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    Build a Better Date Night

    The Kitchen Cure continued...

    Kids: A daughter, 2

    Their challenge: Making date night happen at all

    "My husband and I used to have great dates," Nina says. "We both love good food, and we'd often spend five or six hours cooking and experimenting with different wines."

    But since their daughter was born, finding couple time has gotten harder. "I travel frequently for my job, and Jayme often works evenings and weekends," she says. "So when we do have a few hours, we usually want to spend them with our daughter."

    "Working parents worry that time spent as a couple subtracts from time spent with their kids," explains Schwartz. "But when couples feel guilty leaving a child with a sitter, I tell them, 'This isn't selfish, it's protecting both your marriage and your family.'"

    Expert Makeover

    "It's great that these two have such a strong common interest," says James M. Graham, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Western Washington University in Bellingham. "I'd like them to indulge their passions in a project they can finish in a few hours — one with a unique twist. Experimenting together makes a date more satisfying, just as team-building exercises draw people closer."

    When a couple has to overcome a new challenge, their sense of accomplishment after they succeed is magnified. "Dates that allow that kind of growth let you surprise yourself and your partner," he says, "and see each other in a new light." Just keep changes and challenges moderate. "This should be fun, not traumatic."

    The Deiblers decided to try making sushi — a dish they love in restaurants but had never prepared themselves. They bought the basic equipment (including a book of instructions) at a favorite cooking store and arranged for Nina's mom to take care of their toddler for a few hours.

    The verdict: A huge hit

    Her take: "The expert really nailed it when he suggested a project for us — this was great. And it was a challenge: The rice had to be just the right temperature, and some of the chopping and rolling was tricky. We did need the time without our daughter, but several of my neighbors want to trade babysitting so we can all have date nights. I found this experience very inspiring — it made me feel like we were dating again. Next time, I want to try cooking Indian food."

    His take: "The food turned out really well, and we had the kind of fun we haven't for ages. It reminded me how good we are at working together and how we complement each other: Nina did the organizing and the shopping, and got the rice going. Then we took turns chopping and wrapping, tasting as we went along. And because we did it all between 5 and 7:30, we are confident now that we can make something like this happen at least every other week."

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