Kindness has been shown to be a major determining factor in whether a relationship lasts (or, at least, whether the couple in question is happy together). But kindness isn’t just about doing nice things for your partner or offering compliments — it’s also about how you react to your partner’s attempts to connect in both big and small ways.

Because, look. Communication and defaulting to kindness is easy when everything is going well. When you’re not getting along so well with your partner, however, it’s a much harder task. This article from 2014 is one I refer back to often, because it not only opened my eyes to some of the less-than-helpful behaviors I sometimes engage in, but, by sharing it with my husband, it also gave us some great tools and specific language to use when talking about our feelings — especially during times when we don’t really want to talk about our feelings, but know that we probably should. And since we recently celebrated 15 years of marriage, I think we’re onto something here.

Something else that’s worked well for us is making a point to plan date nights — beyond the typical going-out-to-dinner type of thing. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — I love food and getting a chance to dress up! But I thought I’d share a few other date night ideas that encourage communication and cooperation in a little deeper way. And, bonus — many of them will likely be less expensive than a night out on the town!

Go on a private scavenger hunt

Let’s Roam is an app that allows you to do your own scavenger hunt in any of the 300+ cities they currently offer, which makes it great for exploring a new city together — or, as was the case for us, experiencing your home town in a whole new way. The app directs you to a starting point, and you have to answer a question based on the location in order to move along to the next clue and location. You can cruise right through, but you can also pause the game at any time if you want to stop for a bite to eat. I purchased a hunt for Jared last Christmas, and we made a night of it, stopping for a snack or drink at downtown restaurants we’d always wanted to try but never actually gone to, and by the time we finished up, we were already thinking about what other cities we wanted to roam around.

(And! While it makes for an awesome date activity, it would also be enjoyable with kids, or you could do it as a group of friends or colleagues and make it competitive — you get more points for solving clues more quickly!)

Stay home and hunt a killer

If you like escape rooms (which is another great idea!) but also love a night in, try something like Hunt a Killer, where you’re sent a monthly box of hand-crafted clues (police records, newspaper clippings, letters, photos and more) based on a fictional murder in a fictional city. Due to our prowess at solving TV crime shows well before the end of each episode, Jared and I thought we’d fly through each box with ease, but these are surprisingly perplexing. However, when one of us figures out something particularly tricky … well, that’s a pretty attractive light to view your partner in, let me tell you.

Play a game that encourages you to connect

While I haven’t personally tried out Vertellis’ Relationship Edition game, I love the premise. It’s a game consisting of three rounds with questions where you can earn points by guessing your partner’s answer, fun and easy assignments, and additional questions designed to be broad enough for anyone to answer, but that give you ample opportunity to go more in depth by asking your partner to tell you more. You can play the full game, or, if you’re just looking for a way to spend a few minutes while dinner’s in the oven, you can pull a few cards and play a shortened version. Basically, the point is to have more deep conversations about your relationship and each other, with less small talk about work, weather, or things that don’t bring you closer as a couple. We could all use a little more of that, huh?

What are some of your favorite, less traditional date night ideas? I find that any time we go somewhere new, that seems to strengthen our connection, whether that’s an adventure in a foreign country or just taking our paddleboards out in a different body of water. –Kristen



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