I’m sure I was as surprised as anyone else to read that Norway is promoting date nights for couples as a way to stop the country’s 40 percent divorce rate.
Solveig Horne, Norway’s new minister for children, equality and social inclusion and a divorcee herself, says, “It is important to find small pockets of time where parents can be lovers … Maybe I didn’t have success (in marriage) because we didn’t have any date nights!”
Interestingly, she was inspired by the 2010 romantic comedy Date Night, in which Tina Fey and Steve Carell actually have the kind of date night most of us don’t want to have!
She isn’t the only one who thinks date nights are key to a successful marriage; everyone from relationship “experts” to the conservative National Marriage Project promote it. The NMP’s research indicates spouses who have “couple time” at least weekly were 3.5 times more likely to be more sexually satisfied in their marriage.
Clearly date nights don’t always work. But a kinder, gentler version of the date that Fey and Carell had probably would help. Why? Couples need novelty to keep their marriage fresh, not just time alone together. Being chased by killers is one way to do that, I suppose.
I can remember some of the date nights my then-husband and I had. We had just sat down for salad at a banquet in the East Bay that he was the keynote speaker when his pager (remember them?) went off. Our youngest child was in an ambulance on his way to the emergency room for a near-choking incident. That was certainly novel, but I don’t believe we had off-the-wall sex that night. I’m pretty sure we didn’t have sex at all. Other times, we found ourselves talking about the kids even though we vowed we wouldn’t.
While I believe all parents need time away from their kids, they also need time alone. As I once wrote, freedom is the Lady Gaga of words for the divorced; everyone talks about it because they value it so much. Marriage generally does not support activities and friendships outside the couple, as I’ve learned in my research for The New I Do, leading some to call it a greedy institution.
So, I am curious about married couples who don’t have kids — don’t they have a date night each and every time they go out? But as research indicates, childfree couples divorce more often than couples who have at least one child, despite numerous studies that indicate marital happiness plummets in the first year or two after the birth of a child and sometimes never quite recoups.
Something is amiss!
It would be easy to say date nights alone will keep married parents connected, but evidently they won’t. I think couples have a much better chance making it with small, frequent appreciations, a lot of sex and a good amount of time by themselves. And sharing chores. Really.
What do you think?
- Do you go on date nights?
- Do you bring novelty to your relationship?