My wife Kathy and I have adopted the practice of setting aside everything else at 5:00 p.m. or so to sit down before dinner and play a game like two civilized people. We have a few favorites that seem to work out nicely as "lightly competitive diversions." They serve us well, because really, on any given afternoon, either of us could win, but both of us will have fun.
It has been tricky, though, to identify the games that work in this role. We'd never play chess, for example, because we would be somewhat mismatched, and it wouldn't necessarily be fun. We don't necessarily want to play a game that brings out the worst of our competitiveness; we would like to have a pleasant dinner together after the game is over. Also, many of our favorites work well when played among a group of friends but fail as two-player games. When we sit outside on a nice day, too, we have only small tables in the back yard, so sometimes there is the additional structural consideration of a game that doesn't take a lot of table space and doesn't have a lot of small pieces to drop or papers to lose in the breeze.
In future entries, I'll discuss some of our favorite games that we've found work well for our afternoon session. Today we played cribbage, of all things. This was a big favorite aboard ship when I was in the Navy some years ago, and it has been fun to resurrect at home. Although card luck plays its role, the skill comes (as in most card games) in making the most of the hand that is dealt. Kathy has, to my chagrin, learned to do that rather handily.
BoardGameGeek has a fascinating list of board games for this context, a "geeklist" entitled, "How Gaming Saved Our Marriage." We are already familiar with a number of games on this list, and I'm eager to try others. I'll be curious to know what two-player games others have found are "couple-friendly" rather than "relationship-straining."