Want a Better Marriage? Think Twice About Date Nights

All the ingredients that go into a special night away -- the care, attention and devotion that come from pure choice and desire to rock your mate's life -- need to be part of your everyday mindset. Every day. Not part-time.
10/29/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Really! Most therapists and advice givers eventually make the suggestion you've been expecting -- initiate date nights. Complete with a well-planned event, a romantic mindset and all the bells and whistles that it takes to treat each other extra nice. These usually include a restaurant with sweet ambience, making sure hubby opens the car door and a mutual, stepped-up politeness that says "I love you" and "You're mine." The culmination? Great sex that grows out of that fine steak dinner, your favorite desert and an unusually large number of hugs and kisses during your time out. All this designed to supply your marriage with one of the necessary ingredients for success.

Yet this strategy, as appealing as it may sound, often dies on the vine. Before the grape has a chance to ripen. The problem with date nights centers on the underlying assumption that while you may fight like cats and dogs during the week, or treat each other with minimal attentiveness, the date night somehow works in spite of these challenges. Like going to church after a week of criminal activity. Or like a corner turner where you suddenly infuse the marriage with life, having taken the road less traveled. The date night fork in the road. Like magic. Abra ca dabra. One date night nourishes the marital soul, like water and food. What if you took this seriously and decided "I will just eat once a week?" I'll call it a meat, potatoes and beverage night. Make it real special. To heck with all the other days of the week.

OK. Maybe there is nothing wrong with going out and enjoying a special night of care and fun. After all, you create a space in time and place to dote on one another and practice loving acts and behaviors that may have gotten away from you during the week. Date nights in and of themselves can be a good idea. But only under one condition. Recognizing the huge pre-requisite for making them work can't be taken out of the equation. So here it is. You take your laser love-focus that evening and transfer it to every day of the week.

In other words, all the ingredients that go into a special night away -- the care, attention and devotion that come from pure choice and desire to rock your mate's life -- need to be part of your everyday mindset. Every day. Not part-time. When you said your wedding vows, did you commit to loving your life partner sometimes? Once in awhile? Oh yes, "I'll love you till death do us part on our date nights?" More than likely, you extended your love-warranty to full time status. Not intermittent reaching out when you feel like it or when you plan the mate-night date night.

So what goes into a mindset that says "You're special, my best friend" consistently? All the time and not hit or miss?

1. First and foremost, you need to develop a mindfulness capacity. That unique ability to keep in the center of your thoughts and intentions a commitment to reach out and show your love. Yes, show it. It means you keep in your awareness the need and desire to demonstrate a consistent love to others, which takes practice. Practice thinking and feeling from your own well of love. Not yearly flowers at Valentine's Day but blossoms captured and given from your heart planted deeply in the soul of your lover.
2. Next, develop a mindfulness strategy. Ask yourself, "What kind of giver of time and attention best describes me?" And "What do I need to do to keep a loving-all-the-time focus on my soul mate?" Perhaps getting a love-calendar started with adequate reminders. Maybe setting caring goals for your spouse and managing them like a project or business development process.
3. Identify challenges in your life, perhaps from childhood or even more recent, that limit your ability to love and reach out consistently. We all have areas of growth that would further our presence, care and compassion for others. Find yours out and get to work on the changes you need to make to love more deeply.
4. And finally, target yourself with love and self-care. Filling up your own well first helps you see what you have to give. You may need to uncover areas of self-forgiveness or negative beliefs about yourself that require you to stop beating yourself up. You may, in fact, need to change significant ways you do life that allow you to feel cared for and valued -- by you. Our lifestyles often get in the way of finding true enjoyment and experiencing the balance that self-care requires.

These are a few of the ingredients that will help you get started on loving more consistently and effectively. Love and light flow into a soul that rids itself of toxic beliefs and hidden hurts that haven't been dealt with sufficiently. And when you open your heart to good things, the light that pours in so often uncovers your true brilliance. Like finding a diamond in a mine filled with dark coal, covering walls with a black veil that hides the real gems created over time.

And when light and love become your greatest resource, you simply find ways to keep yourself focused on giving them away. You see, they keep coming in and you never run out. But when you never give them away, they stay hidden in caves stored away for no one. Mindfulness releases them into the open.

And when released through the moments of the week, your date night becomes a simple reflection of all that has gone before. And will come after.