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How to Take Back Date Night

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Many of us start the new year with resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight or make better financial decisions, yet we often overlook one of the most important aspects of our lives--our relationships. It's no surprise that relationships, such as marriage, take time and attention. Fortunately, you can improve and nurture yours by simply making a commitment to having regular date nights with your other half.

If you need convincing that the effort to free up a consistent spot on your calendar is worthwhile, consider a report published by The National Marriage Project. Its researchers found that couples that devote time to one another at least once a week--such as on a date night--are more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates. Time out together allows them to strengthen their relationship by providing an opportunity for communicating, breaking up the monotony of daily routines, nurturing commitment, sparking up romance, and even de-stressing. Ready to take back date night in your relationship? Here are five ways to make it happen:

1. Tie date night to another mutual goal or resolution.
As parents, we multi-task out of necessity. While you shouldn't aim to check items from your to-do list while on a date with your significant other, it's likely you'll be better about sticking to a regular schedule if you tie the dates to a second common interest or goal. For instance, if you've both resolved to eat healthier, sign up for a cooking class to sharpen your kitchen skills and be inspired by new dishes. If you're planning a family trip to a new country, set a date to brush up your Spanish, get SCUBA certified or spend a few hours in a coffee shop just plotting your adventure. The shared time will bring you closer to each other and to your goals.

2. Be adventurous.
Producers of reality television know a thing or two about creating sparks. They often send dating contestants on dare devil adventures, such as skydiving or zip lining, to get adrenaline pumping. They do it because the hair-raising dates help to create more intimate connections between participants. Step out of your comfort zone with your partner to share a thrill and offer emotional support in ways that are hard to come by through just dinner and a movie. You don't have to book airfare to a far-away locale to find adventure (although why not?). Try a climbing gym, go kayaking, or sign up for an adventure run.

3. Pick an off day or time.
Try a day date. Daytime presents new ideas to replace the usual dinner date. You can be tourists in your own city, visit a museum that isn't so kid-friendly or take a hike without a baby carrier. If your schedule is more accommodating to evening get-aways, try a new day of the week. A Tuesday night date gives you something to look forward to during the week and is a nice break before the weekend. Other advantages of mid-week dates: fewer scheduling conflicts to contend with, less competition for sitters as well as potentially lower sitter rates, and a better shot at hot restaurant reservations and theater tickets.

4. Keep it fresh.
Don't go into autopilot and make a reservation at your favorite restaurant--the one right around the corner, which you've frequented so often that the staff knows your anniversary and your kids' birthdays. Instead scout out a new stomping ground or hit a place you've been wanting to try. While just getting out is beneficial, several research experiments recently reported in a New York Times article show that novelty--going somewhere fresh or trying something new--can create the same chemical reactions that triggered the butterflies felt in your early days of dating. Go ahead and check out the new brewpub your neighbors have been talking up and see if you don't start to feel giddy as a schoolgirl again.

5. Reconnect with your pre-kids selves.
Speaking of your early days, don't forget who you were before kids. Chances are you've given up some of the activities you enjoyed before you had parental responsibilities and far less time for fun. You don't have to go on a weekend bender to feel young again. Think back to what you did when you were first dating. Did you meet up to share a Saturday morning workout? Go bowling with mutual friends? Cheer on your alma mater from the stands instead of the couch? If you equate young and single with dancing, hit a club! You may feel the morning-after effects a bit more than you used to, but they'll be well worth the shared night out.

Whether you go all out to make your date nights fun and invigorating or just leisurely run errands together without kids in tow, regularly sharing time as a couple can be an enjoyable, rewarding part of a happy, healthy new year. Thanks to babysitters and services like UrbanSitter that make it easy to find a sitter whenever you need one, childcare never has to stand between you and a lovely night out with your special someone. What are you waiting for?