Going out to a restaurant, movie, play, or comedy show for a date night with your partner is a great way to keep the romance alive in your relationship. But it certainly isn't the only way to do so. Whether you choose to not go out or have no other choice but to stay in, having a date night at home can be equally fulfilling.
"Traditionally, the expectation is that you have to 'go out,'" Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "However, you can have just as much fun indoors." A date night is always more about the fact you're together, than it is about what you're actually doing.
And of course, staying in has plenty of other perks, too. You'll likely save money, Bennett says. "Being alone with your partner can lead to a stronger bond," he says, because it'll just be the two of you, sans distractions.
If you want an evening at home to stand out from the norm, especially if you've been home more than usual, here are a few tips for breaking your routine, setting the mood, and creating a special night in, according to relationship experts.
1. Slip Into Your Finest Pajamas
While getting all dressed up for a night out can be fun, there's something equally great about staying in, being comfy, and seeing where the evening takes you.
"Sometimes the best dates don’t involve doing anything except being with each other," Bennett says.
2. Get Rid Of Distractions
Be intentional about setting the right tone for the evening, Dr. Dana C. Avey, LMFT, BC-TMH, ADS, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, as this will help your date night stand out from the rest of the week, especially if you live together.
An easy way to change the whole mood is by paying attention to lighting, Avey says. Turn off the blinding overheads and burn candles, instead. And while you're at it, consider diffusing essential oils, she says, or lighting incense. It'll all add up to create a different atmosphere, and get you in the right headspace for spending quality time together.
3. Set The Mood
Since a date night is about the two of you, and not the rest of the world, try not to spend it staring into Instagram, ignoring each other while you text, or letting the TV drown out your conversation.
Instead, Avey recommends getting rid of distractions, just for a couple of hours. While it may feel unnatural at first, talk about putting your phones away, closing your laptops, and making an effort to focus on each other. You'll likely feel much closer, and have much more meaningful conversations, if you're able to be fully present.
4. Pick A Theme
Of course you could just cuddle up with beers and Netflix and call it night. But if you want to take your date to the next level, go the extra mile by choosing a theme, and really doing it up.
Turn the lights off and watch horror movies. Play The Great British Bakeoff and make cookies. Or dig out your board games and get competitive, Bennett says.
5. Take Photos Together
Grab a Polaroid (or your phone) and take candid shots in the kitchen while you're both cooking dinner, of your partner when they least expect it, and so on.
Everyone likes to snap a pic or two when they're out at an event or all dressed up in a restaurant. But the same urge doesn't always occur when you're sitting around the house, hanging out on the couch. And yet, you'll likely cherish these everyday photos just as much as the fancier ones, in the future.
6. Have A More Meaningful Dinner Date
When you can't go out for a nice dinner, have that dinner come to you, Bennett says. Order in, get out your best plates, light a few candles, and pretend you're at a fancy restaurant, he says.
Or, try your hand at making dinner with what you already have at home. This is a fun, laid back way to spend an evening, Dr. Daryl Johnson, a psychologist and couples therapist, tells Bustle, and "it allows you two to connect and get back to basics."
Even if you cook at home most nights of the week, you can still give it a date vibe by pouring some wine, and being more intentional about it. "It’s nice to stay in because it allows you and your partner to be comfortable in your own environment and really connect without interruptions," Johnson says.
7. Do Something Quiet
Staying in offers a chance to reconnect in a way that'd be tough to do, while out in public. So use this to your advantage, especially if you've been feeling distant lately, by purposefully choosing a quiet, relaxing activity.
Try curling up and reading your favorite novel out loud to your partner. "It can be quite enjoyable to have time genuinely just for the two of you where the focus is entirely upon one another," Avey says, "where more intimate conversations can be had and fewer distractions can be experienced."
8. Try Something New
If you aren't in the mood for fancy pajamas, board games, or candles, there are other ways to go about creating relationship-y vibes.
"Many times, couples can feel bored from the predictable routines," Tzlil Hertzberg, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor at MyTherapist New York, tells Bustle. "It is oftentimes the new and novel that reinvigorates a relationship."
Think along the lines of cooking something you've never made before, Hertzberg says, or mixing things up in the bedroom. "Focusing time and attention on a new task together creates bonding time," she says, "and some relief from everyday life."
9. Just Talk
While it's perfectly possible to have a great conversation when you're out together, chances are you'll hold yourselves back in some way — either because it's loud, or because you're sitting mere inches away from another couple.
"When we are in public there is a self-imposed restriction on the depth we will share on topics that others may overhear or see our emotional reactions to," Brandy McCarron, an emotional intimacy and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "In the sanctity of your space or theirs, you can set those restrictions down."
Over dinner, or while curled up on the couch, go ahead and talk about heavy stuff, talk about light stuff — whatever comes to mind. If you feel like you've talked about everything with your partner, try these topics. Date nights at home are, after all, about being cozy, reconnecting, and treating yourselves to this exact type of quality one-on-one time.
Dr. Dana C. Avey, LMFT, BC-TMH, ADS, licensed marriage and family therapist
Dr. Daryl Johnson, psychologist and couples therapist
Tzlil Hertzberg, LMHC, licensed mental health counselor at MyTherapist New York
Brandy McCarron, emotional intimacy and relationship coach
This article was originally published on