My husband and I have five children and have been married for 15 years. A few years ago, we discovered that with busy lives and many routines, we were sinking into the abyss that is complacency. Nothing was bad; we still loved each other. But our goodbye kisses and welcome-home hugs were driven by habit rather than emotion. So we started dating again.

No, we were not dating other people. We were finally making a conscious effort to date each other.

Our goal had always been to go on a date once a month. But our household is busy, and schedules are typically full. So instead of heading out to a restaurant or movie, we began more at-home dates. This was especially helpful once the pandemic hit and going out seemed like a distant memory. We have tried a variety of at-home dates, but there are a few “go-to” ideas that always help us feel connected to each other. Here’s how we do date night.

The setup

We put the kids to bed a few minutes earlier than usual. Luckily, we have five great sleepers currently; but just in case, we also schedule our date nights for evenings where we do not have to get up early the next morning. I do the bedtime routines while my husband prepares our evening. I won’t say we are never interrupted, but I have found that by letting my children know we are having a “date,” they tend to leave us alone.

Not just dinner and a movie

Sure, sometimes date night ends up being takeout from a local restaurant and watching a movie together. But more often, we do something new and different. Sitting and watching a movie together feels very passive, and what we’re going for on these nights is quality time. We can really do a movie any night of the week and often do have family movie nights, so my husband and I aim to choose something different for our dedicated night together.

Change it up!

We may play a board game with the real rules (not the competitive “children’s” edition). We also purchased a game with a few escape rooms, which was perfect since that had been one of our favorite “going out” dates! My sister recently gave me a subscription to Cratejoy’s Deadbolt Mystery Society monthly box, which will go into our date night rotation. We get a little competitive, but it really forces us to work together and be present in the moment.

Use the internet… a lot

We have followed drawing tutorials, played video games, and even found interview questions to ask each other. OK, that one might sound silly, but finding out what three things your spouse would take to a deserted island is much better suited for a silly game with your loved one than in a job interview. I have purchased a couples journal, but we don’t necessarily fill it out. We sometimes just open a random page and share our answers. We have to be in the mood for silly questions, but when we are, these are great ways to start a date!

Just be present

Those two-hour date nights once a month are just about us. We joke, we laugh, we cry, and we talk about whatever comes up. We put our phones away and don’t talk (too much) about the kids, our schedules, or what tasks need to be completed. We just really take the time to remember why we click so well.

I love my husband — which is why I will never stop dating him.

Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool and toddler teacher at a small private preschool and holds a master's degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys in middle and high school, plus two girls in elementary school. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early ed teachers, runs workshops for parents through Boston Naps, and runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.