Last weekend I watched Date Night -- and while I made a rather un-ruley spectacle of myself rolling in the aisles with laughter, the comedy also contained some important messages, straight out of The Rules for Marriage, by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider (Rule #28: Have a Date Night).
Tina Fey and Steve Carell play a suburban New Jersey married couple with kids who grudgingly go on Saturday "date nights," but even these are mundane and predictable. Sex is an afterthought -- as Fey's character snaps in her mouth-guard retainer and complains of stomach gas. The protagonists wonder whether they have become more like "the most excellent roommates" than man and wife in love.
The situation precisely echoes the Rules authors: "We have found that marriages where the wives do not take date night and sex seriously have less passion and fun. The couple starts to act like roommates, not lovers, and this can go on for months, sometimes years."
Then one night -- in the movie -- this all changes when they do take date night seriously. She gets dressed up, he takes her to a fancy place. All goes well until a stolen reservation leads to a case of mistaken identity that sends them running for their lives. In the process of fighting off -- then trapping -- the bad guys, they earn a new respect and fascination for each other, reigniting lost passion.
Fortunately, you can do the same -- without the car chases and shootouts! Here are a few tips:
- Make an effort to look a little better than you do the rest of the days of the week. You don't need to go nuts (like you did when you were dating!) but try to wear something a little sexier, do your hair and make-up (unless, like my husband, he hates make-up).
- Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Yes, it would be nice, if like in the movies, he took you out to that hip new place you've been talking about. But life isn't the movies! While going out definitely makes it a "special" evening, you can do date night at home, as long as it's you two on your own (drop the kids at a babysitter's or family member's house).
- Don't wait around for him to make the plans. I know, I know -- this is opposite of The Rules for dating (#17 "Let Him Take the Lead")... the marriage rules turn most off that stuff on its head. The important thing is to make date night special, and if it's not happening on his initiative, then you may need to (gasp) make it happen.
- Keep it light & breezy -- let this be a night for fun, laughter and sensual pleasure. You can go over problems and to do lists the next day.
In its own quirky way, the movie also dealt with deeper issues, specifically, being supportive of your husband. The Tina Fey character had been emasculating her husband, doing it all herself in part because she felt he was "bad with plans." But as Fein & Schneider say: "If bursting a man's bubble would make him earn more money or lose weight, then we'd say do it. But it doesn't. It crushes his ego and creates resentment."
As their lives are collapsing, Fey's character has no choice but to rely on (rather than nitpick) the husband's plan, and he saves the day. You might say, well, that's Hollywood, and I'd tend to agree. But as silly as it sounds, Date Night inspired me -- not just to take my own date nights up a notch with my husband, but to try (not easy!) to be more supportive of his plans and ideas. It's an experiment! I'll let you know how it goes.
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