Summer has finally arrived, along with the opportunity (and energy) for different kinds of date nights. My date night strategy in the summer is driven by the climate where I live: Summer is a short season, but the days themselves are blissfully long, with daylight that extends until 10 p.m. That makes it easier to plan date nights that are active.
It's a great time to change things up with your partner to keep things interesting. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Push a favorite activity in a new direction. If you already enjoy taking a leisurely evening bike ride together, that's great! Your body thanks you and your relationship is likely stronger because of it. You already know that biking is something that works for both of you. Now just add a twist, perhaps by trying tandem biking or by planning a daylong (or even overnight) bike trip. If you like to walk, consider doing more strenuous hikes. You might be surprised by how much tackling something that's familiar yet challenging invigorates your relationship.
Get competitive! You and your partner might not think of yourselves as competitive. But competition has some things to offer a relationship. First, it gives you a common goal. Second, preparing for the competition—whether that's a 5K or a chili cook-off—automatically carves out "couple time." Finally, struggling together—the frustration, hardship, mutual support and laughter that are all part of it—can strengthen the bond between you.
Read more Tips for Outdoor Exercise.
Walk—or foster—a dog. Sometimes seeing your partner in a new light can make you swoon all over again, almost as hard as you did when you first fell in love. The Humane Society has lots of opportunities for volunteers, including playing with and walking dogs. What better way to enjoy each other's company than spending quality time with small fluffy animals? (Just make sure you know where you both stand on actual adoption.)
Be a tourist in your own town. This is something you can do even if—perhaps especially if—your town is not a true vacation destination. Put together a short list of the best places in your area, and then spend a date night visiting them. Maybe it's a museum or a small park that has rare flowers or a kitschy attraction just off the nearest expressway. You may have to get creative and keep a sense of humor, but that's part of the fun. Miniature golf, a river that's great for tubing or a pick-your-own farm are all fair game. You may develop a whole new appreciation for where you live, but at minimum you'll have fun trying together to achieve that appreciation.
Pack a picnic that feeds your relationship. What would a summer date night list be without this old chestnut? Incomplete! For a special picnic, choose some dishes from The New Inter Courses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. What else can make this traditional summer date night special is what you choose to talk about while sitting on a blanket nibbling on cheese and grapes. Choose something romantic, like how you met. Or something important, like what keeps you awake at night or what impractical thing you still dream of doing. Or work together to create a list of where you've celebrated every anniversary since you first got together. All of these topics feed your relationship. They open you to insight about each other and reminding you why you were attracted to each other.
If you forget everything here, I hope you'll remember the underlying premise: Get out together! Get moving together! Both are sure to bring you together emotionally, and that is where intimacy begins.
Barb DePree, MD, has been a gynecologist for 30 years, specializing in menopause care for the past 10. Dr. DePree was named the Certified Menopause Practitioner of the Year in 2013 by the North American Menopause Society. The award particularly recognized the outreach, communication and education she does through MiddlesexMD, a website she founded and where this blog first appeared. She also is director of the Women's Midlife Services at Holland Hospital, Holland, Michigan.