Space heater

You Don’t Necessarily Need to Leave Your House to Have a Hot Date Night

Our garage bar invigorated our marriage. For you, maybe it’s the living room floor.
You Dont Necessarily Need to Leave Your House to Have a Hot Date Night
Gracia Lam

This article is part of SELF’s Keep It Hot package, a collection of content that celebrates love and lust. Throughout February, we’ll be dishing out advice and inspiration for feeling hot, getting horny, and nurturing romantic relationships.

Kevin had a mission from the moment we finally got our cramped-but-cute piece of the suburban pie: to turn our home’s cement-floored, cobwebby garage into a bar akin to the beloved Manhattan dives of our youth. Though it took a good deal of strategizing, money (wood walls à la McSorley’s—costlier than you might think!), eBay trawling, and pandemic hours, he did it. 

The result is the GarBar: a dark, classic, surprisingly chic refuge plastered with gig posters and vintage pennants, where my husband reads novels, watches baseball, and listens to dad rock—and where all our friends want to hang out, even in the winter. (Space heaters help with the chill, but I do recommend a jacket.)

When baseball season’s over, our friends have gone, and we’re the GarBar’s only patrons, it becomes a different sort of place. It’s strange to say so, but some of the most tender, electric moments of this era of our marriage have occurred out there. 

We discovered the amorous pull of the GarBar by accident one night. I typically prefer to do my reading in bed, but Kevin asked me to come out and weigh in on some new art he’d put up—a Pavement poster, a tin beer sign, I forget—and, before I knew it, he was pouring me a second drink as we laughed, seated sideways at the bar, my feet in his lap. An early-aughts indie rock band was on the stereo, summer rain fell in sheets beyond the roll-up door, he looked so good in the faint light of the Edison bulbs he’d hung…you can guess where the evening took us. 

Now, when we reach one of those inevitable dips in closeness that occurs in any long-term relationship, and our conversations become utilitarian (Did you put the Shipt order through? Can you bring toilet paper upstairs?) rather than intellectually stimulating or flirty or probing, a “date” in the bar after our 5-year-old son has gone to sleep is a reliable cure. It’s also cost-effective—no babysitter’s needed, so long as you occasionally glance at the baby monitor app, and there’s no markup on the booze.

What’s so sexy about drinking beers in a concrete box? Good-natured trash talk, for one. Out there, we play darts, and the competitive frisson feels nervy and charged. What’s more, we have our drinks at the smooth oak bar while actually looking at each other, instead of doing what marriage constantly requires of us: looking toward our kid, or toward some household task, or inward at our own stressed-out psyches. In the garage, we revert to the people who we were before we became colleagues in the grueling 18-year product launch that is child-rearing, and snapping back into the sense memory of who your person was when you met is among the best aphrodisiacs going.

In fact, that’s the key to maintaining attraction: finding ways to occasionally scrape away the crud of daily life to delight in the human being underneath. Do you have to build a bar in your garage to do that? No. But you might have to shake up the context of your connection now and then. I find that simply going out to dinner doesn’t accomplish this. You get away for two hours, tops, much of which you might spend calculating how much this evening of sedate revelry is costing you (just me?). Instead, I suggest tweaking your routine into something slightly more delicious. 

When our son was small, it often felt as though our evenings were an exercise in turning off our brains and disconnecting from the world—and, by extension, each other. So, on a lark, we decided to make our way through the American Film Institute’s 100 best movies list. It was blessedly low-impact—we were just watching movies, after all—but it gave us more to talk about, and it was a decision instead of a default, which made our nights feel less like mental recovery, and more like actual fun. (Our biggest takeaway: Even if you think you’ll hate Singin’ in the Rain, you’ll love Singin’ in the Rain.)

What might this sort of shakeup look like for you? I can’t say, but I can tell you it needn’t be complicated. Have the same dinner you were going to have, but have it as a picnic, or get dinner to go and park somewhere pretty to eat it. Instead of parallel-scrolling on the couch together, go outside and watch the sky get dark. (Before there was a GarBar, there was a swing in our backyard where we read together after our son’s bedtime.) Instead of watching an episode of something before bed, sit at the kitchen table and play a board game. Do one small thing, and keep it manageable so it doesn’t feel like another task to cross off your list. These activities will go a long way toward increasing the cozy intimacy you share—but that’s not the point, exactly. The real objective is to shake off the dulling sensation that daily life can induce, leaving you primed for racier pursuits

These suggestions probably sound vaguely silly. Really, eat on the floor? Play Clue—us, two exhausted adults? But when you were first together, when everything your partner said was captivating and brilliant, wouldn’t you have done anything with them, without hesitation? If so, set aside your skepticism and give it a try. After all, sitting in a musty garage is pretty silly too—but that’s worked out very nicely indeed.