By Johanna Hicks, Texas AgriLife Extension Family & Community Health Agent, Hopkins County, [email protected]
If you have kept up with my columns, you know that I am an advocate for strong marriages. Strong marriages make strong families and strong families make strong communities. I know there are circumstances that are beyond control, but for the most part, marriages can be enhanced in many ways. For example, how long has it been since you and your spouse went on a date night?
Making time to go out can be tough. Whether you have young children, busy schedules, limited resources, or are just plain tired, there seem to be factors working against couples who want to enjoy date nights on a regular basis. Erin and Todd Stevens, director of National Marriage week and speaker and author, point out that several recent studies are shining a light not only on the benefits of date nights. They found that weekly date nights might not be the best. However, studies found that couples with children who had date nights once a month had the greatest benefit. (Cohabiting parents did not experience the same benefit.) Over a 10-year period, married parents were 57% less likely to break up than parents who were simply cohabiting.
Positive outcomes depend less on what activities the couples do and more on how they feel about doing them together. The priority should be on something you both will enjoy rather than trying to plan the most creative or exciting activity.
So how do date nights strengthen marriages? For starters, these planned outings give coupes vital shared time. Since individuals continue to change over time, a date night provides the much-needed opportunity for communication that deepens the couple’s understanding the other and the relationship. This allows them to be more prepared to tackle new challenges and problems they will inevitably experience. Because date nights involve stepping outside normal routines and pressing concerns of everyday life, they also provide an incredible stress reliever, improving emotional support during difficult times.
On another note, if your spouse has a quirk that is driving you crazy – such as triple-checking to make sure the doors are locked or the thermostat is turned down upon leaving the house – researchers found that those very habits that initially annoy us eventually begin to amuse us. The study found that married couples show more humor and tenderness toward each other as they age.
Humor can certainly help maintain a healthy perspective. When we laugh, chemicals like endorphins and oxytocin enter our bloodstream. You may have already known those chemicals trigger feelings of pleasure. It turns out they also cause us to feel more connected to the person with whom we are laughing. That’s why laughing together is so important. Besides being a lot more fun than arguing about where the thermostat should be set, laughter is a proven indicator of greater relationship quality.
So make an effort in your relationship by doing something that is likely to make both of you laugh. Whether it is watching a light-hearted movie, playing a board game, or reminiscing about some of the funny or embarrassing things you’ve experienced together, create opportunities for shared laughter. Not only is humor good for your should – it’s even better for relating to you soulmate.
For more information on this and other relationship topics, check out the National Association of Relationships and Marriage Education (NARME).
You career is what you’re paid for. Your purpose is what you’re made for. – Krish Dhanam
Contact Johanna Hicks, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family & Community Health Agent, at the Hopkins County Extension Office, P.O. Box 518, 1200-B West Houston, Sulphur Springs, TX 75483; by phone at 903-885-3443; or by email at [email protected].