Marriage Foundation research finds couples who go on occasional date nights have 14 per cent lower odds of their relationship breaking down – but only among those who are married.
Made famous by high-profile fans such as US President Barack Obama and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, date nights are now firmly established entries in the relationship guru’s handbook as a technique to keep a relationship away from the rocks.
Marriage Foundation, the think tank created to promote stable families, has compiled the first ever research into the effectiveness of date nights as a way to strengthen relationships. The report has revealed that only married couples reap the benefits of date nights.
In an analysis of Millennium Cohort Study data from 9,969 couples with nine-month-old children, 30 per cent went on date nights once a month. This group had 14 per cent lower odds of splitting up than couples who rarely or never spent an evening together without their children.
Cohabiting couples with a similar date night arrangement saw no change to their odds of splitting up.
Remarkably, the research showed when date nights became a weekly event they lost their benefit. Eleven per cent of couples who had date nights once a week or more often were no more likely to stay together than those who never made time for date nights at all, suggesting a degree of spontaneity is a key ingredient in a successful date night.
Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation commented: “Couples are understandably keen to find the magic recipe for a long-lasting relationship. Date nights seem an obvious answer in an age where we are busier than ever and couples struggle to spend quality time together away from the constraints of family and home.
“However, date nights come below a number of factors affecting the longevity of a relationship, which include education and age. The single most successful way of staying together remains getting married. The odds of married parents splitting up are 57 per cent lower than for cohabiting parents.
“A marriage is a contract, a public commitment to make a relationship work for the long term. We are geared to make more effort and to compromise more readily to make such an arrangement work.
“An occasional date night seems to be a useful tool in the box for married couples to show each other that their relationship remains a top priority. But it must not be used as an opportunity for one partner to vent their grievances; our research shows sensitivity and an awareness of the needs of the other is highly important to relationship success.”
Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of Marriage Foundation commented: “This apparently light hearted piece of research highlights an essential truth about the importance of maintaining a stable and healthy marriage especially where there are children. Research, not only from Marriage Foundation, has emphasised over an over that the single most important factor by far in a child’s sound development is the healthy relationship of the parents.
“And although that may sound a tall order the good news is that enjoying your relationship is the best thing you can do for your kids. And ‘date nights’ are surely the really fun part of that big responsibility. Neglect your relationship and your children are the biggest casualties.
“So go on, from time to time make sure you give yourselves a proper treat. Everyone in the family wins.”