Every relationship expert will tell you that one of the keys to keeping the spark alive in a long-term relationship is continuing to court your significant other, even after you get hitched. They’ll tell you to set aside a regular date night to reconnect and revive your feelings of romance and love.
Pretty much every couple sees the wisdom of this advice on the face of it. But the execution can sometimes be easier said than done — especially when kids come into the picture. Maybe things are crazy busy for you right now, and it’s hard to fit a full night out on the schedule. Or you’re on a tight budget, and ponying up $100+ for dinner, a movie, and a babysitter just isn’t feasible. Or you’ve got a newborn in the house, and you’re just not ready to have someone watch her while you go out.
Rather than feeling like your hands are tied by these obstacles and that you can’t make date night happen at all, consider an alternative: the “at-home date.”
The concept of the at-home date is simple: if you can’t go out on the town, get creative and adaptable and come up with a fun, one-on-one activity you can do with your significant other without having to leave the house. If you have kids, your date starts once they go to bed.
Stay-in dates don’t require a lot of time or money to execute, but they can make a big impact in rekindling feelings of romance and helping you re-connect with your wife or girlfriend.
Things like watching a movie and engaging in a little chaka-chaka are of course easy go-to activities once the kids hit the hay, but you also want to get creative from time to time in coming up with new things to do.
So below we offer 18 ideas for enjoyable, easy-to-plan, inexpensive at-home dates you can try with your lady love. The next time you can’t get a sitter, or afford a night out, instead of throwing the idea of date night entirely out the window, stay in and have a fun and romantic evening anyway.
1. Play a Board/Card Game
Break out the Boggle. A little friendly competition can get the sparks flying again in your relationship. Of course if your gal is a little too competitive, and those sparks might turn into an incinerating rage, you’d probably be better off trying something else.
2. Eat Take-Out By Candlelight
It’s amazing what a little change in atmosphere can do to transform a normally ho-hum experience into something special. Sure, maybe you eat take-out all the time in front of the TV, but put a table cloth on the table, light some candles, turn on some jazzy tunes, and really take the time to talk, and you’ll be surprised how rejuvenating and date night-esque the meal will feel.
3. Make Dinner or Dessert Together
Making dinner on a weeknight can be a rushed and stressful affair. But cooking together when you’ve intentionally blocked off time for the task, and the kids are in bed, can be a lot of fun and a nice way to reconnect. Make something you haven’t tried before that’s hands-on in preparation, like sushi or homemade pasta.
If cooking dinner is too involved, or your kids go to bed so late you’d have trouble holding out for it, whip up a dessert together instead.
4. Paint With Watercolors
When was the last time you busted out some art supplies, and tried your hand at painting? It’s just as fun as you remember. So get some cheap watercolor sets and some big pieces of paper and sit together to paint your best masterpieces. Don’t forget to dab in some happy little trees.
5. Create an At-Home “Bookstore”
One of our favorite dates is to go to a bookstore, not only to browse their books, but to grab a few magazines and sit in the café to read them. You can re-create this bookstore experience at home by each buying a couple of magazines beforehand and then making your own lattes or hot chocolates. Sit in some comfy chairs around the house, sip on your drinks, read your mags, and share the interesting tidbits you come across with your significant other.
6. Ask Each Other Questions
There are tons of “questions for couples” books and card decks out there. And there are also ones that are not specifically couple-focused, but simply offer fun conversation starters for everybody. If you feel like you and your wife haven’t really talked in a long time, and have trouble discussing anything other than work or your kids, having a list of interesting question prompts can get you laughing, conversing, and learning new things about each other again.
7. Play Indoor Mini Golf/Croquet
Mini golf is a date night staple for many folks, but you don’t have to go out to do a round with your gal. When I was little, we had a Nerf Indoor Golf set that allowed you to set up little “holes” all around the house. It’s been discontinued, and no one really seems to make a set that’s, ahem, on par with it, but you can pick up a used one on ebay for like $20 (the clubs are kid-sized, so you’ll have to lean over some — but that’ll be part of the humor and fun). There’s such a thing as indoor croquet sets as well.
8. Do a Puzzle Together
Like playing a board game, doing a puzzle together is a nice relaxing activity that helps you chill out and have good conversation. Pick a puzzle you can finish that evening — something like 200-300 pieces.
9. Have a Backyard Picnic
Lay out a blanket in your backyard, set out a lantern, and eat a dinner or dessert under the stars. Baby monitors have a nice long range these days, so you can bring it along and be sure your little one isn’t freaking out inside while you’re noshing on brownies.
10. Read Aloud From Books
Back in the 19th century, people were all about reading out loud to each other; sitting around a parlor and reciting poetry and book passages was considered a good time. Bring back this old tradition for a stay-in date. You and your lady each choose a few excerpts or poems to share, read them aloud to each other, and then discuss.
11. Make a Craft Together
Getting crafty need not mean doing something foo-fooey or involve bedazzling. Pick a project you’ll both enjoy and that’s fairly easy. Do things that are just for fun, or create a new piece of décor for your house. You could turn a couple books into secret safes or clocks, transform empty Altoids tins into things like first aid kits or fire ball launchers, or transfer a photograph onto a piece of wood.
12. Watch a Movie Outside
Mix up your usual routine of parking yourself on the couch in front of the TV, by bringing your movie watching outside. Set up a sheet, projector, and some chairs, bring out some snacks and drinks, and enjoy a fresh air flick.
13. Fireplace Weenie/Marshmallow Roast
As we’ve often extolled here on Art of Manliness, there’s simply never a bad time for a weenie roast. Or for s’mores. So camp out in front of the fireplace, and roast yourselves dinner and dessert.
14. Have a Tasting Party
Buy a few different wines, whiskies, or even root beers and do a tasting. Sip ‘em and savor the flavors; discuss your favorites. You can even do a tasting of foods, getting some different cheeses, or better yet, sausages and cured meats, and sampling the fare.
15. Have a Vinyl Listening Party
Music doesn’t need to be a mere backdrop to your at-home date; it can be its centerpiece. Vinyl makes for a warm and truly immersive listening experience. Mix up some cocktails and take in the full narrative arc of an album while you lounge and cuddle with your main squeeze. As soon as you hear the pop of the needle hitting the grooves of the record, you can let all you cares fade away.
16. Take a Bubble Bath
Plenty of people have an ample tub, or even a bathroom Jacuzzi, that they never ever use; in their madcap life, they rely exclusively on the efficiency of their shower. So take a break from the routine, slow things down, and get romantic by lighting up some candles and soaking in a relaxing bubble bath with your lady love.
17. Create a Bucket/Travel/Microadventure List
Sit down and scheme and dream about the things you’d like to do together. You can make an ultimate bucket list — all the things you want to do/see/experience as a couple before you die. Or you could create a list specifically of the places you’d like to travel; you might consider actually planning out a vacation — whether a dream one or a more realistic trip. You can also keep things down to earth by committing to doing one microadventure each week, and drawing up a list of all the possible microadventure ideas you can come up with.
18. Listen to a Spooky Old-time Radio Show
This has become a Halloween tradition for Kate and I, but is something you can do any old time. Especially on these dark, chilling winter nights. After the kids go to bed, we make a fire in the fireplace, lay down a blanket in front of it, set out our vintage radio-turned-mp3 player, and put on an episode of an old-time spooky radio show. Best of all, we have on hand apple cider donuts, shipped in from Vermont, to snack on as we listen.