Open Gently

Musings on the introspective life.

Hot Dates ... With a Third

The happiest couples have lots of friends...and may even flirt as a team.

I used to stay overnight at a homeless shelter volunteering as the “host” with my live-in boyfriend. We particularly liked one talkative fellow who also helped us with the chores. He became our "shelter friend." And when we both got home, we were incredibly glad to be in our home, together.

We were cocooners and we needed to get outside our little world.  

A hot date is whatever is hot for the two of you. Your goal is to expand again,  the way you did when your love was new and you picked up each other's interests and joined each other's social circles.

Although some couples need to slow down and focus on each other, others need to break the “just us” barrier, letting in other people who will reveal you and your mate to each other in a new light.

Even just hanging out or going on double dates with other couples can increase attraction and improve your bond with each other, studies show.

Or, try one of these five creative ways to break the “just us” barrier:

1. Play Parent

Parenting is a lot easier when your responsibility is only temporary. Take a niece or nephew or a friend’s child on a suitable activity and chances are you’ll be charmed by your hubby’s fatherly side—seeing him with a little hand in his. A happy child will make the two of you play—and give you fresh appreciation of a circus or zoo. I had been dating my man for over a decade when we had one of our best dates ever: a middle-school basketball game. I went to cheer on a student I was mentoring that year. He was hooting and hollering at my side each time her team scored.

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2. Dance

In Jane Austen’s time, ladies at a dance glided from one gentleman to the other in a stately procession. It wasn’t the least bit boring. Traditional dances were basically the first speed-dating.

Nowadays, you can still find “contra” dancing in most big cities, or the American variation, square-dancing. As you flirt your way down the line, from the corner of your eye observe your mate briefly paired off with others. Catch him watching you. You’ll both become better dancers. And once you’re back in each other’s arms, you just might feel a rush of gratitude and remember how glad you were when you first found him.

Unlike tricky dances like swing and tango, line-dancing is easy enough to do without taking a class. The “caller” tells you what to do.

If you prefer free-for-alls to processions, skip ahead from 1792 to 1972 and try “contact improvisation,” which grew out of performances that year by Steve Paxton, a modern dancer with a background in tumbling and martial arts. This kind of dance is a little like Twister: you find one point of contact with another person—maybe you touch elbows, or the back of your heads. But it’s improv—you keep exploring spontaneously. People lean on each other, engage in play-fights and roll around on the floor, in ever-changing duos and some triplets and pile-ups.

Although many contact improvisers are serious dancers, “jams” across the country are welcoming to the inexperienced. All parties remain clothed and people avoid touching personal parts. Be creative. Make triplets with imaginative dancers and the two of you will find yourself in odd new shapes together.

3. Pick-ups

Along those lines, some couples make it a goal for the evening to “pick up” a new friend—at a bar or on a movie line, or wherever opportunity arises. The object of your attention could be solo or a couple. No need to take a stranger home. Flirting is its own reward, and experiencing your team charm power could transform your night when you get home.

4. Petition

Maybe the two of you regularly share your political frustrations. Standing on the street asking people to sign a petition may be a scary idea—so get bold and see how persuasive and persistent you can be at each other’s side.

5. Pay a Visit to Someone Who Could Use One—or Give In Other Ways

Your capacity to give is one of the reasons you chose each other. He loves your generous ear and you love his way of lightening the dark with humor. Be kind together and visit someone who needs attention. That may not sound like a hot date while it’s happening, but it could be a romantic one, as you feel your love flowing outwards. 

Don't settle for a routine. Routine is soothing, but research by Arthur Aron, a psychologist who studies romantic love, has found that boredom--not fighting--was most likely to predict an unhappy marriage seven years later.  

 

A version of this article previously appeared at YouBeauty.com.For writing coach or editing help, you can reach me at expertediting.org 

 

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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