I often find that it is too easy for me to evade planning dates with my husband during the winter (which is longer than most here in Cleveland!). It’s hard to muster the energy for planning a date night out when I just want to hibernate in the heated comfort of our home.
While there are certainly ways to “date” at home, summer brings with it more opportunities and fewer excuses. It is the perfect season to spend a little extra time getting to know your husband or boyfriend and finding out how best to make him feel loved and appreciated. You may have heard of or read Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, which explains how to determine both your own “love language” and that of important people in your life. It gives you the tools to “speak” their love language to them to make them feel more loved, thereby strengthening relationships.
I found this book particularly helpful when I read it for the first time before I got married. It helped me to recognize that my husband and I have very different love languages. His primary love language is definitely “words of affirmation,” followed by “physical touch,” while mine is “quality time,” followed closely by “acts of service.” Thus, the only love language that both of us do not have much practice with is “receiving gifts.” (To understand more of the thought that went into the love languages, take a look at our interview with Dr. Chapman.)
I can definitely relate, in some way, to all five of the love languages. I mean, who doesn’t like hearing words of affirmation or receiving gifts? Of course, I beam when my husband compliments my outfit or unexpectedly brings me flowers. However, both of these actions pale in comparison to when he makes a plan to spend quality time playing a game with me at night, or when he, unprompted, vacuums the living room because he knows I have been meaning to get to it. These seemingly small actions say to me: “I see you, I appreciate you, I want to make your life a tiny bit easier and make you feel loved because I really do love you.”
More than just explaining how different people receive and express love, the love languages are a wonderful tool in making date plans. If you’re hoping to spend a little extra one-on-one time with your guy this summer, determine both of your love languages by taking the couples’ quiz, and take some time to plan a date for the two of you with intention. Here are a few ideas based on each of the five love languages.
Words of affirmation
While I might think I’m showing my love for my husband by cooking a nice dinner, that doesn’t usually translate for him unless I expressly tell him that I’m proud of him and I love him. Conversely, when I acknowledge an achievement of his (such as hitting a work goal) and tell him I’m proud of him and want to celebrate him, his “love tank” is filled.
Thus, surprising your man with a night out to dinner or drinks to celebrate a specific accomplishment or just because you love him is always a good idea—as long as you also use complementary and kind words while on the date! Spice it up a bit by digging up old love letters and bringing a few on the date, reading them out loud and revealing how they made you feel.
Pack up some food and a bottle of wine and bring photo albums, notes, or journals with you on a picnic to read out loud and make you remember the reasons you fell in love with each other. And while dates are ideally a kid-free time to reconnect, a picnic is a great date option for those times that you really can’t make child care work. Kids love picnics just as much as, if not more, than adults. You can share photos of “Mommy and Daddy in the good old days” to give them a good laugh, then let them run around while you uncork that bottle of wine.
I’m a “quality time” girl, and as my husband has learned over the years, he has to put in the time to really make me feel loved. Luckily, this is one of the most fun love languages to plan a date for (ask me how I know). Especially during the summer, the possibilities are nearly endless—depending on where you live, of course. I can tell you that the most important thing to remember is to give your significant other your full, undivided attention during the date—no cell phones or distracted daydreaming, lots of eye contact, and making sure he knows that he’s more interesting than anything around you. If you’re somewhere exciting, you can enjoy the sights around you while making sure that you’re enjoying his company most of all.
Go on a hike, a boat ride (paddle boats always hold a sort of romanticism for me, though I’d rather leave the paddling to him), a short road trip to a nearby town, a trip to the zoo, or a local street fair. I love discovering and exploring new places together—even if it’s just a coffee shop one town over—and it always means the world to me when my husband searches for a place we haven’t been to before.
Essentially, though, anywhere the two of us can be together and simply have fun and enjoy each other’s company is the ideal date. And, yes, that includes the living room couch and the front porch. In fact, playing a game together on the porch is probably one of our favorite summertime date nights—and one that doesn’t require finding a babysitter.
If this is your significant other’s love language, a perfect date generally involves some kind of thoughtful surprise, as this shows just how much you care about him. Give him tickets to a concert, play, comedy show, or amusement park, and not only will the two of you have an unbelievable time doing something fun together, but he will feel loved because of the effort that went into finding and acquiring those tickets.
If you’ve never searched Groupon before, my husband and I have discovered that it is a treasure-trove of unique (and affordable!) date-night ideas. Your significant other will truly appreciate the effort behind the gift of a Groupon activity. You can find anything from paddle-board lessons to rock climbing classes (which simultaneously satisfy a “quality time” girl like me), and we even once went to an interactive mystery dinner. We didn’t realize that “interactive” meant we would have to participate in a murder—a lesson in reading the fine print!
I find that especially in the summer there are ample opportunities to plan dates that will make anyone whose primary love language is “physical touch” feel loved. There are usually opportunities to go dancing (I have come across everything from salsa dancing to polka dancing in my own city), and the weather is ideal for early-morning or late-night strolls together.
I know my husband loves going on a walk with a destination at the end—usually ice cream or snuggling together on our porch (again, satisfying my “quality time” soul as well). Something as simple as sitting together and holding hands or touching shoulders is often all that is required to make the perfect date night. For that reason, watching a movie together is the perfect date for this love language, whether you venture to the movie theater, find a drive-in movie (perfect for the summer!), or create a relaxing movie-watching atmosphere at home.
Acts of service
Because this is one of my main love languages, nothing makes me feel more loved than when my husband performs an “act of service” for me and somehow turns it into a date. Make your “acts of service” guy a surprise dinner (it doesn’t have to be fancy), and eat it together outside. Especially if he is having a long day or a long week, this can be the ultimate date night for him.
Tackle a DIY or cleaning project together, and make it fun with some music and drinks. As strange as it may sound to someone who does not have this love language personally, even a grocery shopping or Costco date can be the perfect date for someone who enjoys accomplishing something that needs to be done together. Making a commitment, sticking to it without complaint, and having fun doing it together is the recipe for an “acts of service” date success.
This summer, fill each other up with dates that not only allow you to make the most of the warmer weather but allow you to make each other feel uniquely and intentionally loved. Planning a date that satisfies your guy’s love language might be a bit of a sacrifice, but putting his needs before your own will only make your relationship stronger—and I promise you’ll both have a great time.