A Letter from the Crated with Love Founders
We first met in a high school ceramics class (although it did take a year after we graduated for fate to bring us back together). The first few of years of dating were amazing! Every moment we spent together was an opportunity to learn something new about each other. It seemed like no matter what we did, each meeting was the perfect date night and our relationship kept getting stronger!
Then, about six years into our relationship, things began to slow down and date night seemed to disappear. At that time, we were both finishing up our degrees (Tyler with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and Michelle with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy) and paying for school, student loans, and all our living expenses. The “adulting” phase hit hard as we had all these financial responsibilities that we never had before. In addition to all of this, we also were planning our wedding…of course.
It’s not that we didn’t love each other. In fact, going through this struggle made our relationship even stronger. But we did see a decline in the amount of one-on-one time together, mostly because we had so many other responsibilities. The first thing we put on the backburner was date night.
After a few months of stress and feeling disconnected, we knew we had to make a change. We wanted to create a strong foundation for our marriage and we realized that consistent quality time together was crucial.
On a “starving college student” budget, we didn’t have the extra funds to have fancy date nights, but we decided to dedicate $20 a month to couple time. We knew that if we wanted to take it seriously, we would have to invest time, effort, and even a dedicated “date night” budget.
Our criteria for date night wasn’t super complicated. All we knew was that we wanted to do something fun and different while helping to create a more intimate connection. One month we went to the zoo, one month we did a DIY project together at home, and sometimes we just got creative with themed movie and take-out nights. Whatever we did, we primarily focused on increasing the quality time with each other.
You know what? It worked! Even just scheduling that one date night each month helped us to reconnect. And what was even better, it eventually became a part of our routine. That one interaction a month became two or three. Even mundane tasks like laundry or dishes became an opportunity to spend some time together. So in 2014, after seeing how much this dedicated time worked for us, we decided to launch Crated with Love right out of our apartment. We knew that if date night could help us create a stronger relationship, it could help other couples in a similar situation.
In our first year, we shipped over 5,000 dates to couples all over the world. A fun little note, we had so many boxes in our apartment the first Christmas after we launched that we had no room for a tree, so we built one out of boxes!
Today, we ship to thousands of couples a month across the country (we are proud to say we have at least one Crater in every state)! Even so, we are still Crated with Love’s number one subscribers! Not only do we create each theme (with help from an amazing team), but we also do each date together every single month.
Our goal at Crated with Love is pretty simple. We want to get couples talking and interacting and we want that interaction to be fun and easy. Each date that we create is specifically designed to include games and activities that not only help you laugh together but are also built on techniques and strategies to help you form a stronger relationship.
Our ebook breaks down some of the things we’ve seen that are most crucial for creating the perfect date night. Now, we will be the first to admit that we are not a perfect couple, but the topics we talk about in this book have helped us continuously grow.
One of the best ways to reconnect in a relationship is to have an awesome date night! But, not all date nights are equal. There are times when we settle or resort to activities that don’t emotionally stimulate our relationships. The five ingredients we talk about in our book will help you focus on the things that are most important to reconnecting with each other. So let’s get to it!
Tyler and Michelle
Founders, Crated with Love
The Whole World is Against You
Yes, that is a pretty bold statement, but in a scary (and mildly hyperbolic) way, it’s true. A lot of things in this world can put strain on the success of your relationship. Think of all the things outside of your relationship like work, kids, bills, school, and friends. In some way or another, each one of those outside forces is an impacting factor in you having the best possible relationship with your partner.
Now, let us make something clear: none of these things are bad or unnecessary. In fact, a lot of the things on that list are what make life wonderful. The goal of this section is to help you understand how each of those things can affect your relationship. So, let’s take a moment to look at some examples.
Let’s say your partner just got a promotion at work. At first, you both celebrate with excitement as you start to think about the added income and the higher quality of life. But then a few days go by and you realize this new job involves more responsibilities and longer hours. So much so, that by the time they get home, your partner is so mentally and physically exhausted that all they want to do is relax, sometimes neglecting you.
Or, what about your newborn baby girl? She truly is a miracle and every second with her is a new blessing. But you both weren’t expecting the increase in expenses, the lack of sleep, the pressure of taking care of an infant, and the lack of time to get everything done.
We can go on and on, and you could probably do so as well. That is why date night so important. You need that time to reconnect with you significant other. Easier said than done, right? Throughout our book, we help you create the perfect date night using ingredients we’ve implemented in our own lives, as well as within each Crated with Love box we ship.
The goal is not to be perfect, it is to help manage those outside forces while giving your relationship a consistent opportunity to grow.
The whole world may be against you, but you have the secret weapon: each other. Working towards a stronger relationship and a better dating life starts with support from the both of you. So, let’s get ready to take on the world!
The Relationship Timeline
Before we get into how to build the perfect date night, we want to talk quickly about the relationship timeline. Now, this will change from couple to couple so you’ll need to create your own, but the goal is to identify key pivot points in your relationship. These are events or circumstances that change or alter the trajectory of your relationship. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Courtship (First 1-5 Years)
This is the dating period of your relationship. Within these first few years is where we see the highest amount of “discovery”. Every day that you see or speak to each other is a brand new adventure into finding out who that person really is. You’re experiencing new feelings and physiologically, you are getting a rush of dopamine every time you are around each other (Wu, 2017). If you were to look at a timeline that represents your excitement levels (in terms of your relationship), this period would typically show some of the peaks.
In terms of date night, we typically see the most effective and most rewarding experiences within the first few years. Almost all of the ingredients we mention later in our ebook are represented and you truly start to connect.
Some words to describe this period are new, exciting, adventurous, or fun.
The Move In (Changes from Couple to Couple)
As your relationship gets serious, you are probably going to choose to move in with each other at some point. When this occurs on your timeline is unique to you, but for many relationships, this can be the first true stress test. When we’re dating, we tend to show off the best sides of ourselves. However, as soon as we start to live together, our true colors start to show. Someone may be too clean or too messy or they just don’t brush their teeth in the correct way. It’s human nature. We don’t like change, and as soon you cohabitate with another person, change is inevitable.
There is still a lot of discovery happening during this period, some good and some not so good. Sharing a home with someone you love is amazing, but it may take getting used to some of their quirks. Regardless, there are still many opportunities for you and your partner to grow as you learn more about each other.
However, date night can be affected during this stage as well. Once you begin to live with your significant other, date night can feel less exciting. With two incomes and shared expenses, it’s not that finances are prohibiting you from dating, there usually is just an emotional transition after courtship. Think about it, if you are seeing someone every day, meeting up at the movies or having a romantic night out seems like less of an event. Because of this, some of the ingredients we talk about later begin to fade. It’s also about this time where you start to form your date night habits. You may find your “go-to” restaurants or develop what a “typical” date night will look like. You may just resort to the couch/movie combo (which may to stick for years to come).
Some words to describe this period are frustrating, weird, changing, or new.
The Engagement (Changes from Couple to Couple)
Like many of these events, getting engaged can bring some mixed feelings. The first day you get engaged is amazing. You just want to go and shout it from the top of a mountain. However, once you’ve gotten through the initial excitement, you may start to feel the pressure. Planning a wedding can be one of the most stressful experiences in our relationships. You keep ping-ponging back and forth between the thrill of eventually being married to the chaos of planning it. Who are you going to invite? Where will the wedding be? How are you going to pay for it? Did we mention that real life doesn’t stop? You still have work, school, and all other obligations. And, whether we like to admit it or not, the word “forever” does take some getting used to, no matter how in love you are. The fact is, there are so many changes being made within your relationship and it may be one of the first instances where you are consciously planning your future together.
During this time, date night is not a high priority. There are so many other things to do and you may need to save any money you can for the wedding and/or honeymoon. Sometimes, the best date night option during this stage is sitting, clearing your mind, and doing nothing, finally giving yourselves a moment to breathe.
Some words to describe this period are stressful, happy, memorable, or crazy.
The Honeymoon (First 1 to 3 Years of Marriage)
They call it the Honeymoon Phase for a reason. In the first couple years of marriage, you may see a renewal of passion, discovery, and connection between you and your partner. The stress of planning the wedding is over and you finally get to settle down in your new lives together.
If you were to look at a graph of your happiness throughout your relationship, you’d probably see peaks in this period as you start the new phase of your journey. Everything you do together is a first: the first movie as a married couple, the first vacation as a married couple, and the first holiday as a married couple. This new age of discovery can reignite your relationship as you learn what it means to be married.
You may also see a rejuvenation of date night. With all of these positive emotions, you may find yourselves more adventurous or spontaneous as you try to find new things to do together.
Some words to describe this period are passionate, exciting, rejuvenating, or inspiring.
The First Kid (3 Years or so After Marriage)
On average, a married couple waits about 3 years before having their first child (Tracy, 2015). Similar to the engagement period, this event comes with a lot of different emotions. Having a child is one of the most special and rewarding experiences we can have, but it’s also one of the most challenging.
With a newborn, parents can lose up to two hours of sleep per night, which can have long-term effects on your body, both physically and mentally (Ding, 2018). Financially, parents can spend $12,000 on their child in the first year (Harris, 2018), creating unexpected expenses. This mixture of stress, physiological deprivations, and financial uncertainties can greatly affect your relationship.
And date night? Almost nonexistent. There is no time, no money, and frankly, not enough energy to do anything. This creates little opportunity to connect with each other on an intimate level.
Some words to describe this period are exhausting, miraculous, stressful, or challenging.
The Crucial Six (First Six Years of Marriage)
Here’s a scary statistic: of all the marriages that end in divorce, the average length of marriage is 8 years (but average length until separation is 6.6 years) (Kreider & Ellis, 2011). If that wasn’t enough, Dr. John Gottman states in an article by Terry Gaspard that the average couple waits 6 years before seeking help for any problems or issues (Gaspard, 2015). Think about that for a second. The average couple doesn’t seek help until year 6, but the average separation occurs in 6.6 years. Doesn’t seem like enough time to fix the issues, does it?
Within the first six years of marriage, you typically experience the largest pivots or the most extreme events that affect your relationship. First you get married (average age of 26), then you have your first child (average age of 29), and then you buy your first house (average age of 32) (Gudell, 2015). In addition (depending on your generation), the average person switches jobs between two and four times during these first six years (Long, 2016). What does this have to do with date night? As you’ll read in the next section, date night is a crucial source of what we call QCT (Quality Couple Time). The more stressors there are in your relationship, the harder it is to consistently create these moments of QCT. That lack of quality time can result in weaker relationships and may be a cause for the high amount of separation after six years.
That’s why making sure you carve out consistent QCT within these first few years is so important. If you are reading this and are past the six-year mark, that’s fantastic! Let’s keep it going!
Some words to describe this period are altering, trying, demanding, or troublesome.
The Autopilot Years (7 to About 25 Years Married)
The next period consists of year 7 to about 25 of your marriage. All typical major life events have passed, and you start to enter into a more consistent lifestyle. If you have children, they are getting older and less demanding than they may have been as infants and toddlers.
As you progress through this stage of your lives together, things may seem routine or monotonous, hence the name we gave it. Date night in these autopilot years usually consists of the same thing or the same activities. It’s also during this time where we enter into the “I know everything about my partner” phase. Because of this mindset, discovery hits an all-time low because we believe that there is nothing else to learn about our partners. Creativity and passion can be lacking in these years because you may not have been practicing these skills.
Some words to describe this period are monotonous, routine, or mundane.
The Empty Nest (25+ Years Married)
If you have kids, the last phase is the empty nest when the children are transitioning to being on their own and you are transitioning back to just the two of you.
In this period, we see a slight jump in discovery as you try and relearn what it’s like to live alone again. You may see an increase in disposable income which means you may be more prone to vacations or trying new things. It’s in this stage where you start to let go of other financial obligations as you may be finishing paying off your home and other debts such as tuition for kids, and all the major spending items have been taken care of.
With less attention being given to the children, and less responsibilities overall, now is the perfect time to reignite date night!
Some words to describe this period are reigniting, freeing, or confusing.
To wrap this section up, there are a few important notes we want to make. First is that these phases are just examples based on archetypal relationships. Your timeline and your experiences within each of these phases may be completely different from other couples. Also, It may seem like we are only focusing on the negative parts of each period, but our goal is to help prepare you and help you understand why date night can feel impossible at times. The main purpose of this is to help you identify those significant stages of your relationship and the impact they can have on date night in order to give you the tools to succeed.
No matter what stage you are in, date night is important. It may look or feel different, but making sure you dedicate time to each other will help strengthen your relationship.
Finally, if you’re reading this and have already passed one of these stages and wish you could go back, don’t! Your journey is unique, and it helped sculpt you into the people and couple that you are. There are always opportunities to improve. That’s the great thing about love. No matter where you are in your relationship adventure, there is always something new to learn and ways to grow closer together.
Date Night vs. QCT
One thing that is very important to understand is the difference between date night and actual quality couple time (QCT). Quality couple time, as you could probably guess, is time spent together in which a real connection is made either physically, mentally, emotionally, or a combination of the three. It is during these times that we feel closer and understand our partner on a deeper level. These connections compound to help build a stronger relationship.
Now, the goal is to create that QCT with every date night. But, as we saw in the timeline, sometimes the circumstances in our lives can make it difficult. This is where misconceptions are created. Has your partner ever told you that they want to feel closer to you even though you just had a “date night?” This is usually because that need for QCT wasn’t being met. Just because we go out on a date, doesn’t mean it’s successful in creating that desired intimacy. We often use date night as an escape from the real world, which doesn’t always help create quality time, together.
For example, let’s take the date night activity of going to the movies and compare it to two points on the relationship timeline.
While dating, you both decide to see a movie after cracking up at the trailer. It is the first movie you are seeing together. While you watch the movie, you feed each other popcorn, cuddle up closer to one another, and whisper funny jokes, impersonating the characters on the screen. You leave feeling closer together after creating quality couple time.
In contrast, let’s say you have a child that just turned one. Your parents come down for the weekend and offer to babysit so you can go the movies. This is your first date night in over a year. You’re mentally exhausted and just so excited to be out of the house. You both are indifferent about the movie you choose. You spend the entire movie fighting your exhaustion and maybe say a few words between scenes. You leave the theater wishing you had more time to spend away from the stress at home.
You can see the difference, right? They are the same activity, but one was successful and the other was not in terms of creating QCT. Does this mean that it’s impossible to create quality time when you find yourselves in one of those difficult periods of your timeline? Of course not! You just need a different set of tools. Creating that quality time is determined by your circumstances and your dedication.
Want to know a secret? Almost any activity you do together can create QCT including doing the laundry, cleaning the house, raking up the leaves in the front yard, you name it! Remember the definition. Quality couple time is created when you find yourself growing closer on a more intimate level. Next, we are finally going to talk about the ingredients to the perfect date night (aka, how to create that QCT).
Ingredients for a Perfect Date Night
Are you ready to build the perfect date night? In our ebook, we break down each individual piece to prove why each ingredient is important and how it can affect your date night if they aren’t present. But for now, let’s look at the recipe:
Time + Detail + Joy + Discovery = Connection
There it is. The perfect date night represented in a simple mathematical formula. But, like most things worth working towards, it is a lot easier to give you that formula than for you to effectively bring it into reality.
To start, let’s work backwards. The end goal for any date night should be to connect on a deeper level with your partner. If you just want to get out of the house, get away from the stress, or try and find some peace and quiet, the meaning behind your actions will be for personal gain and may not help you grow closer together. The whole meaning of date night should be to grow your relationship. Now that we have identified the goal and end result, it is time to start gathering your ingredients.
Ready to learn more about each ingredient? Sign up below to download our free ebook package that includes an interactive workbook for you and your partner to do together!