The number one assignment I give to couples who want to improve their marriage is to schedule a regular Fun Date. Remember back when you just started dating? It was important that you looked good for the date. Not just your clothes, hair, make-up, and vehicle, but also in the way you came across. You worked hard at being the best you could be for the few hours you were together. You tried to pick activities that were enjoyable for both of you. You wanted your date to come away from that time together with positive feelings about you.
That's the basis for a Fun Date. After we have been married for a while, we often stop trying to be our best with our spouse. After all, they married us for better or for worse--right? To keep a marriage growing strong, however, we need to have times when we honor our partner by truly dating them again. That's the purpose of the Fun Date. The Fun Date is successful if you both come away from it thinking, "I remember why I fell in love with you."
To facilitate success on your Fun Date, there are some simple rules that are important to follow.
1) Take the initiative
Don't wait for your spouse to initiate this activity. If it sounds good to you, jump in and make it happen. Too often we wait for our partner to read our mind and figure out what we want. If you think a Fun Date is important make it happen.
2) Plan ahead
Jumping in the car, looking at each other and asking "So, what do you want to do?" doesn't make for a Fun Date. This date takes some advance thought. Plan ahead and know what you are doing. Click here for date ideas.
An important subset of the "Plan Ahead" rule is to plan for the children. Traditionally this falls to your wife to manage. If you are planning the date, don't forget to set up babysitters for the kids. For many husbands this means getting a list (with phone numbers) of acceptable babysitters from your wife. With this in hand, start calling. Tell them you want to take your wife out and wanted to know if they would be available. If you need to leave a message remember to leave your work or cell number so they can reach you with their answer without calling your wife. This isn't always an easy step, but it can be an important step in making the date special for her.
3) Make it fun
Plan activities that are enjoyable. Sometimes that means doing something that's enjoyable for your spouse. Take her shopping and enjoy watching her have fun. Take him to a ball game and enjoy watching him get excited. Explore something new like ballroom dancing. Dinner and a movie can be a Fun Date, but don't get stuck in a rut. Get creative.
4) Ask your spouse out
Once you know what you want to do, invite your spouse out. Sometimes it's fun to do this formally. Couples tell me stories of using cards, e-mails and "pretending to be anonymous" phone calls to invite their spouse out for the evening. The main point is to mark the Fun Date as special.
What if I am so hurt or angry with my spouse that I can't imagine spending a date with them?
If your marriage is at the stage where spending any time together seems more than you can bear, you probably need to seek marital therapy. However, a fun date can still be a valuable tool. Start with a 3-4 hour date. Go see a movie or something that keeps you focused on something besides your marriage or each other. When the movie's done, catch a quick dinner and keep your conversation focused on the movie or other very light topics. Your goal may not be to have fun as much as to prove you can spend time together without doing damage to each other or your marriage.
5) Don't go there!
Every couple has a set of topics or conversations that are well scripted and emotionally draining. These "problem areas" might be small disagreements or major sore spots in the relationship. One of the most important rules for a Fun Date is to avoid the problem areas. In your early dating you didn't talk about controversial subjects, in the Fun Date you don't either.
This is not the time to try to solve your marriage issues. Put those things in a box and place them on a shelf for a few hours. You're not denying them as issues, you just recognize that now isn't the time to try to make progress on them. I have had couples spend a few minutes before their fun date writing some discussion starters on a 3x5 card and carrying that in their pocket. When the conversation starts into one of those tense areas they quickly pull out the 3x5 card and read off a question. "So, how do you think the Braves will do this year?" They both laugh, recognizing they are intentionally changing subjects to a safer topic--but that's what they agreed to do.
6) Make it a tradition
One date doesn't start a trend. If you make this a biweekly tradition however you will see a noticable change in your marriage. It's easy to get lost in the hustle of kids and careers and lose track of the importance of romantically dating each other. It's easy to focus only on the problems in our marriage and forget to set those problems aside so we can have fun renewing our love. Making a "Fun Date" a biweekly tradition will help offset these natural tendencies.