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Date Night: Rekindling the Romance of an Empty Nest Marriage

Even Long-Married Parents Need a Weekly Date Night

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Date Night: Rekindling the Romance of an Empty Nest Marriage

The Obamas on Date Night

Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images
The paparazzi swarmed one night when the Obamas went out for their weekly date night, but the outing served to highlight the secret of happy, long lasting marriages: Couples who nurture their relationships have happy marriages. And exhausted long-married parents need date nights most of all, especially if they expect to survive and thrive in the empty nest years. In fact, date nights are so important that some suburban churches have started sponsoring "10 Great Dates" programs. One in Danville, CA, offered free babysitting, coupons for local restaurants and even cheat sheets with talking points as an incentive to get married couples dating again. The program they used was based on David and Claudia Arp's "10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage," a series of, yes, 10 date nights that each focus on different aspects of a healthy relationship, from communication to intimacy. Many couples, particularly those who are spiritually inclined, may find it helpful. Others will find it too much like homework - too much emphasis on the "discuss this topic" and not enough on the fun.

What's particularly valuable in the Arps' to-do list, however, is the section on preparing for those dates. It's a primer for the dating-challenged: long-married couples who may have forgotten how exciting it once was to prepare for a romantic outing. Among their suggestions:

  • Schedule the dates: On the calendar. In ink. And make them a priority.

  • Anticipate the dates: Express your excitement about the prospect of a night out together. Send each other little notes or texts. Be adorable.

  • No kids, no plumbers: Don't use this time together to hash out soccer schedules or plumbing to-do lists. Don't even mention the kids. This is about the two of you.

  • Be affectionate: Hold hands, cuddle, touch, flirt. You know the whole thing about body language? It works both ways. You can tell what someone's thinking by the way they carry their body, but acting affectionate makes you feel more affectionate too.

  • Lather, rinse and repeat: Don't just do it once. Do it every week. If it's good enough for the Obamas' marriage, it's good enough for yours.

And if you need ideas for where to go, here are eight ideas to get you started.

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