A night in with a few board games can get your motor going (and it's free).
This economy is a real bummer. I was counting on the president having it fixed by now. I suppose that's why we don't only give presidents 100-day terms. At any rate, since times are bad (from a financial standpoint) and I have lots of space to fill, I've started to suggest things that you can do which are fun and free (note: I can't guarantee anything is free). This time around, we'll get the juices flowing with a little healthy competition.
Competition, within the context of a relationship, comes in three primary forms: civil war, Man Vs. Machine and us against the world. While the latter two options seem similar, there are distinctions, which will be made abundantly clear. Read: Are You Too Competitive With Your Guy?
Civil War: Direct competition with your significant other is one of the best ways to get the old motor revving; unfortunately it's a path replete with pitfalls. But there are some nice vines that can swing you across that chasm.
1) Keep the stakes realistic. Unreasonable wagers that will never, ever be paid out cheapen the whole operation. Sometimes bragging rights are enough (but a homemade trophy or title like "El Magnifique" would really help).
2) Keep the trash talk to a tolerable level. Chances are you know your opponent well, know the limits of what you can say to her (or him). Feel free to flirt with the line of what is and what is not tolerable, do your best not to cross it.
3) Know each other's strengths. Unless you totally have an ass for a face, winning handily every time loses its charm faster than dating John Mayer. Play games that everyone has a chance at. Or alternate ass-whoopings in a round-robin fashion.
4) Have a safe word. Generally, safe words are the province of kinky sexplay. But game night can get pretty intense too. Saying "abracadabra" can defuse a situation much more readily than flipping over the Chinese Checkers board.
Man Vs. Machine: Most people think that the cooperative route is the best way to go but there are some drawbacks to hitting "Select" during the intro to Contra. Namely, the limited upside and the massive downside. Even if the "computer" is just a book of crossword puzzles, the inability of one partner to "pull his weight" can make a co-op game of Double Dragon a dating disaster. Keep in mind it's only a game and no one will see you if you press reset. Read: Keys to Bliss: Sex, Love and Nintendo?
It's us against the world: One couple facing off against another couple mixes the most exhilarating parts of competing and collaboration. It allows couples the chance to win together or die together. The upside, crushing your enemy, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of the women, can really make a couple feel connected. Unfortunately, the downside is awful. Being defeated by another couple is a really good way to feel pretty awesome about yourselves. There's no kind of shameful ride home like being humped at Scrabble by another couple. The same four rules that apply to inter-relationship competition can apply here.
Oh and by the way, I've learned the hard way that absolutely no one likes the kind of smart Alec that insists on playing only the games that they rule at, like, for instance, Trivial Pursuit.
A few good games that require little skill but can get intense: Connect Four, Yahtzee, Chutes And Ladders. Fun medium skill games: Monopoly, Scene It, Boggle, Outburst, Scrabble, Pictionary (and Dirty Pictionary), Charades (Sexy Slang), Trivial Pursuit. Fun(ish) high skill games: Risk and possibly Chess and Backgammon.
Note: Including the designation "strip" in front of any game title really makes everyone a winner.