Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, but the usual glad rags and suit and tie are no longer on the agenda. Whether you have been together for 50 years or six months, the pressures to celebrate are inescapable – so how can you mark the day when you cannot even leave the house?
Three relationship experts have offered advice on how to make this Valentine’s Day special, whether you live with a partner or not.
– Nostalgia: Getting back to basics
Wajeeha Amin, a psychotherapist by trade and a relationship expert for 10 years, explained the importance of remembering why you are with your partner.
She said: “Bring nostalgia into it. If you dig around your house, in your drawers, wardrobe, under your stairs or cupboards, you might find stuff that reminds you of what brought you together.
“When we tap into nostalgia that releases endorphins and serotonins, it releases all those good chemicals, and that is essentially what you are trying to create. You are saying: ‘I am here, I want to celebrate with you, I want to celebrate your highs and be with you in your lows’.”
– The power of food
The positive effects of sitting down and eating a home-cooked meal have been proven time and time again, and Valentine’s Day is no different.
Ms Amin said: “Do a home-cooked meal, maybe it might be the first meal that you cooked for each other when you were first getting to know each other and impress each other. Maybe going back to that tuna bake or whatever it was.”
Dr Jacqui Gabb, chief relationships officer at the Paired app, and a professor of sociology and intimacy at the Open University, said: “It might just be that you have fish and chips supper and a couple of beers, but that can be just as meaningful. It is thinking about what works in your relationship and to make sure that you do something which feels good for you as a couple.”
– Staying romantic: Small gestures make all the difference
Experts say small gestures such as leaving a message for your partner to find can have hugely positive effects, but it doesn’t work for every couple.
Ms Amin said: “Just to wake up one morning and open your laptop and there is a little note tucked into your laptop saying ‘I love you’, or has a little joke that you used to say when you were getting to know each other, or even a pet name. It says, ‘I am here, I still care, and we might be stuck together but it’s a reminder that you are a special person in my life’.”
Dr Gabb added: “It is thinking about ‘dressing the set’ where we are now to think ‘this could be an important evening’, not because it is the be all and end all and that one day is going to make all the difference, but thinking it is about making an investment in the relationship, making a commitment to that partner and saying, ‘Right, I am going the extra mile because I value you’.”
– Couples who are struggling with lockdown
Lockdown has been a strain on everybody, and focusing on a relationship – whether familial, friendship or romantic – can be an answer.
Juliette Smith, a relationship coach and counsellor from Berkshire, said: “Love is the perfect antidote to fear. If you focus on love, you can’t be focused on fear. The most challenging aspects of the pandemic create fear, so if you’re feeling and expressing your love for your partner, it’ll reduce your feelings of fear and anxiety.”
Dr Gabb said: “If there is an argument that you keep having, work out is it a ‘real’ argument, or is it a niggle because you are just fed up with cabin fever – and if it is, then call it that, and do something different and remove yourself from the situation.”
– Couples who do not live together
The pandemic has forced many couples to live apart, so to celebrate Valentine’s Day, you might have to get creative.
Dr Gabb said: “I think it is a matter of working out how you can sustain that closeness, so you may not be able to have a physical proximity, but how do you retain that emotional closeness.
“Make the most of Zoom meetings and other platforms and get creative. You can go to the opera, you can go to the ballet, or a rock concert. You can do anything you like online so make that work for you. Make sure you are sharing that experience together.”