The Winter Dating Guide

Planning a date night in the summer is easy. The sunshine elevates moods and the summer months bring outdoor concerts, festivals and parties. When the weather is warm and the options are plentiful, it is easy to fill your dance card.

Winter is a different dating animal altogether. Snow and ice make driving treacherous and arctic temperatures and whipping winds sting us to the bone. Each sharp chill screams at us to stay inside and watch the tube.

But where is the fun in that?

The winter is as good a time as any to strengthen your bond with your partner in and out of the bedroom. Here are some unique date night activities to keep your relationship hot during the cold winter months.

Cook up some fun by hosting a couple's dinner party. You probably aren't the only person struggling to think of winter date ideas -- chances are your friends are too. Why not invite your go-to couple over for a homemade meal?

The exciting part about hosting friends for dinner is you get to have two dates in one. Before your guests arrive, cook dinner with your mate, and go all out. Wear aprons, put on chef hats, play cheesy Italian accordion music in the background if you like. Make it fun.

Cooking is a sensuous activity with unique sounds, smells and tastes, and that is what makes it a great date idea. How many things can you do that literally sizzle? Plus, creating a culinary masterpiece together requires communication, a vital piece of any couple's puzzle. You can even make a romantic game of cooking. Every time one of you asks the other for an ingredient or kitchen utensil, seal the exchange with a kiss.

As you enjoy good food and good company, you will find you appreciate your partner a little more. Watching how other couples interact often illustrates what you like about your partner and your relationship. Expect to find yourself so enamored with your mate that when your friends leave after dinner, you can take to the bedroom for dessert.

Get close at a dance class. Taking a dance class is a unique way for couples to reconnect and move their bodies in harmony. Dancing -- particularly ballroom dancing -- is inherently sexy and can ignite the flame in a couple whose love life is suffering a deep freeze.

I participated in a "Dancing with the Stars" style competition in Cincinnati in 2011, and my instructors told me it is common for couples' therapists to send their clients to the studio for dance lessons. The idea is that not only does dance get couples physically close, but practicing their steps forces them to practice their non-verbal communication as well. So go ahead, get close and communicate. You might start a conversation in dance class that you finish at home.

Plan a stay-cation.

You can take a vacation without boarding a plane or even leaving your city. Book a room at a nearby hotel and ask for a honeymoon suite or a couples' package. Agree to ignore work emails and keep your cell phones tucked away. Spend the day like tourists -- visit your cities major attractions and see its unique sights. Skip the familiarity of chain restaurants and taste some local fare. You are bound to discover a new favorite!

If you are still stumped or feel like you have exhausted all the winter dating possibilities, remember that your partner will appreciate any honest effort you make to put together a fun night for two. Don't be afraid to try something new out of fear that your partner might not like it. Planning a date shows your partner that the relationship is important to you, being proactive and putting thought into new ways you can have fun as a couple is one of the highest forms of romance.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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