Dates are meant to deepen, or at the very least maintain, romantic relationships. With a great date you have a chance to improve the quality of closeness and connection in your relationship.
There are levels of dating that benefit all relationships; whether you are dating someone, are early on in a new relationship, or you have been married for many years.
Newer couples have a tendency to build their relationship in a more linear progress, while couples that have been in their relationship for a while have the ability to move more fluidly through these stages. All stages remain equally important. This article is based off the fundamentals of the sound relationship house created by The Gottman Institute, based on 40+ years of research.
Stage 1: Starting with Friendship as the Foundation
Assuming you have gotten past the first date and have decided to move to a second, your are still working on your friendship. The goal at this stage is to get to know the person you are dating.
Create a date that allows you to really ask open-ended questions that can lead to fun, interesting and revealing conversations.
Questions like “what do you find exciting in life right now?” or “what are some of your life dreams now”. These kind of open-ended conversation will likely lead to asking questions that deepen your understanding of them, like “Who are your friends? What are your hobbies? What are their likes and dislikes?
For couples that have been together for longer it is still important to renew your understanding of your partner. We aren’t the same person 5 years ago, and neither is your partner. Strong couples continue to learn how their partners lives have changed and don’t assume they remain the same.
Don’t underestimate the value of:
- Special dinner
- Long walks
- Coffee date
- A road trip
- Conversation around a fire pit
- Picnic in the park.
These kinds of dates allow for open-ended questions and great listening which leads to intimate conversations, deep emotional connections and a foundation of a friendship.
Stage 2: Fun together, “Those Who Laugh Together Last Together” (John Gottman)
Once past the stage of getting to know one another it is so important to start to have fun together, the more fun that you have in your relationship the more positive you feel about your partner.
Find dates that would help you create memories through laughter and being silly. Beginner’s classes that take you out of your comfort zone are a great way to connect:
- Painting classes
- Zumba or dancing class
- Skating or roller skating
- Comedy movie night
- Arcades or amusement parks
- Drive-in movie
- Rock climbing.
This is a great time for you to be able to laugh at yourself and laugh at your partner while creating lasting memories.
Stage 3: The Importance of Touch and Closeness
Our brain and body have evolved to crave and benefit from physical touch. There is plenty of research that supports the importance of physical touch on our emotional mental physical health.
It doesn’t have to be deeply intimate, even a simple touch provides a level of physical closeness that benefits all relationship stages.
Dates that can be used to increase touch and closeness:
- Netflix (and chill) nights
- Cuddle on the couch
- Riding on a motorcycle together
- Amusement parks
- Couples massages at a spa
- Water park rides
- Haunted houses
- Scary movies
- Couples yoga
Stage 4: Building on Sex, Passion and Romance
As your relationship strengthens, your dates naturally increase with sex, passion and Romance. By the end of the date you and your partner should feel a mutual desire, and that you both feel incredibly attractive. It’s not always required but it is nice if this leads to sex.
Similar to stage 3, dates that facilitate opportunity for touching often leads to a sense of passion and romance. Date ideas include:
- Going dancing
- Romantic photo-shoot
- Swimming & playing at the beach
- Amusement rides
- Walk through botanical gardens
- Wine tasting
- Star gazing
- Watch sunset or Sunrise
- Visit a sex store
- Fun at a water-park
- Skinny Dipping
- Movie night with making out can be great
Stage 5: Strong relationships are ones that have a sense of “us”, “we” or “team”.
A good sign that couples feel connected is how they refer to their relationship. Couples that have a strong sense of ‘us’ use such terms as ‘us’, ‘we’ or ‘team’. When you feel like a team, you have a strong sense that someone cares about you and ‘has your back’.
Dates that require team work or unity help develop a sense of working together and being a team which is very beneficial for couples.
- Sporting events
- Cooking a meal together or cooking class
- Couples yoga
- Kayaking or canoeing
- Escape rooms
- Bike ride through the city (possibly through a tandem bike)
- DIY projects
- Acrobatic class
- Laser tag
- Scuba diving
- Run Race together.
Stage 6: Dates That are Really Only for One Partner
While dates where both partners can mutually agree upon the activity are great, it can be really beneficial when we demonstrate to our partner that we care about them so much that we are willing to do dates that only one of us would typically enjoy.
These dates can feel really meaningful and romantic for the partner that’s being spoiled and really shows how much we appreciate and love them.
- Seeing a movie your partner loves but you might hate
- Sporting events
- Going to a musical
- A spa day
- Seeing a public speaker
- Convention or a show that is in town
Doing activities that our partner loves, but we don’t, shows our willingness to make sacrifices and compromise, deepening the relationship and showing our love and commitment to our partner.