1) When you're not going on dates often enough, they're release valves for the conversations you're not having.
Therefore, they will be miserable, because you wanted a nice time together, and instead you have a conversation you weren't wanting to have about money or your in-laws or the way you leave your tea bag on a plate instead of in the compost (though you know you're going to reuse it and he thinks it's just you waiting for him to take care of it) or the way he puts plastic wrap over a dinner plate rather than putting leftovers in a sealable container (though he thinks that'd be a way of making excess dishes, and you think it'd make the fridge easier to organize). As a result, one or both of you will dread going on dates. They feel like minefields. Do not blame the date. Blame the infrequency. Go more often. IT WILL GET BETTER.
2) Date does not mean stiff, fancy, or outside-your-own-personalities.
You don't need a corsage or manners you don't have. You don't need heels that will kill your feet. You can, to the extent it makes you happy, put special care into anticipating the date and into adorning yourselves as if time alone with your partner is a really nice thing. That anticipation, those rituals of grooming and flirting with yourself in the mirror? They are part of the aliveness you've been craving. Work 'em!
3) Date does not mean expensive, necessarily.
DO adjust your financial plans to make room for dating (including any child care expenses you may have, though there are good alternatives to paying for it, as well) and do find ways to go places you really want to go. I just bought stand up paddleboard rentals on LivingSocial. $40 for two, all day. We'll use that when my mom's in town. You can time your date night to hit happy hour (like we do at Rione XIII and Artusi, among others) or free-wine Tuesday or whatever you dig. Economize to whatever extent makes it sustainable. Homemade PB&J (or gaspacho salad, like I made last week) makes a sweet picnic and a wonderful time. Just go.
4) A regular date night becomes a vacation you can count on.
It's a respite from the bullshit at work, the ceaseless needs of your adored and adorable children, the relentless march of the laundry and the dishes and the lawn and the recycling. It's a time out of time. A time to laugh and move and relax. And it's with your lover. What's that, you say? Your partner feels more like a comrade in the foxhole? And sometimes an enemy combatant? Well, I say date more and that will shift. Our weekly window of togetherness, of no-agenda time, of time to wander free together and be lovers, has helped us become the shelter in the storm for each other. It wasn't always like that: when you live together and (at least) one of you is grumpy for any reason, it can start to look - often - like the relationship is the problem. With my clients, I see time and again that's not usually the case. The relationship was fine. When they gave it a bit more date-time, that became apparent, and then they could go after the real culprit as a team.
5) Dating regularly over time builds intimacy.
And intimacy makes sex a lot more likely. A lot more fun. A lot more frequent. The emotional closeness so many women tell me they need as "foreplay" gets built into their lives when they date. And even if a male partner hasn't said, "I'll be more interested in sex if we have more real conversations where I feel close to you, seen by you, and safer with you," it turns out all that is true. When you both get that relaxed time together, the vulnerability of being naked and letting loose together becomes a good idea instead of a theoretical desire that seldom materializes.
6) Dating gives you a ritual in which to practice energy polarity.
The two poles in question? Masculine and feminine. In our complex, multi-faceted lives, both partners likely employ lots of make-it-happen masculine energy each day. And in living together and perhaps raising a family, you both embody a more emotional, less-logical feminine tone each day as well. That dexterity is magnificent in most arenas. I'm so glad to be alive now when I can live into so many aspects of my power and partner with someone living into them all as well. That said, when it comes to the things we yearn for in our intimacy - sexually and emotionally, both - we've got to pick sides at certain times. The best sex involves a degree of mutuality, but it requires a potency that only arises when someone is in the take-charge role and someone is in the receptive role. Dates are a place to practice that. Someone plans. Whoever's driving decides what route to take and which lane to drive in. The other one sits in the passenger seat and shuts the puck up. They relax and receive the care being given to them. Kurt and I like to take turns planning. And we like to practice, no matter who's planned, him taking the masculine pole and me taking the feminine. I get to be arm candy, and stop earning my keep. He gets to be direct and decisive, and doesn't have to build consensus or be politely deferential. It's hot. I don't care who takes what pole on your dates. Just practice polarity.
7) Dating gives your kids a potent model for adult relationship.
The relationship matters. Everything else is dropped, on a regular basis, so we can go on a date. The children see that their parents are in love. That love takes investment. That happy, sensual parents are better parents than depleted, grumpy, self-sacrificing martyrs. And that their parents are always there the next morning, with more love for them. That's your job as parents - and in the world - make more love. We all need it.
There's much more I could say about dates, but as Molly Ringwald's grandpa said to the foreign exchange student in "16 Candles" when Long Duck Dong asked how 'quiche' was spelled: "You don't SPELL it, son! You EAT it!"
You don't talk about dates, darling. You make them a habit.
Go regularly. Set aside the time and money for them. Anticipate and adorn yourself for them. Let them become a sanctuary in your week. Take a pole and practice it. Date for life. I love you, and I love the love you have, and I love the love you're going to cultivate by dating. Let me know how it goes.