TEXAS, USA — Finding time and opportunities to reconnect in a marriage while juggling kids, full time jobs and caring for elderly parents is difficult even when there is not a global pandemic. But, add in the stress of being stuck working and learning from home and not having the usual entertainment options available, the concept of a "date night" for couples is practically nonexistent.
This has led couples to seek out COVID-safe subscription date boxes to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.
With three kids and full time jobs, my husband and I relied on going to the movies and our favorite restaurants and bars as a way to slow down, reconnect, and get some alone time. Like many families, we are concerned about the spread of COVID-19, and are trying to avoid in-person activities, even though many of them are currently open and operating. Our family also has health issues that put us at higher risk of serious illness. Outdoor hikes and Netflix nights have helped, but we felt there still something missing from our dating life.
When we looked into subscription date boxes, we found a range of offerings. Cratejoy has a box for more craftsy couples, The Adventure Challenge has a box for daring, adventurous couples, and "Hunt A Killer" offers a murder mystery date for the true crime-loving couple. The list goes on and on for just about every type of couple.
For our at-home date, we wanted to start off with a little of everything and a surprise waiting for us each time. We signed up at Happily.co and I immediately felt huge relief at just getting the ball rolling for some quality time and a fun date night. The signup process involves a questionaire about the nature of our relationship and the things we enjoy together. Simply filling that out was a nice experience on its own, forcing us to reflect on our marriage for the first time in the many stressful months of the pandemic. The questions help the company tailor the date box specifically to the couple.
Our first date box arrived three weeks later. At this point, we have gone through two dates from Happily, each with their own pros and cons. The boxes involve games, food and desserts that you make together, conversation starters and simple craft-making.
I'll start with the games, which was what my husband and I were most excited about.
The first box came with a game called "Cruise Ship Escape" and we were instantly intrigued. The rules were a bit confusing, but we started to figure it out. The game involves three envelopes, each containing clues to discover a code and save the cruise ship from pirates. It was pretty thrilling, even though we felt a bit silly pretending we were on a cruise ship being taken over by pirates. Despite that, we ended up loving the game. We laughed a lot and we loved working together to solve the clues. Warning: the game involves math.
The second box included two games: Three-peat, a sort of twist on pictionairy and Charades, and a YouTube challenge game.
Three-peat was fun but frustrating in some parts. Each person chooses a word or phrase from a jar in each round. The first round requires the person describe their word or phrase verbally, the second round requires the person draw their word and the third round requires only giving one word to describe the word or phrase. And the other person must guess from those clues. We made it through the first two rounds pretty quickly and we thought we were going to nail this game, but the third round was much harder than we realized! Some of the words are nearly impossible to describe with only one word and allow the other person to reasonably guess. We ended up getting very frustrated with each other and we cheated and gave each other clues, which was against the rules.
The other game in that box was the YouTube challenge, with prompts such as "pick the video that makes you laugh the most" and "pick a music video from your favorite song from high school". This was also really fun, gave us some good laughs, and sent us down a delightful rabbit hole of sharing our favorite music from our youth.
Overall, though, I have to say the Cruise Ship Escape was our favorite game for the laughs, the teamwork and feeling of accomplishment at the end.
I am guessing the company presumes you have had dinner on your own somehow because both of the boxes involved simple-to-make-dessert ingredients and instructions. It was basically like Hello Fresh but for desserts.
The first recipe was a s'mores dip. The kit came with marshmallows, chocolate chips and graham crackers. Making the dip was quick and fun, even the least experienced baker (like me!) could easily whip this up. It was delicious, but a bit too much for just two people (we shared with the kids).
The second recipe was coconut macaroons. This recipe was a bit more involved and incorporated some actual baking techniques, such as separating egg whites and vigorous whisking. It was a learning experience for us and the macaroons were delicious! It was more work, but worth it.
Having no problems in the conversation department, my husband and I thought the "conversation starters" would be a bit silly and unnecessary for us. The questions from the first box were more intimate, encouraging us to consider what makes us a good team and how we each support the other. It started out somewhat awkwardly, but I did end up appreciating actually voicing specifics about our relationship and how we operate.
The second box questions were more general and along the lines of favorite food, favorite teacher, etc. It was mostly stuff we already knew about each other, but we still enjoyed repeating the stories. This might work better for newer couples. But, it did remind my husband of this hilarious clip from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life, which sparked even more laughs. "Have a nice conversation!"
Out of the two sets of questions, we liked the more emotional first set better.
Only one of the date boxes came with a craft kit, so I don't think it comes every month. It was candle-making, which was very intimidating for me at first. But, the instructions were very easy to understand and follow. It basically involved melting down the wax, mixing in the fragrance and pouring it into the tins with the wick placed at the bottom. It was very fun and we can say we learned a new skill! The fragrance smelled wonderful and brightened up the whole house.
Of course, we cannot wait to get back to going to movies, restaurants and festivals without fear of COVID-19. But, the date boxes, whichever style you choose, are a good way to set aside time and prioritize your relationship. I feel that we really did benefit a lot from the boxes and they did give the familiar feeling of doing something special that we used to get from date night. My husband felt that it created a fun, carefree atmosphere in the house because the planning was already done for us. And not having to figure out what to wear was a bonus! I imagine a lot of busy, stressed-out couples will continue using date night boxes for the comfort and convenience even after the pandemic is over.
Kristin Dean is an executive producer for KENS5.com. When she is not writing for the website, she enjoys spending time with her husband, twin girls and "singleton" toddler!