“It’s just really hard to make it happen,” said Rachel, 42, a massage therapist in Takoma Park. The one-a-month goal was routinely ignored in the face of jam-packed family routines, babysitters who are both expensive and elusive and the sheer rush of life with two boys under 10.
But in recent months, the Schaffers have found an unexpected boost to their efforts to have more conversations over a tablecloth you aren’t allowed to color on. Groupon, LivingSocial and other Internet-based dealmakers, with their steep discounts and use-it-or-lose-it deadlines, have helped the Schaffers overcome date-night inertia.
“They’ve definitely got us going out more often, which hasn’t been a net benefit financially but has been beneficial for us as a couple,” said Howie, 43, a management consultant, of the file folder of Internet coupons on his dining room table. “With so many things keeping you from doing it on a regular basis, Groupons have given us a regular rationale.”
Daily voucher companies, restaurateurs and relationship counselors say they’ve seen increasing signs that an online trend that started with the young, single and socially networked has emerged as a useful tool for harried marrieds, spurring them to address one of the most common, and most ignored, bits of good-relationship advice: Carve out some time alone.
Greg Jones, a couples’ therapist in the District, has long counseled just about every pair he sees to make room for quality “couple time” amid the chores of daily life, often to no avail. That has changed for some of his bargain-hunting clients.
“I began to see it about two years ago,” said Jones. “People get stuck in their routines, but then they start getting these daily e-mails from Groupon and LivingSocial with suggestions about restaurants and weekend getaways that are sparking their interest.”
Jones has begun to include the deal-of-the-day thread in his counseling, sending along offers he thinks might strike a chord. He has seen clients shake off years of take-out-Chinese lethargy, not just with nights on the town but with discounted skydiving and hot-air balloon trips.
“Just minimizing the financial factor is important,” Jones said. “Taking a hot-air balloon ride can be a bit overwhelming, but at 60 percent off, it’s not so bad.”
John Seelke, 37, a math instructor at the University of Maryland, said his robust Groupon habit has almost doubled the pace at which he and his wife go out together, even with twin 3-year-old girls. The new parents quickly realized that (a) they were going to have make every effort to create a few baby-free hours together and (b) it was going to be expensive.
“Fifty bucks for dinner and 50 bucks for a babysitter and suddenly you’ve got a $100 bill for the evening,” Seelke said.