reclaiming the marital entertainment space--surprisingly, not a reference to sex!
February 13, 2006 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Ok, so I have been charged with coming up with a list of things to do at home with my wife in the evenings after the kids are in bed, because we are too broke to hire a sitter and go out right now. What are some fun things we could do at home with our clothes on that aren't too expensive or unhealthy, in a couple of hours?

My list so far is short, and banal--watch tv, cook something, etc. We like to do a lot of outdoorsy stuff, but our list of inside things is almost blank.

It is perhaps an indicator of something I don't want to think about that I actually have to ask random strangers for help with this. Over the last decade, we have kind of forgotten how to have fun together, I suppose. Most of our conversations are about money and the kids. Ouch. I have become a cliche.

I am intentionally leaving out a list of our interests, because I don't want to limit the possible suggestions or cramp the brainstorming.

Inviting over others is not a great option, because her standards of housecleaning dictate *lots* of preparation (and stress) before anyone can visit, and we don't want to wake up the kids.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
I like to play Scrabble, build models with LEGO® blocks, cook, and blog, though some of these are solo activities.

Have you ever browsed the web together? If you have the right personalities, it can be a lot of fun.
posted by rocketman at 2:27 PM on February 13, 2006

Play board games or card games. Read aloud to each other. Clean house. Talk about your dreams and goals. Watch videos or DVDs from the library. Listen to music you already have, or that you download from the net (there's lots of legitimate stuff for free), or books on tape from the library, or audiostreams on the net of NPR shows or any of a million other things. Say thank you to each other for the various hard work each of you is doing in the household.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2006

Super nerdy, but fun -- get two of those 99 cent wordfind books, you know the old school ones where you circle the word. You need to get two books, one for each of you, and then you can pick a puzzle and have races. It's really fun. You can do the same with crossword puzzles too. . . but the competitive gratification isn't as instant.

Also, Mad Libs or Connect Four. . . all those kids games are really fun when you're an adult and just want to chill out.
posted by jodic at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you're both creative types, even somewhat, and willing to try something new, why not write a book together? Doesn't have to be a magnum opus, nor an instant classic, or even published; the idea is to get yourselves to work well together to create something jointly.

Or, if you're musically inclined, write a song or two. Creativity's cool, and it's even cooler when it's shared.
posted by pdb at 2:35 PM on February 13, 2006

Second the reading together. Also, listening to music together, critique really really painfully dumb movies together. Take up a hobby, knitting (yes, men do it) or crochet or paint rocks or build lego stuff. Or make things for your kids' upcoming birthdays/holidays (christmas is always coming). Cooking together is great, so is cleaning together. I like that my boyfriend is always willing to sit and watch while I clean my house. He keeps his clean naturally (somehow...) so I don't get to sit and watch him clean.
posted by bilabial at 2:38 PM on February 13, 2006

I would suggest crafts. scrap booking, photo albums, making stained glass ornaments. There are a lot of fun thing you can do for not a lot of money. As an added bonus, you can come up with ways to get the kids involved and use them for labor to generate gifts for friends and relatives freeing up some money for babysitters.
posted by Megafly at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2006

Ditto on taking up a craft. Something neither of you know how to do, or maybe one of you can teach the other. Knit, crochet, build a model airplane or car, decoupage, paint, scrapbook. There are lots of good how-to books at the library.

P.S. With scrapbooking, don't get overwhelmed by all the stuff available and the thousands of dollars you can spend on it. You can make cute pages with construction paper, scisors, pens (make sure they're archival-quality), a few stickers and of course your precious pictures. You can make them for your kids to have in the future, or for grandparents and other relatives.
posted by radioamy at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2006

How about getting some really good take out (maybe small quantities to keep the cost down, or supplement with some simple stuff you make to keep cost down), and having a good dinner, possibly follow with any of the above ideas.
posted by judybxxx at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2006

Provided you have the space, you could do something kind of long-term like a complicated jigsaw puzzle, or build a model ship together.
posted by Lycaste at 2:54 PM on February 13, 2006

Trade foot/hand/back massages.

Make an effort to sit down with each other and talk about something NOT kids/money related, even if that means setting up a topic each night ("Tonight's topic is your favorite dessert! And the last time you had it!").

You said you both like cooking - maybe have some sort of cooking competition? You can each bring samples into work the next morning and take votes from your co-workers on who wins.

Games like have been mentioned would be good, and card games, and any games you make up. Silly stuff like Hide & Seek, even. Guessing games, Twenty Questions - that could be sweet and funny.
posted by bibbit at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2006

Learn a langauge together
Learn to paint together
Exercise together
Learn to Dance
Learn to Cook
posted by blue_beetle at 2:58 PM on February 13, 2006

posted by nicwolff at 3:01 PM on February 13, 2006

My boyfriend and I get Green Cine and we make unofficial movie marathons. (We just finished off a run of "70s Dystopia" right now.) It helps that we're film geeks, but we can compare/contrast. We talked about WEST WORLD for hours.

We play board games. We dual surf the web, trading links, showing each other weird flash movies. We go for walks around the block with the dog, talking about the neighborhood (but the kid is old enough to be on her own if she wakes up and isn't the type to freak).

We like to get in political and social discussions. "So, if you had absolute power, what would you do to fix the country?" And then we (nicely) debate. This is usually best done while doing something else -- dishes, laundry, etc.

Also, we dual hobby in the same room. I'm a doodler, he likes synthesizers. So I'll draw while he plays. I show him stuff, "Does this look too much like Tone Loc?" and he plays stuff, "Listen, I got the vocoder working!" That seems to be the best for me. I'm happy that I'm doing something I care about and he's doing something that excites him and we're together.

If you truly don't know what you're into, I'd say create a deck of cards with lots of different things – Husband Reads Short Story to Wife, Try to make Origami Animals – all the suggestions you're getting here, silly and serious. Then draw a card. Make sure to put in nice things like backrubs and the like. Sure, you'll do stuff that one or both of you hate. But after a month, you'll have a sense of what you want to do again, yeah?
posted by Gucky at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2006

1. visit together, go to cooking section and select a cookbook. Bonus points if it's a cookbook with a cuisine that you both enjoy, but have never prepared at home

2. choose a cookbook, then buy the book

3. the next 30 days, pick a page each night, and prepare and eat a new dish together.

working together in a kitchen will give you a good excuse to chitchat, work on a small project together, eat tasty (or not so tasty) food together. You will have some hits, and some misses - but it's all part of the month-long experiment.

4. if the first cookbook was a fun hit, then go back to Amazon, choose another type of cuisine, select a cookbook, buy it, and repeat the project: new cookbook, new 30 days.

By summer you should have tried many, many new recipes. The bonus for you two is that you are outdoorsy - you might prepare some of these recipes for your weekend hikes/bike tours etc. Either prepare these meals in the field, or prepare ahead of time. I know from my own hiking that outdoors food can become repetitive.

What cuisines to choose from? Try Indian, Thai, Italian... or try doing vegetarian for a month. or vegan.

The essential here is to work together on mini-projects, try new food, and enjoy your time together. Hope this idea works out for you.
posted by seawallrunner at 3:15 PM on February 13, 2006

ooh, and I second nicowolff, kinda. Our PS2 is hours of after kiddo bedtime enjoyment. Although I'm more a Kareoke Revolution, Katamari Damacy kinda gal, I could spend hours watching my BF play Grand Theft Auto (although this may not be a universal for all girls).
posted by Gucky at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2006

Video games.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:23 PM on February 13, 2006

This is a good list of games for couples and I'm pretty sure that there have been a few more AskMe questions about this. In the middle of February, a lot of people feel like you do. My partner and I have been working pretty hard to not just sit and dully stare at each other each night, or watch movies and/or old Office episodes every night. Here are a few things that we do:

- learning board games, weird card games. sometimes it's fun to just learn a project together, we split time between board game stuff (current fave, backgammon) and programming projects (trying to learn how to add categories to a home made blogging tool)
- communicate with others. I've been sending packages to other friends who I assume are similarly afflicted, when I do that he catches up on email, we chitchat.
- exercise. we do some stretches in the evening before bed, not a real great fun thing, but sometimes good for stress reduction
- reading aloud - find a good book, preferably one that is somewhat funny (bill bryson works for me) and read it to eachother, taking turns. It's calming and a good way to spend together time without thinking too hard.
- foot/shoulder/temple.neck rubs - Really go all out, get some massage oil, light a few candles.
- documentaries - go get a few documentaries from the library and watch them instead of the usual TV
- music - find new music online, stream audio shows, get some podcasts, this is like reading aloud, you can just sort of let it play and hang out listening to something together, we do this with standup comedians sometimes, very good to get to have a laugh together even if they day has been somewhat lackluster.
- fancy cooking - do something that requires a ton of preparation and do it in parts so that one night you have all the pieces in place and you can have an awesome meal without having to do too much work.
- kids - even though they're asleep, you can still do stuff for them. make fun lunches, design a book for them together, make sidewalk chalk, tub crayons, magnets for the fridge etc. Of course this is probably also fun to do with your kids, but you can think of this as the beta test for kid-worthiness of projects.
- plan a vacation -- you likely won't be broke forever, spending a little bit of time co-surfing and/or reading books talking about places you'd want to be is a good way to temporarily remove ennui by being where you are.
posted by jessamyn at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2006

Reading together is always fun, and it could be something as simple as the newspaper or a magazine. Stop when you get to something interesting or thought provoking and share it with her. Have her do the same. Even better, read the same book or series of books individually and talk about the plot, where each of you are in the story, ect. during your down time.
The key, I think, is conversation. Finding something you both enjoy that will spark conversations about things other than the day-to-day.
posted by sarahmelah at 3:28 PM on February 13, 2006

Pick a cuisine and cook your way through a cookbook.

Take turns emptying your closet and having a fashion show - what stays and what goes? What does she love you in? What do you hate her in? Donate the rejects.

Table Topics

Yoga is a great idea. Rent some DVDs or Tivo an instructional show (Oxygen channel (maybe?) has one called "Inhale")

Pick one of those "Top 100 Blah Blah Blah" movie lists, cross out what you've both seen, work your way through the rest of the list.

Find out if there's volunteer work you can do from home. My son's teachers often have "homework" that parents can do. collating, stapling, so forth. Or volunteer work of the same ilky ilk for a charity. The women's shelter here has admin-type stuff I can do at home.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2006

About twice a month in the warmer months, I pick up a bottle of wine (or two) and a big slab of fancy cake (like one serving from a nice restaurant). We shower, get dressed up as if we're going out (dresses, suits..etc) and make the back patio real nice with candles, and we enjoy a really fun date at our own house.

*warning* this can end up with the nakedness factor you are for some reason wishing to avoid.

I would like to vote AGAINST jessamyn's advice to do something kid-focused. I have three of them boogers and a wife of 11 years whom I adore. When you are trying to break your cliche'd boring routine of work/kids/finance the last thing you and your partner need to be doing in your downtime is MORE KID FOCUSED STUFF. Take a breather for christ's sake!

We also enjoy board games. Scrabble, boggle. Window shopping the web for house stuff / project ideas is fun too. (And can be productive).
posted by glenwood at 3:34 PM on February 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

My mate doesn't always agree to this, but since I'm the type that finds it fulfilling to accomplish stuff, we have done redecorating-type stuff in the evenings. For example, if one person puts up the masking tape while the other begins edging, then the finished taper-person takes up a roller, you can totally repaint a room in about two hours.
posted by xo at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2006

If you're sufficiently geeky (and being on metafilter implies that you are), and your wife is of comparable intelligence to you, German board games are great. Some of the better ones (Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan) require three or more players, but Carcassonne or Powergrid work with two players. There are free on-line versions of all of these.

Poker or hearts or rummy or other card games. Chess, backgammon, Scrabble.

Or you can go the self-improvement route:
*Learning a language can be fun together, but it doesn't have to be French or Spanish -- Latin might be a blast, or physics or philosophy or any of a number of other subjects that you didn't get a chance to study in school.
*The library is free. Hold your own book club.
*I like the exercise suggestion.
*Picking stocks together can be fun if you have savings that need investing, and can save you some money in investment advisors.
*Mathematically inclined? Learn to count cards, and make your next trip to Las Vegas that much more interesting.
posted by commander_cool at 3:38 PM on February 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

I would definitely say 'pick a series' and start watching it. I know many couples, including some of my teachers, who have a sort of 'baseline' with a TV show--24, Lost, whatever. Preferably an episodic movie-like show--you know, the longer ones.

Awaiting the next episode, or better yet, renting the dvd(s) and watching an episode or two a night is something to cuddle together to, and it's often entertaining.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 3:46 PM on February 13, 2006

I have a friend who reads aloud to his wife each night. He enjoys reading to her. She enjoys being read to.
posted by snowjoe at 3:48 PM on February 13, 2006

I second the reading aloud. Also, musical instruments if one or both of you play. Quilting. Long-term travel planning (with kids and without).
posted by rikschell at 4:09 PM on February 13, 2006

Also for the reading aloud. I know other couples who enjoy it. We don't read aloud to each other but I'll read out any particularly good snippets of whatever I'm reading, or summarise sections of the book to my hubby if I think he'll be interested.

We also play Settlers of Catan -- it's definitely not as good with two but it is doable -- or Mancala. We also have Baldur's Gate for the PS2, which is co-op, and some player-vs-player games like Need for Speed Underground and Spy Vs Spy.

We also do some web-surfing together, show each other weird stuff we find or interesting articles.

We don't actually have many hobbies in common, but we can share each other's space while we go about doing our own thing. If I'm cooking or baking in the kitchen, my hubby will bring the laptop out and sit at the breakfast bar so he and I can talk while we work -- or vice versa. We like to talk about our future plans for the house: paint colours, garden design, organisation ideas; or plan things for the future. Later this year we're going on a family campervan holiday so we've spent a bit of time researching that together.

We sort through our photos, caption them and upload them for the extended family.

A lot of tutorials and how-to stuff is available on DVD -- you could find something you'd both like to learn (musical instrument, handcraft, language) and do it together.
posted by tracicle at 4:40 PM on February 13, 2006

Video Games -- specifically cooperative play. And watch out for the ones that allow friendly fire; That can cause marital strife.

Playing UpWords without keeping track of the score can be good too.

Read MetaFilter together. There is usually an article worth discussing, no matter who you are.
posted by tkolar at 4:46 PM on February 13, 2006

Lots of good ideas so far. Many of these might be repetitions:

Learn something together - a language, craft, a new card game every night, a hobby.

Talk - unfortunately many of us are out of practice in the lost art of talking, particularly with people we are constantly around, ironically. So you could read a book together and discuss it (obviously, you don't want to spend too much of your together time reading, so get it done during the day). You could both make sure you find an article, website, or something to talk about every day. Or if you are particularly adept at this lost art, just sit down and talk.

Play games. Remember, games aren't just for kids. There are always intellectual/strategic games that are perfectly suitable for adults like chess or scrabble, but "children's" games can be fun too.

Write a blog together - Maybe it can be a side project to some other project you take on together. A blog about learning to knit, or learning a language. You could check out a new movie every other night and review it the alternate nights. Remember, it's nice for people to read your blog, but they're most important as a creative outlet, even if nobody reads them.

There's always throwing cards into a hat if you get really bored.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2006

This is the question I never would have thought to ask. We've been stuck in a rut for after the kid is in bed. This is inspiring. Thanks everyone for the ideas.
posted by raedyn at 6:17 PM on February 13, 2006

My fiance and I do pilates and then often watch TV. However while we watch TV we often have a bit of a discussion or do web stuff. It's difficult when broke to do fun things. If we had plenty of money we would go out and do fun stuff all the time but that is not the case.

Sometimes we play video games together...well she plays and I root her on or vice versa.
posted by UMDirector at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2006

Read out loud to each other, but record it for Librivox.
posted by hooray at 7:05 PM on February 13, 2006

Write letters (that are to be mailed, not email) to family/friends with one person dictating and the other writing/typing.

This has the multiple functions of sharing your lives with your loved ones and communicating with your SO your personal take on shared events which will lead to meaningul conversation most likely to not center around finances, though I assume the kids will creep into the stories.
posted by iurodivii at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2006

Our favorites are reading together, watching a DVD (Netflix), talking about our goals & dreams, cooking together.

I heard a speaker recently talking about how communication between parents tends to become either a) talk about the kids issues, or b) talk about the problems of the day (work, school, car, etc.). She asked: "If you took away the problems, would you and your [spouse] have anything to talk about?"

Kudos to you for recognizing this, and acting.
posted by dunderhead at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with the "pick a show and watch it" idea. Mr. Lucinda and I recently did that with The Sopranos (just finished the last episode of Season 5 tonight, in fact).

If you play boardgames, make sure you find one where one of you doesn't dominate the other 100% of the time (Scrabble is out of the question for us, since I'd pound him every time we play). Mille Bornes works for us.
posted by Lucinda at 8:09 PM on February 13, 2006

Car repair/maintainence (with or without a beer) can be fun and informative for both. (Really, I mean it! Even if one is just watching.)

Get a telescope from a friend or secondhand and look at the stars and planets.

Do home repair - insulate a wall (with all of the demolition that is involved) repaint using some fancy techniques they can show you at the home repair stores, replace a sink or other things.

Get your bikes in top shape for riding on weekends. (You could also work on the kids' bikes or trailers.)

Buy old furniture, clocks, sewing machines or other stuff second hand or at auctions and then refinish or learn how to repair them.

Build a hotrod.

Listen to Public Radio.

Ok, so most of these things are things that my husband enjoys and I kind of sit around and do some of the less technical, but I have really enjoyed just being there with him while he does the more technical stuff and I do the stuff dealing with sewing or manual labor. And most of these things don't have to cost a lot, at least at the outset. (Building the hotrod can be pricey, but compaired to some things that other guys get - big sound systems or TVs, I think that we aren't spending too much.)

Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 9:04 PM on February 13, 2006

You may not want an "activity" since that can just be an additional element of stress after a long work day. Instead of looking for a way to fill some hours, what you really want is an excuse to touch one another. Not sex, but real no-pressure intimacy. This can be as simple as brushing her hair, massages, thumb wars (don't laugh, thumb wars involve copious strategies), reading the same book/magazine, rigirously mapping out the areas of your body that are ticklish (it's sad that most people don't do this!), card games (feet under the table), or, if all else fails, just sit on the porch and hold hands. I don't really dig the whole couples' hobby/activity thing but the sort of relaxed intimacy you get from just constant physical contact is wonderful.
posted by nixerman at 10:29 PM on February 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Learn cat's cradle - slightly physical but fully clothed!
posted by penguin pie at 10:29 AM on February 14, 2006

our baby is 10 months; my wife is now a stay-at-home mom; our household income has reduced by 50 percent... i believe i know where you're at.

we play scrabble mercilessly; we watch our arrested development and the office dvds religiously; we talk about the baby; she makes cookies; i read to her from the newspaper or time magazine; we watch the daily show; we look at baby clothes and baby gear online together.

this is our life now and it's pretty darn good.
posted by RockyChrysler at 6:15 PM on February 14, 2006

Variations on the cooking idea:

Get a book on pastry making. It's challenging but you can do it after dinner and not worry about whether it's a success. You'll also have the ability to contribute to family gatherings, pot lucks etc in a way which will be remembered. People love pastry.

Try learning the basics of whole new cuisine, like Vietnamese or Indian. Bonus here is that the ingredients for these tend to be inexpensive and this will save you $$$ over the long haul.
posted by thayerg at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2006

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