Nov. 4, 2013 at 12:26 PM ET
Many married couples have already discovered the benefits of scheduling a “date night” – carving out a few hours in the schedule without the kids -- and now the concept is getting at least one government’s official endorsement.
Norway’s new minister for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion recently urged that country’s parents to make time for romance as a way to head off divorce.
"It is important to find small pockets of time where parents can be lovers," Solveig Horne said last week, according to The Guardian.
"In a busy life of work and family, the week can feel too short to attend to your relationship with your partner, so each couple needs to decide what sort of a date night they should have, whether it's a night at the movies or a walk together without the kids for a couple of hours.”
Horne’s comments are part of her quest to reduce Norway’s divorce rate, which stands at 40 percent, according to the newspaper.
In fact, date nights are likely to strengthen relationships in a number of ways, a study by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found last year.
“Many couples, when kids come along, are so focused on changing diapers, or ferrying their kids to and from soccer games, that they can kind of lose sight of the importance of cultivating their own relationships with one another,” Bradford Wilcox, co-author of the study and director of the National Marriage Project, told TODAY Moms.
Date nights are not a cure-all, Wilcox cautioned, “but certainly, it looks like many parents who are intentional about setting aside time... for fun activities together, for things that re-cultivate that romantic spark that first brought them together are more likely to be happy in their marriages.”
He recommends couples schedule a date night once a week or twice a month and look for activities that involve communication and fun. That can mean dinner at your favorite restaurant, going on a hike, taking dancing lessons or enrolling in a cooking class together, Wilcox said. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but could be something new for both of you. Breaking out of a pattern and trying something that’s surprising has even more benefits, he added.
Avoid talking about everyday problems during your date night and focus on enjoying being together, he advised.
“Dream about the future together,” Wilcox said.
Do you make it a point of scheduling date nights with your partner? Let us know on the TODAY Moms Facebook page.