I’ll admit it–Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. I love the red hearts, roses, and sweet gestures from our loved ones. I know Valentine’s Day makes a lot of people roll their eyes, but it fills me with so much joy and excitement! I guess I’m a hopeless romantic. If you’re like me, you’re probably trying to think of ways to still make Valentine’s Day special this year, even in the middle of a pandemic. Maybe you’re not comfortable getting a hotel room or celebrating at your favorite restaurant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate. Here are a few ways we can still make Valentine’s Day special with our partners.

5 quick and easy ways to practice and engage in routine behaviors that lead to healthy intimacy

1. Set The Mood!
This is my top recommendation for Valentine’s Day, regardless of whatever else you decide to do! Our setting often affects our mood way more than we realize. Think about it–a messy house that smells like last night’s fried chicken doesn’t exactly scream romance. Instead, create an environment that’s pleasing to both the eyes and the nose! First, remove the clutter, which can be extremely distracting and even create anxiety for many people. And if the house is dirty, clean it! Not only will it look better, but it’ll probably smell better too. While you’re at it, light some candles to create a warm, romantic glow (if they smell good, even better!). Wash the sheets and make the bed, because what’s better than freshly-washed sheets? And if you really want to get fancy, throw some rose petals around. A clean house lit by candlelight and scattered with rose petals might be cliche, but you have to admit, it sounds romantic, right?

But don’t just clean the house! Many people find that it’s easier to get in the mood if they feel clean and confident with their appearance. So do a little pampering–take a shower, fix your hair, wear an outfit that makes you feel good, put on some cologne/perfume…do whatever will make you feel more confident in your own skin! A little confidence boost can go a long way in setting the mood.

2. Eat Your Heart Out
The way to my heart is through my stomach…anyone else? If you can’t go to your favorite restaurant for a romantic meal, get it to-go! One benefit of the pandemic is that most restaurants have figured out how to do carryout pretty well. And some restaurants even have meal kits that you can prepare at home together. Whether it’s a fancy steakhouse or Taco Bell, get your favorite food and enjoy each other’s company. Talk, laugh, and focus on each other while you eat.

If takeout isn’t your thing, or if you and your partner enjoy being in the kitchen together, cook something at home! Since Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday, you could even do breakfast in bed! No matter what meal you decide to cook, pick something that you both enjoy and can do together. Maybe even throw on some music and dance around the kitchen as you cook! Most importantly, have fun. The quality time and connection is more important than the food.

3. Foster Connection
Speaking of connection…isn’t that what most of us want on Valentine’s Day–to feel deeply loved and connected to our partner? Let’s put away our phones for a bit and spend the day trying to connect with the person we love. We all prefer to give and receive love in different ways, so try to play into what makes your partner feel loved. Perhaps you can write a letter of gratitude; tell your partner what you love about them and why you’re grateful to have them in your life. If love letters aren’t your thing, tell them verbally! Talk about the beginning of your relationship. Tell your partner what made you fall in love with them. Spend time reminiscing together!

Physical intimacy can be a wonderful way to connect with your partner. If you have a big enough tub, take a bath together! Talk, laugh, and rub each other’s feet. Or take turns giving each other massages. You and your partner will feel more relaxed and connected, and maybe even aroused. Which leads us to….

4. Get Intimate!
Whether it actually happens or not, we often associate Valentine’s Day with sex, right? Expectedly waiting for sex can build excitement and anticipation. Feel free to playfully tease each other throughout the day! You could even watch something steamy with your partner to help set the mood (Bridgerton, anyone?). Whatever you do, allow the anticipation and excitement to build!
But of course, sex isn’t easy for everyone. And for many, anticipating sex causes anxiety instead of excitement. If this sounds like you, then take the pressure off! Sex is not required on Valentine’s Day, so talk with your partner and take it off the table if you need to! Allow yourself to connect with your partner without having to worry about things escalating. Sex is not the only form of intimacy. Do whatever you and your partner are comfortable with and helps you both to feel loved and connected.

5. Spice Things Up
An easy way to do this is by trying something new. Maybe that means a new sex toy, new lingerie, or placing a mirror in a *fun* location. Get creative! This year has forced many of us to get creative in a lot of different ways, so use that to your advantage. Do something that you and your partner don’t normally do or have been wanting to do for a long time, whether it’s sex-related or not. A new board game is just as good!

Whatever you decide to do this Valentine’s Day, whether it’s a big production or a low-key night, try to view it as a special time to connect with your partner and celebrate the love you have for one another. No pressure needed. Valentine’s Day can seem cheesy and over-the-top, but it can also be a great reminder to tend to our most important relationships. Take advantage of the opportunity!