Lifestyle
February 12, 2013 • 09:50:50 p.m.

Don't save date night for Valentine's Day, experts say

By JAMI KUNZER - jkunzer@shawmedia.com

Dr. Jeremy Bidwell, psychologist and founder and director of Meridian Behavioral Health, which is based in McHenry. (Photo provided)

Couples should never stop dating, say marriage counselors and others who’ve launched an entire campaign to encourage them to go out.

The Date Night Chicagoland Campaign challenges couples to go on one date a week for four weeks. Through the website, www.datenightchicagoland.com, and a mobile app, couples learn about date night ideas, events and discounts.

“Research shows that, hey, if you get out, there’s an opportunity for you to communicate with each other that tends to fall off with the day to day habits of life,” Campaign Director Alicia La Hoz said.

In its second year, it breaks down deals at local businesses in Chicago and the suburbs, including McHenry County.

One event, for instance, includes a Thursday, Feb. 14, “Let’s Get Cooking!” outing for couples to cook alongside a licensed chef and then dine on their meals at Community of Faith Lutheran Church in Spring Grove.

Officially launched Friday and running through March 11, the campaign is led by Family Bridges Chicago, along with other community, park district and ministry organizations. Family Bridges Chicago has done relationship education and training the past seven years, La Hoz said.

The groups saw the need to catalyze couples to take time for themselves, she said. The campaign coincides with National Marriage Week, which began Feb. 7 and runs through Thursday.

Dates can be destressors, she said.

“There’s a sense of novelty when you go out,” she said. “It gets couples out of the mundane. ... Romance tends to fall away with chaos and life.”

They’re definitely a part of healthy relationships, said Dr. Jeremy Bidwell, psychologist and founder and director of Meridian Behavioral Health, based in McHenry.

Good communication and conflict resolution skills also are necessary, and marital therapists can help couples get more out of these kinds of activities, he said.

Any time set aside from the obligations of a busy week can allow couples to work on and maintain the friendship that is supposed to be a part of all happy marriages, he said.

Doing activities that both enjoy is best, he said.

“The ‘date’ component is not vital, but the quality time component is extremely important,” he said. “It doesn’t have to fit the mold of dinner and a movie, but there should be some time that allows each person to focus on their partner regularly.”

How often couples should date depends on how much quality time they have together. Couples who routinely get to talk over dinner and take walks might not need date nights as frequently as those who work opposite shifts, he said.

“I think we fall into the trap of thinking of this kind of time as a ‘luxury,’ and something that gets moved to the back burner as soon as something pressing comes up,” he said. “Busy couples with active family lives should see time together without anyone else present as a necessary part of maintaining a healthy family.”


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