Date night has rescued many faltering relationships, particularly ones weakened by newborns, too much time apart or varying attempts to obstruct justice. But date nights are not a cure-all—they only work to heal rifts, strengthen bonds or cover crimes when done right.
Come on too strong and you seem desperate. Forcing the other to pledge loyalty—downright creepy. Dinners, just the two of you? Only works if your partner doesn’t prefer company, or even witnesses. And no, sweetie, stewards from the Navy don’t count.
Nobody knows how high the stakes can get during date nights better than President Donald Trump, whose fumblings with erstwhile FBI Director James Comey are now public thanks to his prepared statement for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Trump broke up with Comey last month for what could have been crazy emotional reasons. Whatever the case, the two just couldn’t work things out. And while it might sound crazy, we can all probably learn a few things about relationships from the recently consciously-uncoupled pair.
So where did it all start to go wrong for Trump and Comey? The better question is, where did things go right? As many couples can attest, sometimes date night is just too little, too late. Let’s work the date night forensics, so to speak, of Comey and Trump’s demise:
Dinner is a great way to kick off date night, but it’s important to keep things light. A table for two? That’s pretty intense—overkill, even. Especially if you’re an FBI director who's in the field all day, alone catching Russian hackers and saving the integrity of American elections (while also, technically, undermining them). Dinner in a room with just a small table and two chairs is isolating and lonely, we don’t care how many times the Navy stewards stop by with ketchup.
Conversation is key, but keep it light. Lowering the stakes is great, asking about how work’s going is perfect. Unless the question comes across as a threat, in which case don’t keep hammering the point. He told you he likes his job, leave it at that.
Don't bring up the Russian hookers, especially if nobody's asking.
Listen empathically when self-criticism like “I’m not reliable” comes up, because its important to let others own their feelings. Instead, ask the sailors for your usual vanilla ice cream, but this time, have them bring two spoons!
Remember, not everyone is as in love with you as you are, and nothing takes a couple out of the mood like unrealistic expectations of love and loyalty. Repeating demands for different variations of loyalty won’t get you what you want. You’d better believe awkward silence will follow.
Not every “date” has to be over dinner. Spontaneous meet-ups are a great way to reconnect, too. And while every person in a relationship wants to feel special, it’s important to know comfort levels with PDA. Sometimes asking your partner to stay behind after a big meeting (one that includes the boss!) is too grand of a gesture, when really, a wink will do.
Tread carefully when bringing up past interests. Date night with career prosecutors is not where you want to talk about disgraced National Security Advisors, no matter how much you once (maybe still do?) loved him. Let others work through their feelings. Do not insist (or even ask) for him to “let this go.” You fell in love with his integrity (or at least acted like you’d tolerate it)—now is not the time to reject him for it.
Supporting each other’s careers IS important and healthy, but putting your partner on the spot, calling all the time and asking him to act as your PR fixer? That just chip, chip, chips away at the trust you’ve built since … wait, was there ever trust?
Naturally, if all you’re trying to do is live your best life, make sure you’re keeping up with your journaling. It’s a great way to process unorthodox requests and possible breaches of, say, the U.S. Constitution. Share any concerns with your therapist, or the entire world at a Senate hearing, whomever you’re most comfortable with.
Sometimes date night is the glue that keeps you together. Sometimes, they’re precisely what will tear you apart.