Being separated from your spouse or loved one thanks to deployment or simply stuck at home away from your favorite date spots can put an end to a whole lot of awesome things, not the least of which is date night. If you've been with your sweetie for years, it can be tough to find something special to do. And if you were just getting started dating, it's hard to connect when you're forced to stay apart.
But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition during separations or stay-at-home requirements.
Although they've been married for almost 14 years, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance -- especially after having kids.
"If we're not happy and having fun," Celina told us in an interview, "our household's not going to be happy and having fun."
So they've kept their long-standing date night tradition alive with some pretty adorable dates -- one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski's "Some Good News." (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)
But dinner dates are just the beginning. Whether you're simply staying home or are separated, here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.
1. Fine Dining
Remember restaurants? Like, the kind where you sat down and were waited on? The kind where you maybe even dressed up for the occasion?
Well, you can definitely recreate that experience at home, which is exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.
They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at "Jack & Olivia's" -- so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.
2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing
You might not be able to make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn't mean you can't learn how to dance. Some couples' counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.
Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO -- and maybe the cat -- is watching.
3. Game Night
It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you're really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.
We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.
4. Virtual Hometown Tours
If you didn't grow up in the same place as your SO, and you've yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.
Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus -- or pregame exploring a city you're hoping to visit together someday.
5. At-Home Spa Services
Jokes about bad haircuts aside, many of us are really missing the ability to get our favorite spa services.
So why not treat yourself -- and your beau -- to some DIY indulgence? Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it's bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon.
Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights
Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it's easy for an at-home date night to feel like... well, just another night at home.
Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.
Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
Wait until after bedtime. It's fun to get the kids in on the action -- but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we're usually running all over the place.
"We never get to spend this much time with each other," Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.
Date Nights if You're Separated
Being physically separated from your sweetheart can feel downright cruel. But thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you're miles apart.
6. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)
Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee.
7. Reading to Each Other
This one's super romantic whether you're at home together or apart -- and it's worth revisiting even after the pandemic is over. If you're not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.
The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite. My partner and I just started rereading the Harry Potter series to each other, and it is the most awesome thing ever.
8. Live Streaming Concerts and Events
From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it's nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.
Recreate the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.
9. Virtual Movie Nights
There's nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you're stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.
A browser extension called Netflix Party easily syncs Netflix videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.
If your movie or TV show is on another service -- or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you're going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time -- you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don't forget the popcorn!
10. Art Therapy
A seriously romantic idea for the bold: recreate each other's likenesses while on a video chatting application like FaceTime.
If that's a little too intimate, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to gift each other the products of your art therapy session.
Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart
A long separation can be a strain on any relationship. Here are some tips to make it feel more like you're actually together.
Get dressed. It's all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day... and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you're on a real date.
Connect often. If you can't be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three.
Remember: It's only temporary. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although we don't know when this period is going to end, end it shall. Who knows? Maybe your relationship will be even stronger on the other side.
This story was originally published by The Penny Hoarder.
Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life
For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to Military.com and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.