The Happiest Couples Have These Kinds Of Meetings — Regularly

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couple sitting together on porch

Date night is widely viewed as the Holy Grail of "keeping relationships happy." 

When things hit the skids, your mom and friends gently pat your arm and wonder when you and your honey were last out on a date. They suggest you go out to rekindle the magic, so you oblige.

But is that really the best solution to nurture relationship bliss?

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The hard truth about date night

You find someone to watch the kids, make reservations, dress up, and take to the town remembering the golden rule of date night: No talking about the children ... or the leaking roof ... or the dodgy mole on your arm.

We're told date night is all about helping couples keep the magic and romance alive. It is about pretending, for a few hours, that you're young and wild and free ... and not overdrawn on your bank account, or emotionally depleted from changing diapers or arguing with teenagers.

If you don't participate in regular date nights, the white noise of hissing guilt shrouds your relationship. Your evening eating pizza in pajamas hangs under a cloud of shame. As do your Netflix marathon weekends. Because (or so we're told) if we really love our partners, if we're truly committed to the marriage of our dreams, we'd dance the night away and stare longingly into our partner's eyes every other Friday night. We'd rediscover the mad, burning love we used to share, high-tail it home and jump in bed.

The following morning, fresh with passion, your partner would fully understand your every want and need. He'd bound out of bed to unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry and wake up with the kids. Afterward, he'd hang on your every word as you describe, in great detail, how your sister is driving you crazy with her yo-yo dieting. He'd cancel his tee time and suggest a manicure for you instead.

Or not.

The problem with date night is that it seldom works out the way we plan in our heads.

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Reality has a way of interfering

Your day doesn't go as planned. You get stuck at work. Your spouse doesn't feel like talking or you both can't agree on where to go for dinner. The weather doesn't cooperate. The kids balk when you leave. You end up feeling exhausted before you even leave the house.

We set our expectations high wanting the perfect evening of fun and romance. When a night out ends up being just average, or worse, a disaster, we panic.

We put all our eggs in one basket and believe if our date is a disaster then our relationship must have hit the rocks. Our happily-ever-after gets tangled up in a restaurant's lacking service or a trivial disagreement. 

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Fun is great, but temper your expectations

Don't get me wrong, I love fun. In fact, I'm all for it. Every couple should go out regularly and have fun. Nothing beats seeing your partner with that youthful glow that joy brings. Fun reminds us why we fell in love. It rekindles sparks. It makes us feel connected and closer.

Yes, by all means, schedule a fun night out. Get a babysitter, make reservations and hit the town ... just leave your expectations at home! Have fun for fun's sake. Talk about whatever you want. Forget forcing the moment.

And remember, date night alone can't sustain your relationship. It's an add-on fun time. You still must master the art of staying connected in everyday real life. 

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Here are three ideas to forge a deeper connection beyond a 'date night'

1. Schedule a meeting

Meet weekly or twice a month to go over the mundane minutia of married life. Commit to this time as you would a doctor's appointment or meeting with a boss. No excuses.

2. Keep the dialog open

Allow this time to tackle touchy subjects like feelings, money, child-rearing, or sex. Knowing there is a scheduled time to talk openly makes you less defensive and reactionary during the week (and less likely to bring up these topics on your one date night out).

3. Show respect

As you would during a professional meeting, keep this "couples meeting" respectful and direct. No anger, no bitterness, no shouting. Like professional meetings, your meetings are a place to plan and celebrate wins, not simply complain.

Weekly couple meetings bring as much harmony to relationships as any fabulous date night.

These meetings keep you from feeling like you must rise up against every injustice during the week, knowing you have a safe place to voice your concerns. No more harboring resentment. No more nagging. What emerges is more laughter, playfulness, and more connectedness.  

Best of all, it makes more room for fun in your relationship when you do find time to sneak out for a date night.

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T-Ann Pierce is a transformational life coach who helps empower parents to create healthy relationships with their children.