Everyone knows that married couples need a date night, one night out of the house away from the kids, the bills, the peeling paint, the faulty plumbing, the leaky roof… Oops – I guess this isn’t supposed to be about me.

Married couples need a night that’s just for them, a chance for the two of them to be alone without distractions. We may not always be successful at making this happen but most of us recognize the need and importance.

The problem is that we frequently focus on the “night” aspect (When? Where? Who can we possibly get to babysit?) instead of the “date” part. I heard this idea from Dr. Faygie Zakheim at a recent presentation in Los Angeles and it was one of those light bulb moments.

What did she mean? When people go out on a date with someone they don’t know well, they begin by getting all dressed up – a nice outfit (maybe even a new one), carefully applied makeup, freshly coiffed hair. Everyone wants to look their best, to make a good impression.

And that’s just the first step. Everyone is on their best behavior as well – their most polite and gracious, their most charming and witty, their most bubbly and vivacious. Everyone works hard to keep the conversation animated and interesting.

Contrast this with many a married couple’s date night experience. We’re lucky if we escape the house without a stain on our clothing. We focus on the menu and then the food with barely any conversation. We take our partner for granted and don’t feel required to go the extra mile. We’ve got it all backwards.

Yes, we’re all busy and tired. But this spouse is our priority and deserves our best.

We need to question why put so much effort and energy into someone we’ve just met and so little into our life’s partners. What message does that send?

Yes, we’re all busy. We’re all overwhelmed. We’re all tired. But this marriage, this husband or this wife is our priority. They deserve the best of us.

And the funny thing is that we are shortchanging ourselves as well. Maybe it’s easier not to bother but we’ll actually have a better time if we do. Once we’ve gotten dressed up, we’ll feel differently about ourselves and be more inclined to give it our all. We’ll expect to have a good time and our mood will be contagious.

In the end, it requires so little extra effort – 10 more minutes to change our clothing and swipe on some mascara. A few minutes of thought to lift out of our inertia and lethargy to stimulate conversation. A small extra effort for tremendous results.

We end up enjoying ourselves much more than expected. We end up discovering new depths to our mates. We forge deeper bonds and new goals and commitments.

This isn’t a Revlon ad but it’s amazing how much power a little lipstick and a little attention to your spouse can have.

Oh yeah, and resist the temptation to talk about the kids – it’s supposed to be a fun evening!