By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
Marriage experts advise couples to prioritize date nights to renew their relationship. Stepping away from the daily grind to dote on one another and talk about life helps you remember why you married. Once children come along, these dates become even more important as responsibilities balloon and threaten to take over your marriage.
As wife to a man in the military, I accepted moving far away from family support. When our daughter was born, we learned to rely on one another to provide for her needs. Like all new parents, we needed some time alone together, but getting out for dates without our child was hard. She was born with a developmental disability, and most babysitters did not have the experience to handle her needs. Even when we could find a sitter, our shoestring budget left little extra money to pay the fees.
That same daughter continues to live with us as an adult. Her disability requires our care and supervision. We again find ourselves in a season where date nights out are rare.
Is it possible to keep the marriage spark burning without leaving the house? Whether your kids are too young to stay with a sitter, money is too tight to afford the cost, or your child has special needs, you don’t need to write off date nights. Instead, create dates at home to nurture your marriage relationship.
Prerequisites for At-Home Dates
Set regular bedtimes.
When children are very small, your at-home dates usually occur after bedtime or during naps. While you can adjust your dates to the whims of their sleep, planning, and consistency will improve as you regulate their schedules.
Train your children to respect your time together.
As children move from infancy to the toddler stage, you can begin to train them to occupy themselves while you talk with your spouse. Incrementally increase the length of time until they can tolerate more extended amounts of time by themselves. As they grow older, they can learn to entertain themselves in their room longer while you enjoy an at-home date.
Create a special atmosphere.
Part of the allure of a date night out is getting away from the atmosphere within your home. Soft music, dim lights, and candles set a special environment for your at-home dates. Mountains of laundry and a messy floor recede into the background for a while as you focus on one another.
Understand nothing goes perfectly. Even dates outside the house can be interrupted, so you should expect the pitter-patter of little feet to intrude upon your moments together. When interruptions happen, firmly reinforce the rules for room time. Of course, an emergency should be attended to immediately, but most other needs can wait.
24 Creative Ideas for At-Home Dates
1. Movie Night
Pick a movie you’ve been dying to see, buy some popcorn and boxes of candy, and dim the lights to create your home theater. Put on pajamas, grab a blanket, and snuggle on the couch. Don’t forget to play footsies under the covers!
2. Cooking Class
Look up a video recipe for a meal you’ve never made. Plan a menu, including a special dessert, and buy the ingredients beforehand. Don’t feel bad about feeding the kids hot dogs for dinner. Once they’re settled, watch the instructions and work together to prepare the meal. Light some candles at the dinner table and enjoy your creation. Make homemade pizza, fresh pasta, or sushi if you need something simple. Talk together about how and when you learned to cook. Tell who taught you, the name of your first dish, and your favorite foods to cook today.
3. Dream Home
Search the real estate apps and choose your ten favorite dream homes. Tell the reasons you picked them—what you like best, what you dislike, and how you would use each room or the surrounding land. If you like interior design, discuss how you could implement decorating ideas in your own home.
4. Karaoke Night
Stream karaoke lyrics on your TV or phone and belt out your favorite songs. Sing some separately and some together. If you’re feeling adventurous, add dance moves. Give each other awards for best vocals, highest notes, and other silly achievements. The kids will think you’re crazy, but that’s okay. Beware, they’ll probably want to start a family karaoke night.
5. Vacation Planning
Think about your next vacation opportunity and plan it together from beginning to end. Choose a location and book accommodations, even if it’s just staying with relatives. Make travel arrangements or map out your route if you’re driving. Brainstorm activities to do at your destination. Don’t forget to make a realistic budget, so you don’t break the bank. No extra money for a vacation? Organize a staycation instead. Come up with cheap activities you’ve always wanted to do within a reasonable distance of your home. If you’re short on time, plan a mini vacation over a weekend.
6. Dream Second Honeymoon
Similar to your vacation planning date, imagine a second honeymoon for some future anniversary. Talk about dream destinations and how you would spend your time together.
7. Seasonal Decorating
If you prefer to decorate for Christmas, Easter, fall, and other holidays or seasons without children underfoot, incorporate it into a date night. As you hang decorations or ornaments, discuss each and why it is important. After you finish, snuggle on the couch and share memories of past holidays while you sip hot chocolate.
8. Auction Night
Find an auction online that is closing on the day of your date. Look at the items posted for sale to see if there’s anything you want or need. If you enjoy antiques, find an estate auction. Talk about why you like certain objects and the memories they provoke. Perhaps place a few bids and see if you win. Pay attention to the auction’s terms of payment and pickup. As a bonus, the pickup could turn into a date out of the house.
9. Dessert Soiree
Make or buy a variety of small desserts. Feed each other as you taste-test each one. Rate the delectables from least to most favorite.
10. Backyard Firepit
Buy the fixings for s’mores and head out to the backyard for a date. Light a fire in the pit and station your lawn chairs or blanket near the warmth of the flames. Make s’mores for each other. Try creative variations of the traditional toppings for the treats. Snuggle together as you create a campfire story together. Take turns adding lines to create a spooky, silly plot.
11. Game Night
Pull out a board or card game that matches your mood for the evening. Games range from fiercely competitive to sentimental or conversational. If the weather’s nice, play corn hole or croquet outside.
12. Evening Walk
If your kids are in bed and old enough, take a romantic stroll around the neighborhood on a moonlit evening. Hold hands and linger in the darkness. Reminisce about your first date or other memorable occasions in your marriage, or just let your conversation meander.
13. Escape Room
Download an escape room plan and print the directions in advance. Work together to solve the riddles. No peeking at the answers!
14. Couples’ Trivia
Each person writes a list of twenty questions about themselves that the other might not know. On a separate piece of paper, write the answers. Exchange the list of questions. Take turns reading the questions aloud and trying to answer. Give a point for each correct answer. For extra fun, create an award for the one with the most points at the end of the game.
15. Couples’ Massage
Purchase scented massage oil and create a spa atmosphere with candles and music. Give one another back, foot, hand, or even facial massage depending on time, preference, and privacy.
16. Breakfast in Bed
If mornings are too busy, you can have breakfast in bed at any time of the day. Don your pajamas to make an evening breakfast together. Then climb into bed with serving trays laden with eggs, bacon, croissants, fresh fruit, juice, and other favorites. Talk about how you would spend your time if you could laze around all day one Saturday.
17. Read Aloud
Take turns reading a book aloud together or listening to an audiobook. This is good for dates that must be brief. Read a chapter or two together each time you have a few minutes of quiet time.
18. Spiritual Check-In
Brew coffee or tea and curl up together on the couch or by the fireplace to talk about what God has been teaching you through His Word and life’s experiences. Share Bible verses God has impressed on your heart.
Reading a devotion together could be an everyday mini-date. After reading, look up the Bible passage and discuss the content. Then pray together about your relationship and the needs of your family.
20. Craft Night
Even if crafting isn’t your favorite activity, creating together could be wacky and fun. Find a cooperative project such as a painting with video instruction, making Christmas ornaments, or a woodworking craft. The possibilities are endless.
21. PlayStation Tournament
Set up your favorite sports on PlayStation and spend your date competing with active video games.
Listen to your favorite music and slow dance together. You could also learn new dances using YouTube. You can find instructional videos for all dance genres, such as swing, line, ballroom, etc. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dancer, you will laugh at the silliness with your love.
Take a blanket and flashlight to the backyard, lie on your backs, and hold hands as you try to identify the constellations twinkling in the night sky. Use an app on your phone to locate and name the stars. Bask in the quiet together as you consider God’s creation.
24. Puzzle Night
Work on a puzzle together as you talk about life. If your space is limited or you worry you won’t be able to protect unfinished work, choose a smaller puzzle you can finish in one sitting. You can choose a more challenging puzzle if you have a card table or place to put it out of sight until your next puzzle date night.
Unity in Marriage
Jesus highlighted the importance of unity between spouses.
“A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Mark 10:7-9)
A husband and wife’s hearts are inextricably knit together at the time of marriage. But without sufficient attention, the threads loosen and create gaps in the relationship.
In seasons of life when children are needy, or the budget is tight, you can guard against disunity in your marriage relationship by spending quality time together on creative at-home dates.
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.