It’s important to keep the spark alive in your romantic relationship, whether you’ve been together for a matter of months or a few decades.
When was the last time you two actually went out on a real date? If it’s been too long, come up with some cute date ideas and make a plan.
“Couples should be dating each other throughout their entire relationship,” Stephanie Mintz, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told TODAY. “But how and why we date can change at different stages in the relationship.”
Most people think of dating in terms of “date night,” where you get dressed up and go out for a meal, movie or show. “[Those types of dates] are great for celebrating or relaxing, but they shouldn’t become the majority of your dates,” Mintz said.
Instead, she recommends more casual date ideas using the “carefree connection," a strategy she created that focuses on reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company in a “light and fluffy” way. “There is no talk about anything that is a stressor, negative or can be a trigger for either person,” Mintz said.
Planning should never fall on one person. In fact, Mintz recommends taking turns setting up each date. “Be open to getting out of your comfort zone, while maintaining and respecting boundaries."
Being intentional about dates will help your relationship in the long-run. "By continuing to date each other throughout your relationship by doing activities together, you are continuing to get to know one another."
Here, Mintz kicks off a list of fun date ideas, followed by additional suggestions from other dating and relationship experts.
- Visit a pop-up museum. Make do on that promise to see it before it closes.
- Attend a local art or music festival. Indulge in some local culture as a couple.
- Take a cooking or baking class. Preparing meals or desserts together can bring you closer as a couple.
- Go to a wine and paint evening. Hang your handiwork somewhere as a souvenir.
- Have a picnic. Fill a basket or purchase a pre-assembled charcuterie board, perfect for date night.
- Take a sailing lesson, if you live by the water. Sailing is very much a collaborative sport.
- Try out a virtual reality game. Play as a team or against each other in lighthearted competition.
Amber Lee, CEO and co-founder of Select Date Society, says dating is key to maintain chemistry overtime. “I’ve seen couples hit a difficult time in their relationship who have been able to get back to a great place simply by making it a priority to date each other like they did when they first met,” she told TODAY.
Here are some of her top date ideas:
- Host a taste test at home. Blindfold your partner and taste a few different wines, liquors or any type of beverage you like, then compare your favorites.
- Go on a hike or bike ride. Exercise will release endorphins, and who better to feel good with than someone you love?
- Book an overnight stay in your own city. Reserve a hotel room and go out to a nice dinner or order room service. You’ll feel miles away from the day-to-day routine at home even though you might be just around the corner.
“No matter how many years you have been with your partner, keeping the spark alive is both hard work and essential,” Laura Doyle, author and relationship coach, told TODAY. Doyle recommends that a weekly date helps couples stay connected by creating "a deeper bond and more intimacy.”
Here are her date suggestions:
- Visit an animal shelter. Shower each other and some adorable fur babies with affection.
- Explore your town or city like a tourist. Hop on the train or get in the car and explore your neighborhood. Bonus points if you get lost — sometimes, it’s more fun that way.
- Recreate your first date with a twist. Enjoy a trip down memory lane, but add some wackiness by heading to the thrift store and picking out each other’s outfits and accessories.
“Couples who have regular date nights appreciate each other more, allowing them to have fun and laugh together,” Sam Whittaker, Relationship and Style Editor at Mantelligence, told TODAY. “Going on dates helps couples remember good memories at the start of the relationship.”
His top date idea:
- Play the date version of rock-paper-scissors. Whoever wins each round gets to choose what activity to do next for a total of three in the same day.
“The person you’ve been with for two, five or 10 years isn’t the same person they were a year ago,” Dr. John Delony, author, mental health expert and host of The Dr. John Delony Show, told TODAY. “People are growing and evolving all the time, and that means my wife basically gets a new version of me as we get older, and vice versa.”
Here are two of his date suggestions:
- Go on a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood.
- Dress up like superfans and go to the game.
Hilary Silver, therapist and CEO of Ready for Love, recommends active dates, especially if one partner excels at that particular activity. “It helps the other partner remember and tap back into the enamored feeling they have about seeing someone they love being in their zone of genius,” she said.
Here are her suggestions:
- Teach each other something new. Pick an activity where one of you excels and have fun sharing your skills.
- Take dance lessons. Choose a genre where you’re both learning it at the same time
- Go ziplining. Pick something fun and outside of your comfort zones.
- Enjoy a Groupon or Airbnb experience. Local businesses offer tons of fun activities, everything from food tours to whitewater rafting excursions.
“Dating is important because it allows the couple time to focus on each other without distractions and they help to build intimacy,” says Jessica Alderson, co-founder and relationship expert at So Syncd. “It’s important for both people in a relationship to feel desired, understood and heard.”
Here are her suggestions:
- Go on an alphabet date. For example, start out with "A" for aquarium and plan a date. Each week is a new letter and thus, a new corresponding date.
- Try an escape room. It’s a fun and exciting challenge that encourages collaboration.
- Take a personality test. Ask each other the questions, perhaps over the course of a romantic dinner for two, and try to guess each other’s answers. You might think you know your partner well, but discussing your personalities with each other can deepen your connection.
“It’s easy for established couples to fall into routines and forget to carve out time for one another, so it’s particularly important to have dates,” says Taly Matiteyahu, founder of Blink Date. “What the couple does during that time doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that they’re doing something together.”
Here are her suggestions:
- Shop for each other. Head to a big-box retailer with a budget and a timer. Find a few small gifts for each other and spend the rest of the day enjoying them.
- Get crafty. If paint-and-sip nights aren’t your thing, pick a different craft. You’ll both leave the date with a souvenir!
One thing's for sure: The experts agree that dates are always a good idea. Want even more cheap date ideas? We've got you covered.
- Volunteer. Giving back to the community feels good.
- Run or walk a charity 5K. Stretch your legs for a good cause.
- Explore a bookstore or library. Remind each other of the authors you love and read a passage or two from your favorite books.
- Plant a garden. Enjoy the fruits (or vegetables or flowers) of your labor and love.
- Host a dance party. Make a playlist of your favorites or pick a tunes from different era — bonus points for appropriate attire — and boogie down.
- Book a day spa appointment. Enjoy a self-care ritual like a couple’s massage together.
- Hit up a farmer’s market. Gather other fresh ingredients and go home to make a meal together.
- Take a tour of a local winery or brewery. Relax, sip and enjoy each other’s company.
- Go on an ice cream or dessert crawl. We won’t tell if you skip dinner.
- Play chess in the park. Or bring along a board game of your choice.
- Sing a fun duet at karaoke. Who cares if you can’t hold a tune?
- Make sushi at home. You can purchase kits with all the ingredients and instructions.
- Go to an independent movie theatre. Rewatch a classic movie on the big screen.
- Rent a canoe or a kayak. Calm waters are fine, but hit the rapids if you’re up for it.
- Check out the stars. Grab a blanket and stare up in wonder.
- Chat at a cafe. Don’t take your coffee or tea to go this time — just sit and talk.
- Visit a favorite spot from when you were kids. Even if it means just sitting on a park swing.
- Browse a record store. Discover new music or find some oldies but goodies to enjoy together.
- Go ice skating or roller skating. No Olympics-level skills required.
- Try your hand at archery. Learn to shoot an arrow just like Cupid.
- Visit an arcade and play a two-person game. Air hockey or foosball, anyone?
- Enjoy an outdoor concert. Hit up a food truck before or after for a casual meal al fresco.
- Go out for pizza. Delivery is cool, but so is sitting down and enjoying a slice. Try a new topping while you’re at it!
- Play 1-on-1 basketball. Head to the court and shoot some hoops.
- Do yoga or meditate. Keep the calm and balance in your relationship going.
- Snag a spot on the beach. Summertime is best, but the beach is awesome even if you have to bundle up to enjoy it.
- Build a snowman or snow fort. Release your inner children and play in the snow.
- Visit an amusement park. Have a fun day together, whether you’re there for the rollercoasters or cotton candy.
- Go to a state fair. Hold hands as you walk the midway together.
- Explore an art gallery. Discover a new type of art together.
- Binge watch your favorite sitcom. The couple that laughs together stays together.
- Watch the sunrise or sunset. If your partner makes a comment on its beauty, don’t ignore it. “Your partner is not just commenting on the sun but requesting a response, a sign of interest or support, hoping for connection in a shared experience,” Dr. Daryl Appleton, a licensed psychotherapist and Fortune 500 executive coach, told TODAY.