date night when you have to stay inMaybe your babysitter cancels. Maybe you’re trying to save money. Maybe you’re not ready to leave your baby. Maybe you don’t trust anyone else to watch your child. Maybe you’re too exhausted to leave the house. Maybe there’s some other reason. Either way, the end result is the same: You’ve got to stay home with your kids, and you’d like to spend some quality time with your partner.

“Nourishing your connection with your beloved is essential in your relationship and ultimately, your family thriving as a whole,” said Lily Zehner, EdD, MFT-C, a Denver-based therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy and relationships.

But date night doesn’t have to mean going out. As Zehner said, staying in “just gives you an opportunity to think outside the box.” Below are seven connection-strengthening, stay-at-home ideas.

Get messy — with art. 

“Whether it is painting, coloring, molding clay or whatever else you can imagine, you can spend some time playing, creating and connecting,” Zehner said. And, if you’d like to make a sensual work of art, she suggested checking out Love is Art, a company that sells packages for making art pieces with your body.

Make an elaborate meal.

“There is something really sexy about cooking together and getting to taste your creation with your partner along the way,” said Christie Sears Thompson, MA, MFTC, a couples therapist in Wheat Ridge, Colo., who helps her clients connect, communicate and create the relationships they want through play.

She suggested creating a four-course meal with soup or salad; hot appetizer; main course; and dessert. You also can come up with a theme or food from around the world. And if you’re pressed for time, skip the courses, and go with a simple dinner and dessert.

Play Jenga with a twist.

“We are always evolving as humans and so are our partners,” Zehner said. This is why it’s so important to have regular conversations about everything from your partner’s likes and dislikes to how they’re currently feeling.

This activity requires some prep in advance. Each of you can write down open-ended questions on different Jenga game pieces. Every time you pick up a piece, respond to that question. As Zehner said, this makes it extra fun by combining curiosity with play.

Play “Truth or Dare.”

This is another opportunity to keep learning more about your partner. For instance, with your “truths,” you might ask about childhood stories and future dreams, Thompson said.

For “dares,” “be creative but respectful of your partner.” She shared these examples:

  • Kiss me ­­­­­­_________ (somewhere on your body).
  • Make your best [animal] sound.
  • Tell me how much you love me in [a certain voice/accent, such as Australian, or Kermit the Frog].
  • Write a dirty limerick or haiku.
  • Sing the chorus of a love song.

Give massages.

“Dim the lights, light some candles, put on some relaxing music and really give your partner’s body the attention it deserves,” Thompson said. Ask your partner where they need a massage. And ask about their needs in general, such as whether they’d like softer or harder pressure. “Communication is the key to a great massage.”

Read together.

Take out a book you’re both interested in (“bonus points if it’s a steamy story”), Thompson said. She suggested making hot chocolate or tea, snuggling up together and reading the chapters aloud.

Lay under the stars.  

“Grab a cozy blanket, your favorite drinks to sip on, something sweet to nibble on, and star gaze,” Zehner said. If you don’t have a telescope, download an app (by searching “star gazing”) to help you identify the stars and constellations that you’re looking at, she said.

Staying home doesn’t mean that having fun or reconnecting with your spouse is out of the question — especially when it’s an excellent chance to get extra creative. Also, if you’d like to connect more with your partner but aren’t sure how to bring it up, check out Zehner’s “I Wanna Connect with You” communication tool.

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