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Something as simple as a romantic dinner out on Valentine's Day (especially if you have kids) to spend some quality time together will still be a great date idea. And a well-thought card expressing your love for each other goes a long way.
Something as simple as a romantic dinner out on Valentine's Day (especially if you have kids) to spend some quality time together will still be a great date idea. And a well-thought card expressing your love for each other goes a long way. (Viktoria Faion/Dreamstime/TNS)

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Depending on where you are in a relationship (or where you’re not), it can be a day of roses and chocolates, love letters and hearts, uncertainty and stomach pangs, or leftover Pad Thai and a whole bottle of wine to drink solo. Whatever your situation this Valentine’s Day, I want to provide some date ideas for any stage in a relationship:

Couples in very long-term relationships (including marriage):

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At this stage, you may have already exhausted your cute and romantic ideas when you were trying to woo each other at the earlier stages of your relationship. Something as simple as a romantic dinner out (especially if you have kids) to spend some quality time together will still be a great date idea. And a well-thought card expressing your love for each other goes a long way.

Many people in long-term relationships fall into the trap of wanting to conform to other people’s views of what Valentine’s Day should look like, especially when they see other couples posting their romantic evenings all over Facebook or Instagram. Often, the most secure couples post the least because, rather than broadcasting their relationship to the world, they are actually living in it. For that reason, if you don’t want to give into the hype that is Valentine’s Day, then here are a few ideas that can still bring you closer to your partner without breaking the bank or getting suckered into someone else’s idea of what the holiday should be about:

— Stay home, cook dinner, and put your phones away. The last part is the key here. In order to be fully present, then we have to actively remove the stimulus that might be distracting. In other words, give yourself a break from your phones for a few hours!

— Repeat your first date. Presumably your first date wasn’t for a three-course dinner. (If it was, then we have some talking to do.) If you went out for a glass of merlot at the bar around the corner, then that seems like the perfect way to spend the holiday.

— Do whatever you want! The point here is that you should celebrate however you want. If going all out is your thing, then do it. If it’s not, then don’t. Rather than trying too hard to do what you think you’re supposed to do, just ask your partner what he or she wants to do, then do that.

Couples in new relationships:

This is probably the most fun place to be for Valentine’s Day. You likely get butterflies just thinking about spending your first V-Day together. If you want to buy into the holiday (and I do partially mean literally, with the cards, flowers, and chocolate), then go for it! Why not? And if that’s not your style, then go crazy watching (or making fun of?) other people doing this stuff! Or just keep it low key if that’s more your thing, and declare it your own celebration.

People who just started seeing each other and aren’t sure where it’s going:

This is where things may get a bit hairy. I’ve had clients ask me, after having gone on one or two successful dates, “What do I do for Valentine’s Day? Do I make a big deal of it? Do I even acknowledge it? Do I buy something?” This holiday adds so much unnecessary pressure. I would treat your next date like any other second or third date, without the “V-Day pressure” creeping in. Maybe you’ll go to a comedy show, or maybe you’ll go play Connect Four at a bar. If you want to go out with someone on Friday, great! If not, great! I wouldn’t buy into the hype when things are so fresh. The best thing you can do, whether you go out on V-Day or not, is to simply say, “I’m really excited to see where things go.” It’s honest and simple.

Single people:

Do not fret! Some people think that being single on Valentine’s Day is the kiss (or lack thereof) of death. It’s not. You don’t have to pay a fortune for fixed-priced menus, you won’t gain weight from eating the entire heart-shaped box of pecan clusters in one night, and you don’t have to read through all of the sappy Hallmark cards to try to pick just the right one. This holiday can be what you make of it, and I encourage you not to make a big deal of it. It’s just a day after all. Go out like you normally would on a Friday night. Have a ladies’ night or a guys’ night. No need to make faces at all of the people in couples. Instead, remember all of the blessings you have in your life … most importantly right now, your freedom.

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Whatever you decide to do on Valentine’s Day, stay true to yourself, and don’t let the pressure get the best of you. If you’re with the right person, have a ball, and if you’re not, well, have a ball. It’s on a Friday night, after all.

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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH

©2020 Erika Ettin

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