date night in months
Ronnie Koenig

One of the things I miss the most from our pre-coronavirus lives is date night. And although we had a few at-home dates during the pandemic, when Gov. Murphy announced that restaurants were open for outdoor service as part of Phase 2, I couldn’t wait to throw on a dress, leave the kids with grandma and go pretty much anywhere besides our kitchen table.

These days, the only time we get to be “off” is when the kids are asleep and even though it’s possible to come up with some innovative date night ideas you can do from home, I was thrilled when we got a reservation at one of our favorite places, The Blue Bottle Café in Hopewell. Although I knew that dining out would look very different, with socially distanced tables and waitstaff wearing masks, I was honestly just excited to get out of the house and have the chance to reconnect with my husband.

Evie Shafner, LMFT, a relationship therapist who offers teletherapy, date night is actually more important than ever during these unusual times.

“Even if we are together all day, we might not really be connecting, as we tend to all the survival things we are doing,” says Shafner. “So, creating some space for connection is a really good idea right now.”

When we arrived at the restaurant, tables were set up in front of the building by the parking lot. When we were told there was a slight delay, I quickly said that I didn’t mind at all and I would be fine sitting anywhere since it was the first time in near four months (!) we had left the house without the kids.

“Us too!” exclaimed another couple standing nearby, also waiting for a table. Suddenly, I realized that restaurants opening was about so much more than just being able to enjoy elevated cuisine—there were all these parents just like us, dying for a chance to get a break from the pressure of homeschool, working from home and trying to keep our families safe (and sane).

“These are really hard times and we might all get reactive,” says Shafner. “It’s so important to cut ourselves, and each other, some slack. We don’t have a lot of control about what’s happening out there. But we can commit to talking and acting in ways that maintain our connection with each other.”

Everyone at The Blue Bottle Café went out of their way to make sure all of the guests were safe and comfortable—and it was an absolute treat to be able to just be out to dinner, let alone experience the seasonal, innovative cuisine of Chef Rory Philipson.

If you’re thinking of trying outdoor dining, know that restaurants everywhere are doing their absolute best to ensure that you have a safe, socially-distanced experience. But also, do it for your relationship. After months of stress and worry, it’s more important than ever to rediscover your partner and take a break from the constant pressure of work and parenting if you can! We brought along a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé we had been saving for a “special occasion.” Sitting in a parking lot on a warm summer night, alone with each other for the first time in months with the space to finally talk and just be, it was definitely very special.

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