Instead of watching another Netflix movie, use these expert-backed tips to rekindle the spark.
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There's absolutely nothing wrong with a casual date night with your partner where you get home from work, realize you both want nachos, and then venture out together to get takeout. Not every date has to be well-planned or extravagant in order to "count." But there is something to be said for occasionally making the extra effort and using your date night as a time to reconnect.

This step may be necessary if you've fallen into a boring routine as a couple or if you haven't been feeling as close as you usually do. "Date nights are a necessary element for relationships as they are reminders of who we are as a couple," Sofia Robirosa, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells HelloGiggles. Life can get busy, and it's all too easy to drift apart.

There are, of course, plenty of ways to remain close in everyday life. "Building rituals of connection into your day (i.e. giving hugs and kisses in the morning and before bed, having meals together, etc.) is just as important and often more easily accessible," Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells HelloGiggles.

If your relationship could use a boost, though, here are a few ways to make the most of your next date night and seriously bond as a couple.

1 Put your phone away

We've all heard a million times how important it is to "put your phone away" and pay attention to the person you're with. And yet, five minutes later, there we are checking for texts.

So consider this a friendly reminder to put that thing away (for real this time) and give your partner your undivided attention. "We want to engage in dialogue with eye contact because it shows a sense of emotional engagement," Robirosa says.

It sounds simple, but it really does make all the difference in the world. Think about a conversation where your partner is staring down at their phone versus looking into your eyes and truly listening. The latter is so much better.

2 Try something new

While it's fun to have a go-to date night—like going to your favorite restaurant and watching a movie—consider breaking away from your usual routine and trying something new.

"Newness is an important element in the relationship," Robirosa says. "When we do new things with our significant others, the excitement of the activity is translated into the relationship."

It isn't necessary to try something new every week, but doing so on occasion will insert the all-important "spark" back into your relationship and make things fun again.

3 Step outside your comfort zone

Consider doing something novel, or even slightly "scary" like going on a social distancing hike or playing live music together—whatever might get your blood pumping.

Stretching beyond your comfort zone can build intimacy within the relationship, Nicole Arzt, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells HelloGiggles. "The two of you need to work together to figure out new skills," she says. "This creates a powerful shared experience, and that’s more impactful than, say, a movie."

Also, once you "survive" the nerve-racking activity, you'll be able to look back and feel as if you triumphed over an obstacle together—and nothing's more bonding than that.

4 Take only one picture

Whether you're playing a board game, strolling around a park, or cooking together at home, resist the temptation to film or photograph the entire date, and instead make this time together all about being fully present and aware of each other.

"That’s not to say you shouldn’t take pictures...but don’t make this the focal point of your evening," Arzt says. Snap a quick photo to capture the moment, and then focus on enjoying yourselves.

5 Be realistic

When it comes to scheduling a date night, it's important to keep in mind factors like time, money, tiredness levels, and so on—which means you need to be communicative with your partner about what you want.

"When you decide on a schedule, make sure it’s realistic," Salatha Helton, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says. "You don’t want to set each other up for an unrealistic expectation that can’t be met, which can lead to arguments."

In other words, you won't bond if you're stressed out or upset the entire time, so don't go overboard. It isn't about what you're doing as much as it is about spending quality time together.

6 Ask each other questions

If it's been a while since you caught up or had a deep conversation, make that the focus of your next date night. Because even if you think you know everything there is to know about your partner, there's always going to be more to learn.

In fact, "an important must for every couple is to relearn one another the longer they've been in a relationship," Natasha Oates, MA, EdS, LCMHC, a relationship therapist, tells HelloGiggles.

To do so, you can simply talk in depth about your day, what's been on your mind, what you're looking forward to, etc. Or, you can download relationship-y type questions, like the ones found in the Gottman card deck, Oates says, which has tons of thoughtful questions to ask each other.

7 Recreate your first date

To feel closer than ever, try recreating your first date (perhaps once a year?) as a way of reminding yourselves why you fell in love in the first place.

"Couples sometimes forget what initially connected them," Helton says. "It’s easy to forget, but making it a point to remember can stimulate great memories." Did you get coffee? Wander around a park? Go back and do it again. And if the mood strikes, talk about how far you've come and what you hope for the future.