‘The Date Deck’

A book to get you in a refreshed dating mood.

Going on dates is, clearly, a pursuit for singles to get to know each other and try each other on for size.

It’s also a critical activity for couples who are more in the settled-in, “we know each other pretty gosh darn well” phase.

That’s the crux of “The Date Deck,” a new book out by Esther Boykin, a licensed marriage and family therapist who co-founded Northern Virginia relationship coaching agency Group Therapy Associates. (Boykin sent me an advanced copy to peruse.)

'The Date Deck' by Esther Boykin

The compact book first makes the case for date nights—offering perks like de-stressing, improving communication and demonstrating commitment to each other—and then goes through a bevy of ideas for different themed date nights in which couples can partake. For each type of date, Boykin, being the therapist she is, explains what aspect of a pair’s relationship is being worked, albeit unconsciously for the most part. It reminded me of a workout trainer explaining which muscle was being flexed by doing a particular exercise. The info is nice to know, yet it’s more about doing the action.

There’s also a worksheet-style page following each date in which there’s ample room for the couple to jot down reviews, for themselves, about the date: How did it challenge their relationship? Would they want to do it over again?

So where do the ideas come from? Boykin turned to test couples who have given her the seal of approval. (Not a bad gig, by the way). The categories break down to quickies (as in activities that can be done in a hurry; get your head out of the gutter), fun and playful dates, dates to rekindle romance, budget-friendly dates, special occasion dates and essential dates.

“I know that not every date in here is going to be a perfect fit for everyone, but I hope that you’ll let each one inspire you,” Boykin writes at the outset, as a sort-of disclaimer.

Here are the dates that particularly struck my fancy among the categories:

Act like teenagers

By this, she refers to that period when you’re in high school with no money and probably a curfew. Dates had to be creative, simple and things that sometimes we don’t even have dates. Getting ice cream. Watching a movie on someone’s couch. I like the notion of going back to that time and back to that state of just being together without worrying about the hassles of life. Can you tell I’m ready to take a break from being an adult?


This stands for “Drop Everything And Love.” The abbreviation is all about spontaneity. It’s cheesy but I approve. Boykin says that a free moment can turn into an opportunity to do something spur of the moment. This premise applies to everyone and every scenario, beyond dates, if you ask me.

Find a hidden gem in your area

This one’s rather self-explanatory. The truth is we could all do well by being a tourist in our own city sometimes. Might I suggest some hints for Northern Virginia.

Recreate your first date

Maybe you did the whole “dinner and a movie” deal. Perhaps it was bowling. Remembering how the relationship started can certainly be a good touchstone every few years to keep the spark going.


Shake your groove thing in your living room or in a lesson format. Either way, do as Pharrell Williams does, and get “Happy” together. Heck the video provides plenty of dance-spiration.

Host an awards show

Too bad the Oscars just happened this year. Next year you could do a real-life dress-up party for friends with cocktails and snacks. Boykin suggest this one under the heading of “special occasions.” Other options on this list include things splurging on a limo or doing that racecar experience the two of you have always wanted to. I’m partial to the awards show hosting, because it’s about the glitz and the spirit of glamour without the price tag.


To get a copy of “The Date Deck,” you can head here or look on Group Therapy Associates’ site for more insights and ideas.