- Colin Fernandez
How a monthly date night could save your marriage
....Couples are 14% less likely to break up if they regularly enjoy a night out
Married couples who have a monthly 'date night' and leave their children at home can reduce their chance of splitting up, a study found.
Having a trip to the cinema, restaurant or theatre – and getting away from children – can keep the spark of love alive, researchers found.
The concept is famously popular with former Prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, and US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Perhaps it making an effort - little touches such as wearing a more flattering outfit rather than the more practical outfits suitable for work or the school run.
Or simply it is spending time together as a couple without the irritating distractions of a busy modern life that do the trick.
However it works, researchers found that splitting up is reduced by 14 per cent in couples who find time to go on a 'date' when they focus on each other once a month.
The researchers found that the effect only worked on married couples, and not cohabitees.
But holding the dates more frequently, such as weekly – like the Camerons - did not increase the chances of staying together.
Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, and Stephen McKay, professor in social research at Lincoln University, carried out the research.
They said: 'For married couples, date night has a meaning.
'For the typical cohabiting couple, with a little less clarity and more ambiguity about the prospect of their whole lives together, the occasional night out has less meaning. It's less intentional, simply a night out.'
The stark backdrop to the study is research from the Office for National Statistics who found that the number of couples in very unhappy relationships has doubled to 1m between 2010 and 2014.
The Marriage Foundation's based their findings on statistics from the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked nine month-old children born in 2000 and 2001 — and their parents for a decade.
Of 9,969 couples surveyed, 11 per cent managed a weekly date night, 30 per cent dated once a month, 23 per cent went out as a couple less than once a month and 36 per cent never did so.
The Marriage Foundation points out, however, that other factors are more important in predicting the chance of staying together.
The odds of breaking up among married couples are 57 per cent, lower than among cohabitees.
Education also plays a role, with graduates less likely to split than the less well educated. Age is another factor: the older the couple, the greater their chances of staying together.
Clare Prendergast, from Relate, the relationship counselling organisation, said making time for each other was good for a healthy marriage.
She told the Sunday Times: 'What we are always clear about, though, is that you don't have to spend lots of money on fancy meals and theatre tickets to have a date night.
'You could just as well stay in and cook a meal together, go for a walk or play a game the important thing is that you spend time together without any other distractions.'
David Cameron told Now Magazine he and his wife try to spend time alone on one evening a week 'where we either stay in and do nothing or go out on our own'.
And Michelle Obama told US talk show host Jimmy Fallon that she and Barack 'try to do date nights' although it is not easy. 'Barack has a 20-car motorcade, men with guns, the ambulance is always there. How romantic can you be?'