In my first session with couples, I ask them about their prior experiences with marriage counseling. I want to learn what was previously helpful and what wasn’t. Sometimes couples report that their previous marriage counselor told them just to go on dates.
There is no research that supports ‘just going on dates’ changes a relationship. In fact, many couples stop dating because the dates become so unpleasant. If a couple goes out to dinner and they start talking about issues in the relationship, they are likely to escalate in the restaurant. If there is little conversation because of their disconnection, the dinner date highlights the emotional void in their relationship.
Couples need to address the issues that create conflict and disconnection. Many couples reach a point where they can’t do this on their own and need the professional facilitation of a trained marriage counselor. When couples work through their issues with each other, they naturally want to spend more time together. When a couple spontaneously reports to me that they went on a date with each other, this reflects their progress in marriage counseling rather than the solution to their marital problems.