her own mother when we were visiting for the holidays). Any ideas about how to continue courtship at this stage? Should I try to push the babysitter idea? Or do any of you have creative ways to continue courtship with baby at our side?

    I’m sure many if not most of you have gone through this stage, and I’d appreciate any suggestions.

  6. February 13, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Jason J,

    When our (now 21+ year) marriage was at that stage, the novel things we did included borrowing books on reflexology and massage. Practicing these new skills on each other was very cool (and practical– when there are babies in the house, both parents are under stress). You might also try a new board or card game, or a cookbook of interesting new-to-you cuisine… take baby with you to shop, and when you’re home, once baby goes to bed, spend time in the kitchen chopping or doing whatever it is that is needed to prepare the new meal.

  7. Snow White
    February 13, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I’m always the same way, Jason, and we just take the baby with us. I would have been seriously irritated with my hubby had he pushed the babysitter thing, because the hormonal need I feel to be nearby by babies when they are younger is stronger than reason. Four month olds sleep alot anyway. We found ours to be pretty portable. If you put the baby in a wrap or pack, then she would probably sleep while you two went exploring at the local nature park or museum.

  8. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    #5 At home dates may be the thing for you for a while, as suggested above, or you might consider simple things like a picnic at the park that can include the baby. Some of our friends have dated with other couples and take turns watching the babies while one couple does a short activity, but baby isn’t too far away, then finish the evening with an all-together activity.

    You could also try starting out with a short 1 hour date away from the baby and then increase that time as your wife feels ready.

  9. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    We are avid daters. We date weekly and have been known to go out multiple times in a week. Our kids have an early bed time, so many times we wait till they are tucked in and then get the sitter. We almost never do the movie thing. We like to do new stuff like frisbee golf (many communities have courses and it is HI-larious), shop for a home-improvement project, take our Wii to someone else’s house and squash their pride, visit stores we won’t take our kids to like the Apple store or Williams-Sonama, etc., go on a short hike, go to a water park or amusement park, drive around and look at houses and judge people (kidding), go to the bookstore and just browse and then read things to each other and laugh until we’re gonna puke.

    We are such heavy daters that someone in my ward actually approached me Sunday and said they would pay us for a class on dating. Many couples think they don’t have time or can’t afford it, but virtually any couple can find some form of dating that works into their schedules and budgets. In school we were so busy and so poor we made a dating schedule for each month: One date at home, one at the temple, one free outside activity, one that we spent money on. And we did A LOT of babysitting trading.

  10. Jason J
    February 13, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Great suggestions, all.

    I had thought it best to not push for a sitter, but I’m happy to have my suspicions confirmed. Our dates have always been cultural events that are not appropriate for small children (the symphony, ballet, opera, etc.), so it’s good to have some fresh ideas. Our dates have mostly consisted of eating in the food court at Costco and eating at real restaurants occasionally.

    I also like the idea of trying to start with hour-long dates and gradually increasing from there. I have great tickets to Tristan und Isolde at the Met next month, and I’d sure hate to go without my wife.

  11. Kevinf
    February 13, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    My wife and I have been pretty strict about observing Friday night date night, to the point that I am sometimes a bit sharp with my married, adult kids, who should know better than to intrude for pointless reasons on those Friday nights.

    Two suggestions about dating your spouse. About once a year, even if we’ve been able to get away for a vacation, about this time of year my wife and I will get away for a couple of nights locally. Since our “anniversary” of getting engaged is a week before Valentines day, that usually becomes a bigger occasion than the holiday. This year, we told the folks at church, and at work, that my wife and I were getting away for the weekend, and drove all the way over to Seattle from the Eastside, stayed in a nice hotel (priceline works, but you usually end up in a Marriott property, not that there’s anything wrong with that), took in a couple of nice dinners, a movie, some shopping, hanging out in a couple of bookstores, and cruising Pike Place market. Then we attended a sacrament meeting in one of the Seattle wards on Sunday, and in the afternoon, made the long, 20 minute drive home. Great weekend for “wholesome recreational activities” and relaxing without any big obligations.

    If you’ve got new babies, I like the idea of doing kind of a picnic or nice dinner at home. Get rid of the rest of the rugrats but the the new one, make dinner yourselves with something you’ve never tired before, and rent a concert DVD, rather than a movie, to watch.

  12. Clay Whipkey
    February 13, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Great post! Date night is absolutely essential to our marriage now. It really helps to remember that we are more than just parents of our children. My wife’s sister lives a couple miles from us and we do a trade scenario. We watch their kids for their date and then vice-versa. We could not live without it. Phoenix is a culturally boring area, unless you really like Native American and cowboy history or southwestern art, so we still do dinner-and-a-movie too much. I’m anxious to read the comments here for some ideas.

  13. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Okay, last thought, I (sort of) promise. Our ward recently had an adult activity wherein every couple (or single member) brought a date to be traded white elephant style. Ideas were to be something one could enjoy with another adult or a child, as not all members have spouses. We had a wide range of dates. They ranged from tickets to the corn maze (obviously it was fall), to tickets to the monster truck rally (so fun!). One person made Nacho Libre costumes and brought the movie and stuff to make nachos. Someone put together an 80’s night box complete with acid wash denim vest, plastic jewelry, and a classic 80’s movie.

    We offered gift certificates to a breakfast place and a lunch/dinner place (which I got for free by telling the managers what we were doing), movie tickets, and use of our discs for frisbee golf. We then had the people geocache to get their loot. Geocaching is a great family activity and a really fun date activity. Check it out. It will take you to places in your area you’ve never explored.

    We’re doing date night exchange again in a couple of months. Any ideas for something you’d want if you were there?

  14. Kaimi Wenger
    February 13, 2008 at 2:55 pm


    You’re right, the Phoenix area is kind of boring. But not completely without options.

    One of the first dates I ever took my wife on was a snowball fight in Mesa. It can be a huge hit, because it’s so unexpected.

    The trick: You go behind the ice skating rink, to where the Zamboni deposits the big stacks of ice shavings. It’s not true snow, but it’s the perfect consistency for making snowballs, snowmen, etc. And since it’s 80 degrees and dry outside, you don’t even really get cold. You get soaked in a snowball fight, and 10 minutes later, you’re perfectly dry.

    Unlike real snow, you probably don’t want to eat the stuff. And you only use the top part of the pile, because the Zamboni typically deposits it right on the parking lot, and so if you dig all the way to the bottom, you’ve got little pieces of asphalt in your snowballs.

    Another fun date we did was making “laser kites” and flying them at the parks or retention basins. You take a kite (or a helium balloon and long string, if you really don’t feel like running). You start up a few new glow sticks, then cut them open, and you put the fluorescent fluid on the kite string only. (Be careful not to cut yourself with the glass from inside the sticks). Then, you fly the kite in the dark park. The glowing string (with nothing visible on the end) looks pretty cool at night — like a weird, moving laser beam.

  15. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    -Local Roller Derby
    -Catch a race at a small speedway (even if you don’t like racing)
    -College sports
    -Take a class like cooking or a kayaking workshop
    -Sign up for an institute class together
    -Volunteer at the cannery together
    -Do service for someone in your ward or community together
    -Take turns with each others’ hobbies or interests (photography, art, sewing, antiques, etc.)
    -Detail your cars inside and out (working together without kids can be really fun) and then go get a treat
    -Float a river
    -Roller skate
    -Ice skate
    -Play tennis (even if you suck)
    -Go to a drive-in (make-out)
    -Have dinner and converse with each other as if it’s a first date. Ask questions you think you know the answer to. You’ll be surprised. Or make up new answers.
    -Go support a ward youth in sports or art or drama
    -Go pick out your dream kitchen and furniture, add it all up, and have a good laugh. Or cry.
    -Sit by a campfire for an evening
    -Be a tourist
    -Have a three course meal at three favorite restaurants
    -Draw portraits of each other (just don’t be insulted)
    -Refinish a piece of furniture
    -Swing on swings
    -Go night skiing
    -Go tubing or sledding
    -Build a snowman and get some hot chocolate
    -Read to each other

  16. February 13, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    This reminds me of the older couple in the recent DVD release “The Dance”, a Mormon-produced movie. Website. Buy. Trailer.

  17. February 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    We’re doing a happy-marriage thread over at Segullah today. Here’s what I said about Soper-style daily dating:

    Best marriage enhancer I’ve discovered: Husband Happy Hour. Every night before bedtime my man and I spend an hour touching each other. This includes at least one of the following mix-ins: massage oil, music, Ben & Jerry’s, DVDs, reading, talking, Seinfeld, microwave popcorn, candles. There are lots of variations, and they’re all good. Happy hour is the best part of the day.

  18. Jeff
    February 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Kathryn Lynard Soper. Best. Wife. Ever.

  19. Lupita
    February 13, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Contra dancing? As in, dancing with the contras? Sounds militaristic.
    Thanks for all of the ideas. We’ve been in school and training for so long and now have young children. I’m the one who groans when I have to open my wallet for the robber baron/babysitter. Enough of the excuses! I’m looking forward to trying some of these ideas.

  20. Adam G.
    February 13, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Contra dancing. A blast, especially if you’re dance-impaired (true story: a dance class is the only class I flunked).

  21. Adam G.
    February 13, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    drive around and look at houses and judge people (kidding)

    You need a date to do this? What else are cars for? Or feet, for that matter.

  22. Starfoxy
    February 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Clay, I’m in the Phoenix area too. One great find of ours is The Tempe Symphony Orchestra. They have concerts quarterly and all their concerts are free of charge.

  23. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    #20- You’re right. It’s just that the kids get so impatient during our Sunday judgment drives, sometimes it’s just nice to do it in peace and quiet.

    Oh, and contra dancing rocks. Just be prepared to laugh- a lot.

  24. sol
    February 13, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Kaimi- The laser kites idea rocks! But is it as cool as laser cats?

  25. jsg
    February 13, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    I chuckled at the “family friendly caveat at the end of the post, since the kind of comment you’re discouraging might articulate an extremely family friendly date idea.

  26. jsg
    February 13, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    …well, you know what I mean.

  27. jab
    February 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    What about paddleboats at a nearby lake?

  28. Mark M
    February 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I agree with sol — frisbee golf is great fun! To find a course near you (usually free at a park), see and click on course directory.

    For me, frisbee golf was an exercise hobby before I got married. It was a date a couple of times… my wife wanted to watch me play. After the first child, he became my playing partner, in the backpack. It altered my throws and added to the challenge. But he loved it (until about the last 2 holes of a round).

    sol, my I ask what part of the country you are in? I presume it is a 4-season area, with all of the fun winter ideas you listed.

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