I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of The Bachelor. It’s the best type of trash TV, thanks to its formulaic set up—a group of girls or guys who say they are looking to find true love (read Instagram sponsorships)—and Chris Harrison’s unwavering promise of “the most dramatic season ever.” While it’s easy to write it off as another terrible reality show, there’s one aspect I can get behind: the often-over-the-top dates. They are unrealistic, sure, but you can’t deny the cool experiences the couples get to have together. Who wouldn’t want to go on a safari in South Africa or wine tasting in New Zealand?
Despite the show’s many flaws, The Bachelor is right in the sense that doing something unique with your significant other isn’t just fun, but it’s also beneficial in terms of strengthening your relationship. This is especially the case once you’re married. “If you’re more inclined to try and keep your marriage fresh, the bottom line is to constantly broaden your shared experiences,” explains Jane Reardon a licensed therapist and founder of the RX Breakup app.
This is part of the reason why my husband and I adopted the idea of monthly “mystery dates” right after we got married. One of my college friends actually gave me the idea. For years, I watched her and her husband plan super original outings for each other. I vowed whenever I got married, I’d follow suit to keep things fresh. Luckily, my SO was on board, and we just completed our thirteenth date this month.
The concept is pretty simple. One month, you’re in charge of planning an out-of-the-box date, and the next, it’s your partner’s turn. Typically, you just tell the other person what to wear and what time to be ready. Then, it’s up to them to guess what you have up your sleeve until you arrive at your destination. Our mystery dates have included everything from a swamp airboat ride to a drive-in movie to hip hop karaoke. Not only do they spice up our usual routine, but they also force us to do things we’d typically never think of. “Going out to the same three restaurants can be just as big of a rut as staying home,” furthers Reardon. “Getting creative with those nights out pays off. Remember it’s about creating memories, so even if the evening’s a flop, it’ll give you something to laugh about later.”
What should you do if you and your significant other have totally opposite ideas of fun? Forget about your separate interests and look at your shared values for inspiration. Reardon recommends asking yourself what things are important to the both of you—whether it’s helping others or being a part of the greater community. “How about spending the day volunteering at a local food bank? Or starting a clothing drive in your neighborhood? Or going door-to-door to endorse a favorite political candidate,” she suggests. “Replace those fun activities with a project that speaks to both of you, because having a meaningful shared experience always win the day.”
Ultimately, these reoccurring dates prove that it is possible to “leave a little mystery” in your relationship even if you’ve been together for years. So, go ahead and start planning one asap. Trust me, your partner will thank you.