When was the last time you went on a date with your partner? Having kids undoubtedly changes a relationship, often overshadowing the importance of spending time connecting with your partner. Relationship experts emphasize how dates make a relationship thrive, but who has the time (or childcare) to do that?
The good news is that it can be done – even with young children. As relationship expert Dr. John Gottman explains in his book, “Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love“, date nights are always doable but they might require getting a little creative. One way to accomplish this is by doing a date night at home after the kids go to bed.
5 At-Home Date Ideas
Here are five after-bedtime date ideas to consider when planning your next date night.
Play a game together
It may seem basic, but sometimes you need to go back to the basics. Having a game night can be a great way to connect with your partner. If you’re looking for some two-player game ideas, check out Codenames: Duet, Rivals for Catan, and Ticket to Ride.
If you have young kids, you probably have a few “kid games” laying around as well, but who says the kids need to be around to play these? Bust out Chutes & Ladders, Jenga, Guess Who?, Connect 4, or Battleship!
Another fun thing my husband and I do daily and can be considered a sort of “micro-date” is race to complete the daily Wordle and NYT Mini Crossword Puzzle. Sometimes we’ll up the stakes and make bets on who can complete them faster, wagering some undesirable chore we want to avoid!
Take a trip down memory lane
I have a bunch of “memory boxes” collecting dust in a closet upstairs. These boxes include things like pictures, ticket stubs, journals, and old notes written in glitter gel ink that were once passed in middle school classrooms. My husband has a version of this in a tote that includes old awards, newspaper clippings, etc. Maybe you have a version of something like this in a drawer or closet. Consider taking a trip down memory lane on your next date night by pouring your favorite drink and sorting through old photos and memorabilia together. Create a deeper connection by sharing what was going on in your life around the time the photo was taken or why you held on to a certain item after all these years.
If you don’t have physical items to sort through, you probably have pictures on your phone. Scroll back to the oldest picture on each of your phones and work your way to the present together.
Build love maps
A love map is a guide to your partner’s inner world. It is where you store all of the personally important information about your partner’s life. According to relationship experts John and Julie Gottman, knowing the little things about your partner’s life creates a strong foundation for your relationship. With detailed love maps of each other’s worlds, couples are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict.
Building love maps doesn’t have to be complicated and can be done just by asking questions. If you don’t know where to start, there are resources to get started. The Gottman Institute has a free app called “Gottman Card Decks” that offers helpful questions and ideas. We’ve also used the Date Deck, which is a physical deck of cards with 50 prompts to spark meaningful conversations.
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Watch a comedy special
Maybe you don’t have the time, money, or childcare to hit up a comedy club for date night. With so many specials available at your fingertips through multiple streaming platforms, you can bring the comedy to you after the kids go to sleep.
There were hundreds of new comedy specials released in 2023 over streaming services like YouTube, Max, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. No matter your taste in comedy, you’re sure to find something you can agree to watch for an hour.
Have a cookie-baking competition
You don’t need to be a master baker to have a little fun in the kitchen. Pick out a cookie recipe and have your partner do the same. Come together in the kitchen after the kids have gone to bed, put some tunes on low (don’t wake the kids), and get to baking. Each of you makes the cookie recipe you have chosen and then have your kids blindly select a winner the next day!