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How to make Valentine’s Day work during COVID

Love in the time of coronavirus isn’t easy. Here’s how to keep the romance alive this year.

How are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? Chances are, it won’t look anything like the way you celebrated last year. Restaurants, movie theaters, concerts and even babysitters are off the table for many of us, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — which means that couples are going to have to get creative.

In some cases, though, your COVID Valentine’s Day may look a lot like your traditional Valentine’s Day — only with a little more social distancing and a few more public health precautions. “My husband and I have been doing ‘drive-thru’ date nights once a month,” explains Lorie Anderson, a parenting blogger at MomInformed. “My mother came to live with us at the beginning of quarantine, so she watches the kids for us. We order takeout from a restaurant with curbside delivery and sit in the car and chat for a while. It’s actually been a lot of fun, and that’s what we’re going to do on Valentine’s Day.”

Modifying the classic Valentine’s Day traditions is one way to go — but you and your partner might also be able to use this year’s atypical holiday to rethink what you want out of February 14. Does a good Valentine’s celebration always need to include a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a fancy dinner? Sure — if that’s what makes you both happy. But it’s worth asking yourself whether there’s something else you could be doing that might be even more meaningful for your Valentine’s Day celebration.

With that in mind, we reached out to two relationship experts to learn how couples can plan a COVID-era Valentine’s Day that works for them — or, if you have kids, a celebration that works for the entire family.

In this article:

Consider your love languages

A drive-thru dinner date night might be the perfect solution for a couple like Anderson and her husband — but that doesn’t mean it’s the best romantic dinner option for you and your partner. Before you decide how you’re going to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, it’s a good idea to consider what makes both you and your partner feel loved.

“When it comes down to deciding on what’s going to be special for you and your partner, it’s important to factor in their love language,” explains licensed marriage and family therapist Kim Egel. “Everyone has a different definition of what a special night is and what a special night looks like, especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day.”

The concept of love languages was popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman in the early 1990s. In his book The Five Love Languages, Chapman identifies five primary ways that people give and receive love:

If your partner’s primary love language is words of affirmation, make sure your Valentine’s Day plans include the opportunity to share what you truly appreciate about each other. If your partner feels loved when you perform acts of service, try making their lives a little easier by taking some of the day-to-day chores off their plate (or completing that one big task you’ve been putting off). If your partner’s primary love language is physical touch, well… you probably already know what to do to make the day feel special.

“Factoring in love languages is huge when it comes to desiring your partner to feel heard and acknowledged,” Egel told us. “If your partner doesn’t care about fancy restaurants and over the top gifts, chances are that you’ll miss the mark if you go in that direction.”

Keep in mind that the love language model allows you and your partner to make the day special even with COVID restrictions and public-health safety measures in place. You might not be able to make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, but you can still create a Valentine’s Day celebration that includes quality time spent together. All you have to do is figure out what this year’s version of quality time should look like — a drive-thru date, a living-room movie marathon or an evening spent going through old photos and reminiscing about all of the wonderful experiences that brought you and your partner together.

Ask yourself (and your partner) what you’ve been missing

As you and your partner discuss what might make this year’s Valentine’s Day feel special, you might want to ask if there is a specific pre-pandemic experience that they’ve been missing — and if there’s a way to make that particular experience happen on February 14. Communicate with your partner, discuss how to spend Valentine’s Day at home.

“Couples might want to gravitate towards what they have been longing for but that has either been overlooked or missed,” explains Meredith Prescott, a licensed clinical social worker who helps young adults and couples navigate relationships. “Maybe that means spending quality time together and doing an activity together that they haven’t had a chance to do or may have put off. Maybe that looks like being more intimate. Maybe for another couple, it means being gentle with each other and sharing things that they love about each other that they haven’t shared lately.”

It’s important for you and your partner to be honest with each other during this discussion — otherwise, you run the risk of agreeing to do something that neither of you really wants to do (like spending all afternoon in the kitchen, trying to re-create your favorite restaurant meal). It’s also important to remember that your Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to include any of the classic traditions. Instead of prioritizing fancy clothes, chocolates, red roses and gifts, for example, you could spend your Valentine’s Day resting and reconnecting. Brainstorm a date idea for your romantic night! Create a romantic restaurant experience at home, give each other a love letter that lists what you love most about your partner and take a romantic stroll through your hometown.  One of the few silver linings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s allowed many of us to rethink how we spend our holidays — and in some cases, create new and better ways of celebrating.

Come up with a plan for the kids

Trying to plan a low-COVID-risk Valentine’s Day celebration with your partner is complicated enough — but if you’re a busy parent, you’re also going to have to come up with something for your kids to do while you and your partner are reconnecting with each other.

“Allowing time for connection and bonding with your partner is so incredibly important,” says Egel. “If you’ve decided to have a date to honor the relationship with your partner, finding something to occupy the kids sounds essential to honoring what you’re striving to do: to connect solely with your partner.”

Parents probably already know which options might work best for their family, whether that’s asking an older sibling or grandparent (who lives in their household) to babysit for an evening, trading off date nights with another family in their quarantine pod or letting the kids watch a movie while the adults connect with each other in another room.

If you are able to let your children decide how they want to spend the evening — within reason, of course — that’s even better. “Giving your children their own time to create their own fun is important for their development,” explains Egel. She notes that asking your children to occupy themselves while you and your partner spend time together “sends the message that it’s not always about them,” which is another important developmental milestone.

If your children do choose to spend the night with you, maybe you can make some DIY dessert together. After your Valentine’s Day dinner, make some hot chocolate, chocolate covered strawberries, (chocolate anything really), or another sweet treat. Your kids will love the quality time you spend together almost as much as satisfying their sweet tooth cravings. To forget about your messy kitchen — have a glass of champagne!

That said, many parents believe that Valentine’s Day is less about their romantic relationship and more about their family’s love for each other — which means that you might want to come up with a day that makes everyone feel special. That’s the kind of Valentine’s Day celebration that Michelle Meredith of Bright Color Mom has in mind:

“Traditionally, on Valentine’s Day, I give my kids some chocolates and a small gift, like a book or a little toy. My husband and I usually go out to dinner while the kids spend the night at their grandmother’s,” she says. “This year, even though my children still see their grandmother a couple of times a week, they won’t be spending the night —  because my husband and I won’t be going out. I’m still not comfortable eating inside restaurants. We’ll be treating our children as our Valentines this year! On top of their usual gifts, we’re going to pick up my kids’ favorite restaurant dinner to eat together at home. Then we’ll pop some popcorn, make hot chocolate, and watch a movie (picked by the kids, of course) with the fireplace going. After they go to bed, my husband and I are going to watch an episode of one of our favorite grown-up shows together. It’ll still be special for all of us, and it has given all of us something to look forward to in a time when happy anticipation has been hard to come by.”

If you can create a Valentine’s Day that everyone in your family looks forward to, you’re doing it right — no matter how you end up celebrating this year.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

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