Booking Date Night is Key to Relationship Happiness

You don’t have to look far to find advice that date nights are important: Pinterest quotes, to famous actresses, and therapists, all advocate for the importance of date nights with your partner. Of course, here at Cupla we are inclined to agree! But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s dive deeper into some of the science to find out why scheduling your next date night is key to relationship success.

We Need Quality Time Now More Than Ever

In today’s society, many of us have high expectations for our relationships. Not only do we expect our partner will excel as a parent, as a lover, and as a career cheerleader, but we expect them to help us become a better version of ourselves.[1][2] That’s a lot of pressure on one relationship! With a lot riding on our romantic partnerships, we need to make sure we are making sufficient time to invest in them.

Schedule in your date nights.

The decline in time together '80s to '00s

The 1980s might not conjure up ideas of romance (unless you love big hair and shoulder pads!), but couples were actually spending more time together in the 80s relative to more recent years.[1],[3] Compared to spouses in 1980, those in 2000 were 29% less likely to report that they almost always went out for leisure together, and 15% less likely to report that they almost always ate their main meal together. In other words, over just a few decades, there was a sharp decline in how much time married couples were naturally spending together in their day-to-day lives. This decline reflects our increasingly busy lives, and highlights the importance of intentionally carving out time with your partner by scheduling in date nights (which Cupla makes easy!). If we leave spending time with our partner up to chance, other priorities will get in the way.

Quality time = Happier Relationship

Why is it so important that we book in quality time with our partner? Using two nationally representative samples of American couples, researchers found that, relative to couples who spend less quality time together, married couples who reported engaging in couple time with their partner at least once a week were 3.5 more likely to report they were very happy in their relationship. Yes, you read that right 3.5 times more likely! This effect was even stronger in non-married women who were living with their partners and was observed to be above and beyond other important factors that influence relationships like income, ethnicity and age.[4]

Now, if you aced a statistics class in the past, you may have noticed that finding a link between date nights and happy relationships can’t conclusively claim that date nights cause higher-quality relationships. But luckily, experimental interventions have confirmed that date nights do indeed lead to higher-quality relationships. For instance, one study assigned some couples to an exciting activity intervention for 4 weeks, where they were given tips and ideas for exciting date activities, and encouraged to do them for 90 min a week. Couples assigned to this intervention had higher positive mood, and reported their relationships were more exciting and satisfying than a control group of couples. In fact, the benefits of this date night intervention lasted 4 months! [5] Lucky for you, you don’t have to participate in a 4 week study to get exciting activity ideas we’ve got tons on our blog.

A 2014 study of couples helps shed light on why date nights are so beneficial.[6] Couples reported that engaging in shared relationship activities (e.g., going on a run together, going out for dinner) helped them feel closer to their partner, and experiencing more closeness from these activities boosted their relationship happiness and commitment three months later. In fact, engaging in shared relationship activities was more important for relationship success over the three months than how partners responded to negative behaviors in their relationship. Thus, date night may be a unique way to foster intimacy.

Get on the Same Page

Okay, you get it: date nights are important. But how can you make sure you are maximizing the chances that date night will lead to a higher quality relationship? One key factor is making sure you and your partner are on the same page, and both enjoy and are committed to the activity you chose. If your regular date nights involve watching action movies at the cinema but one of you isn’t into action movies, you will not reap those benefits of quality time. Research that tracked American married couples over time found that when spouses engaged in activities that husbands liked, but wives didn’t spouses were more prone to relationship unhappiness even a decade later![7] Likewise, in the same study of kiwi couples mentioned earlier, couples felt more closeness and intimacy in their relationship when they felt their partner was more dedicated to the shared activities the couple engaged in.

[1] Finkel, E. J., Hui, C. M., Carswell, K. L., & Larson, G. M. (2014). The suffocation of marriage: Climbing Mount Maslow without enough oxygen. Psychological Inquiry25(1), 1-41.

[2] Perel, E. (2007). Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence. New York, NY: HarperCollins

[3]Amato, P. R., Booth, A., Johnson, D. R., & Rogers, S. J. (2009). Alone together: How marriage in America is changing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

[4] Wilcox, W. B., & Dew, J. (2012). The date night opportunity: What does couple time tell us about the potential value of date nights? Charlottesville, VA: The National Marriage Project.

[5] Coulter, K., & Malouff, J. M. (2013). Effects of an intervention designed to enhance romantic relationship excitement: A randomized-control trial. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice2(1), 34-44.

[6] Girme, Y. U., Overall, N. C., & Faingataa, S. (2014). Date nights take two: The maintenance function of shared relationship activities. Personal Relationships21(1), 125-149.

[7] Crawford, D. W., Houts, R. M., Huston, T. L., & George, L. J. (2002). Compatibility, leisure, and satisfaction in marital relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family64(2), 433-449.

Download Cupla

Meet the app for couples – revolutionizing how busy couples connect.Share calendars, manage to-do’s & reminders – plan life together.

App Store reviews

What to read next