In the interest of staying connected, here are a few things to do on your next date night to help you feel truly connected in your long-term relationship:
Often on dates, we just think about spending time together—but what are you actually doing with that time? Try to make sure that you create a container for both mental/emotional intimacy (this could even be a chat over dinner) and physical intimacy (notice I didn't say sex—if sex is important, then name that too, separately).
The key here is having the and—getting all your relationship needs met during your time together. If you can make a schedule for your date, you can make sure you actually get to everything you want to do on your date.
It's important not to get too caught up in being an adult all the time and make time for play. Having an inner-child-themed date is a great way to do this. When we play and bring out our inner child, we're in a state that allows us to feel playful and excited with our partner. Things like building blanket forts, taking a bath, playing on a playground, and playing truth-or-dare can all activate this part of our brain that feels nostalgic and yummy.
You've probably read somewhere that trying new things together "keeps the spark alive," and while it's not that black and white (what is?), there is truth to it. Get out of your usual routine, clothes, typical restaurant, and food, and take a night or day to do something new. A classic 1993 study found that couples who tried new things together felt way more satisfied in their relationships, and others have since shown the same thing. It's science. Do something new!
This is a bit of a riff on doing something new because we often get stuck in the dinner/show, dinner/movie, drinks/dinner date rut, and a fun way to try something new is to set a budget for your next two date nights and have each person be in charge of planning one of them. Creating fun new shared experiences within some sort of confine (in this case, the budget) makes you creative—and that's a fun muscle to flex when you've been in a relationship for a bit.
Depending on your date night budget, this may look different, but the point is to change up the food you're eating. Again, we're working on creating new experiences together, and trying a new restaurant or cooking a new dish or cuisine at home counts! Do a Google search for a new restaurant near you with cuisine you both love—or go out on a limb and try a type of food you've never had before!
Similar to having a date that brings out your inner child, playing a game makes both of you present and playful. You can play a classic (think Monopoly, Sorry!, Settlers of Catan, Chess, or Checkers) or try a new board game like Paris: La Cite de la Lumiere or Tiny Towns. And if you prefer a card game, check out We're Not Really Strangers or Best Self Co.'s Intimacy After Dark Deck. (mbg also has a whole list of couples' games if you're looking for more inspo.)
When you first got to know your partner, you probably asked them what their favorite movies were—and then maybe they watched them. If it's been a little while, rewatch them! If it's their favorite movie, they probably will love sharing it with you—even if it's not the first time. Let it stimulate some conversation. Talk about the plot, the characters, and why it's their favorite movie.
Pampering your partner? Getting hot and steamy? Touching your partner's body all over? I mean, how can this be bad? Get your gear and your partner and set up an at-home spa. Light some candles, make sure it smells yummy, and give each other massages, face masks, and anything else you want to do to pamper each other.