Married couples who have a monthly "date night" and leave their children at home can reduce their chance of splitting up, a study found.

Having a trip to the cinema, restaurant or theatre without the kids can keep the spark of love alive, researchers found.

Researchers found that couples who dated once a month were 14 per cent less likely to break up. The effect only worked on married couples, and not cohabitees. But going on a weekly date did not increase the chances of staying together.

Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, and Stephen McKay, professor in social research at Lincoln University, carried out the study.

Advertisement

They said: "For married couples, date night has a meaning. For the typical cohabiting couple, with a little less clarity and more ambiguity about the prospect of their whole lives together, the occasional night out has less meaning. It's simply a night out." The Marriage Foundation based its findings on statistics from the Millennium Cohort Study.

Of 9,969 couples surveyed, 11 per cent managed a weekly date night, 30 per cent dated once a month, 23 per cent went less than once a month and 36 per cent never did so.

But other factors were more significant in predicting a couple's longevity. The odds of splitting among married couples were lower than among cohabitees. Graduates were also less likely to split than the less well-educated. And the older the couple, the greater their chances of staying together.