Pre-COVID, I was obsessed with “date night.” I thought that, in order for my husband and me to truly connect, we needed a waiter, candlelight and an unspoken agreement to put your phone away or else.
The good news is that we had date night regularly. (Shout out to our wonderful babysitter, Franny.) The bad news: Most of our time at home was devoted to logistics and work (for our jobs, for our home, for our toddler) rather than enjoying each other.
Cue the pandemic, and the inability to well, go anywhere. That sounds bad for relationships right? Not necessarily says couples therapist Zach Brittle via the Gottman Institute. Really, it’s just a chance to bolster your relationship rituals.
What’s a relationship ritual? According to Brittle, a relationship ritual is something that happens on a recurring basis, but is centered on creating time that’s “just us.” It might be doing the Sunday crossword puzzle together. It might be watching half an hour of The Office curled up on the couch each night. It might be cleaning the kitchen together after the kids go to bed, blasting NPR.
You don’t have to overthink romance to feel its long-term effect. “Lasting love is fed by little, everyday moments of connection,” according to psychologist Dr. John Gottman. In other words, it’s the tiny interactions that add up to lots, rather than grand, sweeping gestures, which are difficult to sustain and, quite frankly, exhausting to execute more than every so often.
Now, an update on my own “date nights.” Like I said, it’s a pandemic. We’ve had to pivot. Now, we find ourselves racing to sit side-by-side on the couch to binge The Great, the second our kid’s bedtime routine concludes. We’ve also introduced more-frequent neighborhood walks in the evening, which gives us a better chance to connect and talk. The point is that we’ve gotten better at carving out time to be present with each other while doing something we both enjoy.