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For many busy couples, especially those with children, date night often becomes a freak act of nature, one that occurs only when work and childcare schedules somehow align. Yet when fun, play, and connection fall to the bottom of a couple’s priority list, it’s a sure recipe for discontent and growing apart.

We say this as relationship experts who have studied what makes marriages work (and fail) for more than three decades.

To begin with, it matters how you define “a date.”

For our purposes, a date is a time when both of you set aside work and home life and spend a set period of time really talking and listening to each other.

A worthwhile date is more than sitting on the couch watching TV together: It’s a special time that you use to connect, to remember that you are more than just housemates or co-parents — you are first and foremost friends and lovers.

The templates that follow are designed for five dates, each one organized around an area that can make or break a romantic partnership, such as trust and commitment, sex, or money. The open-ended and provocative questions are meant to lead you out into some conversational deep water. It’s easy to think we know everything there is to know about our partners, but these questions will help you discover how much there is still to learn — and help you become even closer in the process.

See if you can think of each of these as your first date. Plan them. Anticipate them. Get excited about them. And yes, this is serious and important work — but don’t forget to have fun.

If you like what you read, check out our book Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, which contains even more templates, as well as exercises to support deeper exploration of these questions.

John Gottman, PhD, and Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD

John Gottman, PhD, and Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD are cofounders of the Gottman Institute in Seattle, where they conduct research and clinical training for marriage therapists. This article is adapted from Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Workman Publishing, 2019, coauthored with Doug Abrams and Rachel Carson Abrams, MD.

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