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I’m hearing so many couples say that there’s not much they can do when it comes to date nights with being in lock down.

That’s because traditionally when it comes to date nights, majority of couples have resorted to dinner at their favourite restaurant, or maybe even a movie and popcorn thrown in too – it was quick and easy.

However being in lock down, we are not able to go to restaurants and movies anymore so it’s become harder for couples to implement date nights and they are needing to be much more creative.

If you’ve worked with me before then you will know that I always say: ‘date nights don’t have to be at night, they can be breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, sundowners or dinner. Date nights don’t have to be at a fancy restaurant either, it can be as simple as a picnic on your lounge floor or outside in the garden.”

I prefer to reference date nights rather as ‘date time’ because it’s about being intentional with your time for each other and your relationship.

The main reason why relationship coaches and counsellors strongly advocate for ‘date nights’ is not so much about the date night itself but rather what the activity enables – spending quality time together away from the daily grind. Time where you can be fully present and focused on each other and connect on a level deeper than the never ending chores and ‘To Do’ lists at home or work.

Think of your relationship as an investment account and ‘date nights’ as a form of currency. The more deposits you make into your investment account, the greater the returns you will have.

Now there are multiple forms of ‘currency’ when it comes to relationships, and each currency you invest in, will yield higher returns for you and your relationship – here are some examples:

  • Living your relationship values – this establishes boundaries and protects your relationship.
  • Making your relationship and each other a priority – taking each other into consideration.
  • Making time for each other – quality time away from distractions (e.g. date nights).
  • Sharing hopes, dreams, fears – builds trust, support and emotional safety.
  • Resolving conflict – all relationships hit speed bumps. The ability to resolve conflict in a healthy way vs. a destructive way is crucial to your relationship health and success.
  • Effective communication – communication = connection, when the relationship space doesn’t feel safe, there will be superficial communication and very little connection.
  • Intimacy – this is different to sex! It’s how you treat each other, speak to each other, affectionate towards each other, and the little things you do each day that say I care about you.
  • Managing expectations – we often set our partners up for failure by having a set of expectations in our minds as to how our partner should behave, speak or be that they are unaware of, and then feel let down and disappointed when they do not meet our expectations.

Lock down may have taken away our freedom to hop off to our favourite restaurant for dinner and a movie however, it’s also created a wonderful opportunity for couples to be creative with their ‘date time’ ideas. Here are some options to explore:

Outdoors:

  • Exercise – nothing beats getting all sweaty together but if you’re not the active type, simply taking a walk and using the time to talk can go a long way to feeling bonded. Spice it up by trying different routes or walking to your favourite coffee or ice-cream store. If you’ve got furry friends take them with you too, the fresh air will do them good.
  • Gardening – if you’re not the green finger type then start off small with a pot plant or box planter for flowers or fresh herbs, which can be great for cooking or to spice up your G&Ts (these gardening hacks are incredible!).
  • DIY – nothing beats that sense of achievement and accomplishment like completing a DIY project together whether it’s simply painting a wall or something more creative like these easy beginner projects.
  • Nature – spend time outdoors in the fresh air whether that be sitting in the garden, having a picnic or doing some form of activity outdoors (refer points above). Being with nature helps us to feel grounded and is good for our mental well-being.

Indoors:

  • Cooking or baking – try out a new recipe together from one of your recipe books or google one.
  • Movie night – watch your favourite movie or try one of these top recommendations suitable for both guys and girls.
  • Games night – dust off the board games or play online games together, everything from scrabble to building puzzles online or actual gaming.
  • Reading – read a book together or start your very own book club for two and share reviews on books you have both finished reading.
  • Online classes – dancing, cooking, playing a musical instrument or learning a new skill.
  • Decluttering – clean out cupboards with old clothes, toys, papers, Tupperware etc and upcycle them or donate them.

In your community:

  • Virtual tours – to museums, galleries, theme parks and more from around the world.
  • Volunteer – giving back to others always gives us a sense of goodwill and makes us feel good about ourselves even if it’s simply making a few sandwiches and distributing them around your neighbourhood.
  • Support local – search your local neighbourhood for small businesses that you can support during this period. Not only will you be helping them survive but the families of their employees too.

Some of the above activities can be done as family activities too and not just couples – but there are lots more fun activities for kids and families to choose from.

Activity jars are a great way for couples and families to maintain an element of surprise as well as the opportunity to try new things together, get more info here.

So as you can see, date nights in lock down don’t have to be boring. There are lots of things one can do to create ‘date time’ with each other, it just takes a little bit of effort, being intentional with scheduling the time and being curious and open to trying new things.

Couples who ‘play’ together stay together. In other words couples who are intentional about their relationship and each other, create stronger bonds, feel more connected and have more good memories to draw on when they hit a speed bump.

 

A version of this article also appeared on JacarandaFM, East Coast Radio and the Lionesses of Africa websites

Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, Tedx speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula works with individuals and companies to have better and healthier human interactions in both their personal and workplace relationships. More info: www.paulaquinsee.com.

 

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