You try to set aside a special evening every now and then. That would have been absurd in the old days, you were alone so much of the time, but now there’s a need to make it artificial and schedule it in the diary way ahead of time. Which means – sadly – the pressure is greater.

At first, it feels rather strange to be out, just the two of you. It can be hard to know how to get started. Obviously there are so many vital things you need to say to one another, but they can be elusive. You look carefully at the design of the wine glass. It seems to be Scandinavian. You mention that the colour of the menu is unusual. Your partner comments that it looked like it was going to be difficult parking – which, it turns out, it wasn’t.

We tend to have a ‘Romantic’ conception of conversation. We believe that in the right setting – distressed old wooden tables, food from Liguria, bruschetta – conversation will flow naturally, without special effort. The reality is that conversation is an achievement, something we might need to learn. 

Yet we should not feel that we are a failure, dull-witted, unimaginative or unsophisticated if we recognise a theoretical need to learn how to talk to our partners with premeditation and conscious purpose. Here, therefore, is an attempt at a conversational menu, questions to raise as the meal unfolds, and designed to unlock certain chambers of our hearts.

What would you tell your younger self about love?

What do I get wrong about you?

What is one incident you would like to apologise to me for? What is one incident you would like me to apologise to you for?

Which of your flaws do you want to be treated more generously?

It’s perhaps time for the main course now, a chance to deepen matters further. Finish the following sentences:

When I am anxious in our relationship, I tend to….

You then tend to respond by…. which makes me…

When we argue, on the surface I show ……, but inside I feel….

If I was magically offered a chance to change something about you, what do you guess it would be? What would you want to change about me?

It’s getting late. A chance to try out a few final enquiries:

If you could write an instruction manual for yourself in bed, what would you put in it?

Both take a piece of paper and write down three new things you would like to try around sex. Exchange.

Relationships founder on our inability to make ourselves known and forgiven for who we are. We shouldn’t work with the assumption that if we have a row over these questions, the evening has been wasted. We need to be able to say certain painful things in order to recover an ability to be affectionate and trusting. That is all part of the particular wisdom and task of a more structured and emotionally-conscious date night.

For more clever questions to get lovers talking, try the School of Life's 100 Questions: A Toolkit for Relationships box.

The above text is courtesy of The School of Life / www.theschooloflife.com /

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