Date nights can go a long way, especially right now. Here, psychotherapist Dr. Jenn shares creative ways to reconnect at home.

By Dr. Jenn Mann
Jun 03, 2020 @ 4:18 pm
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DEAR DR. JENN, 

My boyfriend and I have been quarantined together for a few months and things are getting stale. Before the pandemic began, we used to go out for a weekly date night, but that went out the window once we stopped leaving the house. I miss the romance and un-plugged together time to reconnect. What can we do to get that back? —Flattened Romantic Curve

DEAR ROMANTIC CURVE,

You are not alone. Right now most couples are focused on keeping themselves and their families healthy, dealing with economic uncertainty, and coping with the new reality of being stuck in a confined space with loved ones. It's easy to avoid tending to your relationship and allowing date nights to be a thing of the pre-Covid past.

But date nights can go a long way, especially right now. A study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that sharing new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships. This “novelty habit,” as experts call it, releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Under normal circumstances, creating a novelty habit can be as simple as trying a new restaurant together, riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, going to hear a lecture together, or taking a walk in a different part of town. Since it's harder to do things like that now given the circumstances of the world, we have to create the novelty at home.

It's time to bring back date night in new and more creative forms. You might decide to sample one of the new and popular date night subscription boxes, like Night In Boxes, or you might choose to just get creative on your own. Here are a few ideas (that are mostly free!) to get you started.

1. Best Sentimental Date Idea

Here's how it works: Each of you brings three items to your date that have emotional significance or relates to a memory the two of you share. For example, a concert ticket stub from your first date, a photo from the day you realized that this was true love, or a heartfelt card he or she wrote to you five years ago. Talk about your favorite memories and what you treasure most about one another.

2. Best Date for Art Lovers

You don’t have to leave your home to see great art! Check out a free virtual tour together of a museum you love or somewhere you've always wanted to visit. Stroll through the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History, National Women’s History Museum, or even the Vatican from the comfort of your own home.

3. Sexiest Date Idea

This one takes a little planning. Each one of you buys a surprise sex toy for the date. If you're looking to branch out beyond basic vibrators, try handcuffs, a French tickler, or a BDSM starter kit. Not sure where to start? Check out my column about how to experiment with kinkier sex.

4. Best Themed Date Idea

If you and your partner live for an excuse to dress up, try a TV-show themed date using shows like Euphoria, Friends, or Mad Men as inspiration. Or, try a timeframe, like the ’80s or roaring ’20s. To make things more fun, make it a double-date and invite your other couple friends to join in.

5. Most Educational Date Idea

Pick a TED Talk, podcast, documentary, or an audiobook on a topic you have always wanted to learn about. Listen or watch together and talk about what you've learned. According to Gary W. Lewandowski, a researcher on relationship satisfaction, we have a fundamental motivation to improve ourselves. We are constantly seeking to “increase our store of ideas, experiences, skills, interests, and resources in order to accomplish an ever-evolving set of goals.” This type of “self-expansion” is particularly powerful in a romantic relationship. Exposing one another to ideas, skills, and experiences deepens the relationship bind.

6. Best Date for Wine Lovers

So, you can't go on that trip to Napa, but you can still have a wine tasting date. Depending on how deep you want to dive, you can watch a 14-minute YouTube wine basics class with a master sommelier, take a more in-depth on-demand wine coarse with the Napa Valley Wine Academy for $99, or take a Master Class with wine critic James Suckling. Interested in a live private class? Ask your local wine store for some suggestions.

7. Best Hands-On Date Ideas

Pull out the art supplies or order some in advance for a hands-on date that brings out your artistic side. Try painting, tie-dying, knitting, making a scrapbook with your favorite photos, or finally trying out an adult coloring book. If art projects aren't your thing, get creative in the kitchen and make something from scratch that's new to both of you, whether it's sushi or a chocolate cake. (If you really want to spice things up, try licking the batter off each other’s body parts.)

8. Best Healthy Date Idea

If working out is something you both usually do separately, having an exercise date together can be a good way to bond while you release endorphins. Take a virtual class with Peloton (you don’t need a bike or a tread), yoga with Gaia, or a strength class with Obe Fitness. If classes aren't your thing, go for a walk or jog in your neighborhood, if it's safe to do so. Finish the date off with a healthy homemade smoothie and massage each other’s sore muscles.

9. Most Intimate Date Idea

I don’t care how long you have known each other, there is always something new to learn about your partner. Ask each other the now-infamous Arthur Aaron 34 questions that to lead to intimacy, download my book The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn's 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication Connection & Intimacy and ask each other questions from the sexual inventory, or order an Intimacy Deck to start some deeper conversations with your partner.  I guarantee you will learn something about your S.O. you never knew.

10. Best Live Music Date

Concerts may be off the table for the time being, but you can still take advantage of live music being shared by your favorite artists right now. Or, join Club Quarantine for some serious celebrity music and good vibes together.

11. Best Rustic Date

Go camping... in your living room or back yard, that is. Pitch a tent, sleep in a sleeping bag for two, and roast marshmallows fireside or using a s’mores maker. Tell ghost stories, look at the stars, and make out. If sleeping in a tent isn't quite your thing, opt for a picnic. Pack a basket with finger sandwiches, wine, cheese, some fruit salad, and cookies. If you don’t have a backyard or balcony for your picnic, do it on your living room floor.

12. Best Spa Night

Who doesn’t love a massage? Rub each other down with massage oil while playing relaxing spa music by candlelight. Try a face mask together, scrub each other down with a body scrub and, if you are really gutsy, pull out the razor or waxing kit and start grooming each other’s vulnerable spots. It takes a high level of intimacy and trust to let someone go there.

13. Best Throwback Date

Get retro and have a game night date. Pull out the games from yesteryear – Monopoly, Candyland, Shoots and Ladders, Hungry Hippo, Bingo, Boggle — and go to town. Eat your favorite childhood treats and have some fun together.

In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.