The State of the Date Night in 2021

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State of Date Night in 2021

Studies show that consistent date nights with your spouse or partner are the key to a long-lasting and happy relationship. But with COVID-19 sweeping across the world over the past year, date nights have been turned upside down. Up until about March of 2019, date nights mostly consisted of going out to dinner, hitting the cinema for the latest flick, or heading to the local bowling alley.

All of that came to a screeching halt when reports of a deadly coronavirus hit the news and health experts made the recommendation that staying home and social distancing was the best way to keep people safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Countries across the world implemented stay-at-home “lockdowns,” school and workplace closures, and cancellation of public gatherings and events. Suddenly, going out for a date night became a thing of the past. Here’s more information on how dating and date night has changed since COVID-19, how things look now that it has been over a year since the start of the pandemic, and how things will look going forward:

The Importance of Date Night

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Studies have consistently found that date nights with your spouse can actually attribute to happiness and longevity in your relationship. For example, in 2016, Harry Benson from the Marriage Foundation and Steve McKay from the University of Lincoln looked at almost 10,000 couples with at least one young child for a period of ten years.

It turns out that the couples who had date nights once a month had the highest chances of staying together as compared with the other groups. Interestingly, couples who went out weekly, rather than monthly, were as likely to succeed as couples who never went out at all. Just one night out seemed to be the sweet spot, indicating that too many date nights could result in too much stress from spending too much money, dealing with planning, and not having enough time to get regular household activities done.

A peer-reviewed research paper from the National Marriage Project came to the same conclusion. Date nights strengthen relationships in five primary ways: communication, novelty, eros (i.e., romantic love), commitment, and de-stress. Researchers believe that date nights are so helpful for relieving stress on couples because they allow them to enjoy time with one another without worrying about the concerns of their ordinary life. In other words, date nights provide couples with a buffer from the stressors that confront them and help them better cope in ways that can reduce those stressors.

Date night remains important, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, and even now over a year later, stress is at an all-time high. People have possibly dealt with the loss of loved ones, job loss, uncertainty, and fear. A date night with your spouse can actually help to diffuse some of that stress and help you better cope.

COVID-19 Ushers in At-Home Date Nights

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In March 2019, COVID-19 started sweeping across the nation and public health experts began recommending staying home whenever possible, staying six feet apart from other people, and wearing masks to keep people safe. “Non-essential” activities, such as eating at a restaurant, were suddenly shut down, and people began staying at home more than ever.

During this time, “date night” didn’t stop. Instead, it shifted to an at-home setting. Couples who were used to going out once or twice a month and craved that togetherness that only date night could bring began recreating their date nights at home. In fact, many couples learned that “at home” date nights weren’t that bad. They still received all the benefits of spending time with their significant other without many of the worries that plague a typical night out. For many parents, at-home date nights mean not having to hire a babysitter or worrying about children while out of the house. Additionally, at-home date nights are typically cheaper, and you don’t even need to change out of your pajamas.

Check out this spike in Google search traffic for the term “at home date night” that happened right about the start of April 2020.

At home date night Google Search trends

Source: Google Trends

That’s a pretty significant spike right in the middle of March. Additionally, this uptick didn’t really decrease even through the end of 2020. People knew they needed the “togetherness” that date night creates and needed to figure out a way to do that while being safe during the pandemic.

News media companies began to respond to the demand for all of these “at home date night” queries. You can find dozens and dozens of articles helping couples find ways to connect with their spouse at home that popped up right towards the beginning of the pandemic. Check out some of the examples below:

Interestingly, the search term “quarantine date night ideas” also saw a significant uptick in March 2020. However, that search has significantly decreased over time. Now, a year after “quarantine” began, that search term is practically non-existent.
Quarantine date night ideas Google Search Trends
Source: Google Trends

This may suggest that the term “quarantine” was trendy at the beginning of the pandemic but isn’t used as much over a year later. However, it did see a pretty significant bump at the start of COVID-19, which shows that people were concerned about date nights during early quarantine.

Mobility Trends During the Pandemic

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Early on in the pandemic, Google began looking at data to determine how much the COVID-19 restrictions and regulations were actually accomplishing the goal of keeping people close to home. They compiled this data and broke it down into regions and categorized places to make it easy for people to see how much mobility really changed throughout the pandemic. From these trends, we can see how often people left their homes and how it compared to a “normal” year.

The categories are broken down into retail and recreation (places such as restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, shopping malls, theme parks, museums, and libraries), grocery and pharmacy, parks, workplaces, residential, and more.

Currently, as of April 20, 2021, the mobility trend related to recreational and retail locations is down 8% from the baseline across the entire United States. You can see that right around the end of March 20221, it was down much more significantly and has experienced a significant increase in recent weeks.

Retail and Recreation US

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

The retail and recreation category covers the things you might think of as “typical” date night activities, including restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, and more. As you can see from the above graph, it’s pretty obvious those activities have taken a pretty significant hit. In fact, they still haven’t gone back to pre-pandemic levels.

Contrast this with another data point — parks. Mobility to parks experienced a significant uptick in mobility, as opposed to a downturn. People who were sick of being stuck at home turned to the great outdoors as the weather became nicer in late spring and early summer. In fact, mobility at parks is up a whopping 21 percent as of April 2021 across the entire United States.

Parks US

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

Parks offer a world of opportunity to those looking for a date night in the great outdoors. They provide the opportunity to take a hike with your spouse, see a new location, play a sport, or even have an outdoor picnic. It makes sense that mobility to parks has increased over the past year. In fact, it only saw a short dip at the very start of the pandemic. Parks offer the perfect opportunity to stay socially distanced but also enjoy the outdoors, see something different, and get a good dose of vitamin D.

Differences in Mobility in Different States

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During the pandemic, different states experienced different levels of stay-at-home orders. Some states, such as New York, New Jersey, and California, saw many restrictions. Other states, such as Florida, Arkansas, and South Dakota, had significantly fewer restrictions or did not issue stay-at-home orders at all. It’s interesting to look at the differences in mobility between the states that issued stay-at-home orders and those that didn’t.

First up, take a look at California. You can clearly see that mobility for the retail and recreation category is still quite a bit lower in California than the overall national average. It’s still down 19% as compared to the baseline. The graph shows that these types of activities have remained steady in recent weeks. In California, it’s clear that these types of activities haven’t bounced back as quickly as the overall national average.

Retail and Recreation Cali

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

California residents may not have gone back to retail and recreational activities as much as states across the nation. But what about their mobility to naturally socially distanced locations, such as parks?

Parks Cali

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

Interestingly, mobility to parks is also down in California as compared to the baseline average. Although it’s close, mobility to parks is still down about one percent as compared to the baseline level. California residents are still not visiting parks as often as usual, which means they probably aren’t turning to those locations for date nights as much either.

Compare this data with that of South Dakota, a state which never issued a stay-at-home order. Are date nights back to normal in South Dakota?

Retail and Recreation South Dakota

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

Interestingly, mobility for retail and recreational activities in South Dakota is actually up two percent over baseline. In other words, people in South Dakota are out and about more than they were even pre-pandemic. It stands to reason that date night activities are just about back to normal in South Dakota, as evidenced by this mobility data.

Parks South Dakota

Source: Google Community Mobility Report

Additionally, mobility for parks in South Dakota is up a whopping 45 percent as compared to pre-pandemic levels. People in South Dakota are taking advantage of the beautiful outdoor spaces for all sorts of recreational activities, including date night. In fact, they have embraced outdoor activities so much, they’re almost 50 percent more likely to visit a park than they were before the start of COVID-19.

Vaccines Offer Hope for the Future

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Though date nights still aren’t back to exactly what they looked like pre-pandemic (unless you live in South Dakota), there is hope that things will change in the not-too-distant future. Currently, three vaccines have been granted emergency approval and are being administered all over the United States. In fact, the CDC estimates that over 222 million vaccines have been administered as of April 2021.

As more and more vaccines are administered, the hope is that the country can move toward “herd immunity,” according to Johns Hopkins University. In other words, when COVID-19 first started to spread, virtually nobody was immune to the disease. The key to stopping the pandemic is to ensure a significant percentage of the population is immune through vaccination. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins, current projections are that half of all American adults will be fully vaccinated by the end of summer 2021, which takes us a long way toward herd immunity.

Once the pandemic is behind us and people don’t have to worry about transmitting or catching a deadly virus, there’s no reason to believe that couples won’t begin to spend date night out of the house again. At the same time, some couples might prefer to continue to spend their date nights at home. At-home date nights offer all the benefits of togetherness without the stress of hiring a babysitter or actually leaving the house. On the other hand, perhaps after being cooped up at home for so long, the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction and couples will enjoy date nights out and about more than ever. It’s really anyone’s guess.

However, experts are already predicting that a lot of the pandemic changes are here to stay. For example, Food and Wine Magazine predicts that restaurants will continue enhanced sanitary measures and safety protocols even after the pandemic is over. They predict they also will continue to offer more delivery and to-go options, which suggests that at-home date nights won’t yet be a thing of the past.

More Information on the State of Date Night in 2021

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If you’re looking for more information on the current status of date night, check out these articles and reports:

And, if you’re hosting an at-home date night with your spouse, don’t forget to order one of our fun kits to keep things interesting. Try our Chocolate Strawberry Dipping Kit to make your very own chocolate dipped strawberries with fun toppings, like mini sequin sprinkles, vanilla white crispies, and crushed almonds.