- Over half (52%) of husbands and wives reported “never” or rarely going out on dates, while 48% reported regular date nights (once or twice a month) or more often, per a new report. Tweet This
- Husbands and wives who reported more frequent date nights reported being happier in their marriages and less likely to see divorce in their future. Tweet This
- Couples who reported frequent date nights were 21 percentage points more likely to report being "very happy" with their sexual relationship. Tweet This
Every February, the build-up to Valentine’s Day always gets me thinking about how long it has been since I’ve had a night out with my husband. I’m ashamed to admit that the answer tends to be the same every year: too long. When were engaged and getting ready for our wedding, the pastor who did our pre-marital counseling made a big deal about how important a regular date night would be to our future marriage. Back then, we both kind of shrugged that suggestion off as no big deal—of course going on dates would be easy! But then our kids were born, and work and family responsibilites began to crowd out everything else, and regular time together began to take a backseat. I thought it would get easier to go on more dates as the kids got older. But even though we now have a built-in babysitter in our teenage daughter, it's still hard for us to find the energy and time to make a regular date night a priority.
We're not alone, according to a new report from the National Marriage Project at UVA and the Wheatley Institute, which surveyed U.S. married couples about their dating frequency and found that over half (52%) reported “never” or rarely going out on dates, while only 48% reported regular date nights (at least once or twice a month). The Date Night Opportunity is based on a nationwide survey of 2,000 married men and women aged 18-55 in the United States that was conducted in the Fall of 2022 by YouGov for the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institute.
The report indicates that husbands and wives who don't make time for a regular date night are missing out on more than just a night out away from the kids. That's because regularly dating your spouse is linked to a happier and more stable marriage.
In fact, husbands and wives who reported frequent date nights were 14 to 15 percentage points more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages compared to those who reported less regular date nights.
A regular date night also seems to boost marital stability. Wives and husbands who reported frequent date nights “were about 14 percentage points more likely to report that ‘divorce was not at all likely’ in the future,” compared to those who “infrequently or never go on dates.”
So what exactly is it about a regular date night that might help foster a happier and longer lasting marriage? Report co-authors Brad Wilcox and Jeffery Dew offer several research-backed explanations, including that couples who continue to date after they tie the knot enjoy better communication, sex, and commitment.
Communication. Husbands and wives who reported more frequent date nights were significantly more likely to say they are "very happy" with how they communicate.
Eros. Frequent date nights can also mean more time and opportunity for romance. As Wilcox and Dew put it, “date nights may strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark that can be helpful in sustaining the fires of love over the long haul.” Indeed, the report finds that couples who date regularly were about 21 percentage points more likely to report being "very happy" with their sexual relationship compared to couples who reported infrequent date nights.
Commitment. Finally, going on regular dates could also boost commitment to the marriage. Wilcox and Dew write:
Date nights may solidify an expectation of commitment among couples by fostering a sense of togetherness, by allowing partners to signal to one another—as well as friends and family—that they take their relationship seriously, and by furnishing them with opportunities to spend time with one another, to communicate, and to enjoy fun activities together.
Nearly 3 out of 4 couples who reported frequent date nights in the survey also reported being highly committed to their relationship versus only about half of those who reported not dating as often.
Along with improved communication, more romance, and stronger commitment, Wilcox and Dew note that married couples who go on regular dates are more likely to try new and fun things together, creating more novelty in their relationship. Dating also gives couples a chance to "de-stress" from the daily grind of work and family, which, the authors emphasize, is why it is important to avoid discussing stressful topics, like bills or the kids’ report cards.
The NMP/Wheatley report illustrates why date night should be more than just a once or twice a year event reserved for special occassions; for married couples who want to enjoy a happier and more durable union, date night should become a regular practice. And it doesn’t have to mean an expensive restaurant or costly trip away but can be as simple as a movie night at home or a lunch date while the kids are at school. What is important is carving out dedicated time together to nurture the relationship.
“Today, too many married parents are helicoptering their kids, which means they don’t devote enough time to fostering intimacy in their own marriage,” said Wilcox, director of the NMP and IFS senior fellow. “This report shows that couples should make time for regular date nights, which seem to boost their odds of being happily married and sexually satisfied.”
For helpful tips and date night ideas and resources, visit the National Marriage Week USA website.