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To Have a Great Valentine’s Day, Do This One Thing

If you’re in a relationship, take action to ensure it's a good day.

Key points

  • There's a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on Valentine's Day.
  • It helps to focus not on how your day looks to others, but how it feels for you and your partner.
  • Large, romantic gestures are lovely, but not found to be a key ingredient for long-lasting love.
Sixteen Miles Out/Unsplash
Sixteen Miles Out/Unsplash

Valentine’s Day, like many holidays, is emotionally loaded. Very few people don’t have an opinion about Valentine’s Day. Some love and cherish it, seeing it as an opportunity to spoil their partner or themselves; others hate and avoid it, viewing it as a day riddled with unrealistic expectations or as a painful reminder that they’re single. Any and all feelings about this day are understandable. This post is for people who are in a relationship and generally like Valentine’s Day.

Even those who look forward to February 14 are prone to sadness when the day arrives. As wonderful as celebrating our relationships is in theory, in practice it can be difficult to do.

One reason is because we may set unfairly high expectations for what Valentine’s Day should entail. This has only gotten worse with the advent of social media, where we can see influencers casually posting their idyllic day with heart emojis: Breakfast in bed? A surprise horseback ride on the beach? A private chef cooking a romantic meal for two? I mean, who doesn’t celebrate that way?

Here’s What to Do

Sit down by yourself and take a deep breath. Think about the person you love and the times when you feel closest and most connected to them. Write down those moments—where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re treating each other. Now think of how you can have these moments during Valentine's Day. Maybe it’s a bunch of small moments you can string together, or maybe it’s a bigger moment you make time for. Aim for feeling connected and close instead of an activity that looks romantic or meets societal expectations for what a couple “should” do on Valentine’s Day.

Do you love cooking dinner together while dancing to your favorite music? Do you feel most connected when you're out walking the dog, undistracted by unfinished tasks at home? Are you happiest when you're snuggled up on the sofa together, indulging in a favorite episode or quietly reading side by side? Or, do you feel closest when you're dressed up at a restaurant? Don't think about what you "should" do (chocolates, red roses, etc.) or what looks good on social media; think about what makes you feel happiest and most connected with your loved one.

Sitting down to write down these moments and intentionally plan a day of connection is important. Relationships require work and effort, and being willing to invest in those things is incredibly romantic. It shows your commitment and love. Remember: This should be empowering; you have a say in how your Valentine’s Day unfolds. Don’t leave it up to your partner, hoping they read your mind or surprise you with something you didn’t even know you wanted. That’s too much pressure and you might end up disappointed. You are half of your relationship, and if you want to have a great day with your partner, you have a lot of power to make that happen.

Source: Allgo/Unsplash

Remember That Love Happens Every Day

Celebrating love is a daily occurrence. We can’t load up one day with romance and expect our relationship to thrive the rest of the year. Love is built on many small moments that seem insignificant but aren’t. It’s not the long-stemmed red roses; it’s when your partner puts their phone down as you start talking about your day. It’s coming home stressed about all the dishes in the sink, only to find you’re your partner already took care of them. It’s a long, cuddly hug before you walk out the door.

So, as we should do every year, let’s lower the expectations on Valentine’s Day. It’s a lovely winter day to take a moment to cherish the people you love, and it doesn’t have to be a romantic comedy.

The Key to Happy Relationships

Decades of research by the Gottman Institute reveal that happy, long-lasting couples "turn toward" each other when one partner makes a "bid" for connection (Gottman & Silver, 2015). A bid is any attempt at connection, affirmation, or attention. It can be an attempt to find physical connection through a hug, start a conversation, or even just share a moment together.

Couples that stay together pay attention when their partners reach out. Happy couples put their phones down when one partner starts speaking; they listen and respond to even seemingly trivial comments ("Did you see that huge bird fly by just now?"); and they generally lean into any opportunity to connect and show love.

It's worth noting that research has not found that relationships require frequent, large, Instagram-worthy romantic gestures. Those romantic efforts are lovely, but they are not what makes a strong, long-lasting, happy relationship. Rather, the strongest relationships prioritize continuous investment in emotional connection.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Post

This will be controversial, I know, but try not posting your Valentine’s Day plans. Have a beautiful dinner without snapping pictures of your plate, or go for a hike together without posting a story from the summit. It’s wonderful to let the world know that you’re happy, but doing so doesn’t boost your relationship. Valentine’s Day is about your love for each other, not what your friends and family (and strangers) think about your relationship.


Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work : A Practical Guide From the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert: Vol. [Second edition]. Harmony.

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