Should married couples continue to date? Particularly in Israel, where couples and families have been living under fire and under pressure for weeks and months, Susan Barth argues that “Date Nights” can help to strengthen every marriage.

Professors Howard Markman and Scott Stanley of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver led a research study to find out how often couples set aside an evening for each other once they are married. Interestingly, the men said that they take their wives out on average once every 6 weeks, while their wives reported that they only get taken out once every 12 weeks!

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Data based on U.S. nationwide random phone survey of 947 adults who were engaged, cohabitating, or married.  (Stanley & Markman, PREP, Inc., 1996; 303-759-9931)

Although definitions of a “date night” may differ, there is a growing enthusiasm among marriage experts for the idea of regularly scheduled date nights.  As co-authors of the best-selling book “Fighting For Your Marriage”, Markman and Stanley recommend that couples can protect their relationship by setting aside time on a date night to enjoy each other, renewing their sense of closeness and togetherness.”

According to “The Date Night Opportunity”, a report released by the National Marriage Project, couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are significantly more likely to enjoy high quality relationships and lower divorce rates than couples who do not devote as much time to one another.

The report found that couples who spend dedicated time together at least once a week are 3.5 times more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages than couples who do not. The date night group also report higher levels of communication and commitment, and greater satisfaction with their sexual relationship.

Dedicating weekly couple time offers both married and unmarried couples a change to de-stress and engage in enjoyable and stimulating activities that build shared experiences and positive memories. For new parents in particular, date nights can provide an important break and help parents to invest in the quality of their relationship amid the joys, stresses, and challenges of parenthood.

Lauren Kramer, in her article “Date night is like glue”, reflects on the high divorce statistics and asks: “Where does the communication break down? And how do we prevent that from happening?” She suggests: “Maybe more guilt-free date nights and weekends away without the kids are the keys to keeping it together. A couple’s relationship requires oxygenation to keep it balanced and happy. Maybe the marriage should be given more space in the family so that couples remember why they chose each other to begin with.”

Many couples report on the practical benefits of instituting a regular date night. Trevor and Amy describe date night as the glue that holds their marriage together. “We have set a goal to go on a date every single week for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just a specific time set aside for each other”, says Trevor. “Even if it is as simple as taking a walk around the block together, it helps us communicate better, relieve stress, and listen to each other’s feelings. It helps us focus on each other and keeps our marriage fresh. Sure, we can do this all the time, but having an official “date night” time makes it easier. Plus, it’s a good excuse to have some fun!”

In the book “Beyond the Chuppah”, co-author Professor Howard Markman writes: “We believe that part of the commitment you make to your relationship should include dedicating regular time together for enjoyment, pleasure and fun. Take the initiative in finding ways to nurture your love.” This statement is backed up by data indicating that the amount of fun, friendship and romance  a couple is having predicts happiness two years later!

In Israel at this particularly stressful time, where many couples have had to cope with milluim call-ups, missile alerts, interrupted sleep, scared children and worried relatives, there has never been a greater need for couples to ring-fence an evening every week, or even every month, to sit and talk, relax and reconnect.

Tu B’Av started in Biblical times as a traditional festival for meeting a partner, and has been adopted by many Jewish groups as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. This year, Tu B’Av falls on Sunday night, August 10 and Monday, August 11, providing couples with an appropriate and timely opportunity to celebrate their love and togetherness.

Whether you believe in the concept of “date nights” but have not made time for one recently, or whether you are interested in testing the theory, Tu B’Av offers every couple the opportunity to invest a few hours in themselves. Together in Happiness, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging marriage education in Israel, has organized a special romantic Date Night event on Sunday August 10 for dating, engaged and married couples at the Tmol Shilshom restaurant in Jerusalem. International relationship expert Professor Howard Markman will be visiting Israel and will give a short presentation on “Three Simple Ways to Enhance Your Relationship”.

We are also encouraging couples to commit themselves to one Date Night each week during the weeks between Tu B’Av and the end of Elul, in order to make your relationship a priority in the time period that is considered most auspicious for strengthening the foundations of Shalom Bayit.

For more information, visit www.together-in-happiness.com or contact Susan Barth, Founder & Director of the Amuta B’Yachad B’Osher/Together in Happiness at marriageconf@gmail.com