11 Ways to Make Your Long-Distance Valentine’s Day Feel Closer Than Ever, According to Relationship Experts
For long-distance couples, navigating the limits of remote dates can be daunting. Special occasions like Valentine’s Day can help couples feel closer, even when they’re neighborhoods, hours, or oceans apart. They serve as an excuse to go all out, and as reminders to reconnect.
However, if you’ve been planning virtual date nights for months or years now, it’s easy to fall back onto tried-and-true routines that feel more than a little stale. Kiaundra Jackson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, advises long-distance couples to prioritize switching things up by not engaging “in the same things each day with your partner.”
How do you make that happen? We asked pros and long-distance couples alike for their tips.
First, get real with yourself about what YOU want to do.
Licensed professional counselor and author of “No More Fighting: The Relationship Book for Couples” Alicia Muñoz suggests couples should “have a conversation about what you want to do on Valentine’s Day in advance” and not hope your partner “will read your mind.” She recommends for each party to “take some time to jot down your own ideas for what you’d like to do.”
“Don’t edit yourself, just write down your ideas,” Muñoz adds. “This process alone of giving yourself permission to ‘want’ for the pure creative pleasure of it can be liberating.”
After you spend some time dreaming up your ideal Valentine’s Day, share your list with your partner to compare notes and decide which ideas you each like best. According to Muñoz the goal of this exercise is “to get both of you out of whatever rut you might be in; to start anticipating doing something different and fun together; and to put a little thought, creative energy, and collaboration into celebrating your connection, despite the obstacle of your temporary physical separation.”
Stumped for fulfilling long-distance date ideas? Try these options on for size:
1. Play a game together.
Perhaps as a result of Covid-19, there are now tons of virtual games geared toward human connection and getting to know one another. With many of these games geared toward couples, they’re totally perfect for a one-on-one evening. And bonus — you’ll get to know each other even better! Not able to get your hands on a physical game? Just get creative!
2. Create a shared playlist of songs.
The best long-distance valentine’s day activities are the ones that encourage couples to spend quality time together and strengthen their bond, which is especially important when they are unable to be physically close, says Dainis Graveris, Certified Sex Educator & Relationship Expert with SexualAlpha.
Creating a shared playlist of songs is one way to do just that. Perhaps you already have a bunch of songs that mean a lot to both of you. And if you don’t, now’s the time to start. Music evokes a range of emotions and is a wonderful way to connect. Whether you use iTunes, Google Play or just YouTube, use this special evening as a way to curate a playlist for just the two of you.
3. Create a video or photo montage.
Similarly, says Natalie Maximets, a certified life transformation and relationship coach at OnlineDivorce.com, the two of you can connect by creating a video or photo montage of your favorite moments together. That way, you can focus on the times you were together, rather than apart, and look forward to your next adventures in person.
4. Relish the process of finding a thoughtful gift.
Participating in a gift exchange can be a fun and exciting way to show your partner you care. As someone whose love language is gift-giving, I adore tailoring the perfect gift for my partner and watching him open it before my eyes. The swap can serve as something to look forward to when you’re apart. Even better, try opening your gifts on a video call to see each other’s surprised faces.
Shadeen Francis, a sex and relationship counselor, says that receiving a physical item from your partner can help long-distance couples feel closer, as they provide something to touch or hold when they’re thinking of one another. She recommends gifts like cozy clothing, stuffed animals, or even body pillows. “Bonus points if the object has a familiar scent, like their perfume/cologne or a comforting smell,” Francis adds.
5. Attend a virtual concert.
Before the pandemic, virtual events like concerts and theatrical performances were few and far between — now they’re the norm. Elise Gooding, a senior at California Polytechnic State University, and her boyfriend attend a virtual concert every Thursday. Their shared interest in music offers them a method to get to know each other better and regularly connect. (They also listen to a different album every week and discuss it!)
6. Enjoy a candlelit dinner over Zoom.
You can enjoy a meal together on a video call any day. For Valentine’s Day, go all out! Jackson advises that each person “set your living space in a sexy way,” with candles, a fancy drink, and dinner. “Enjoy it like you are in each other’s presence,” she adds. Don’t be afraid to use the holiday as an excuse to dress up, too! Muñoz recommends donning formalwear so you can get in the mood for the occasion.
As for the menu, there are plenty of options. You can use the date night as an opportunity to cook the same recipe (bonus points if you do so over a video call!) or order the same kind of cuisine from a local restaurant. For a twist, use a food delivery service to order each other food, without the other person knowing what kind of food they’ll be receiving. (The first time my partner and I did this, we both ended up ordering each other Thai food, which made us laugh and feel closer.)
7. Take an online class together.
Due to the pandemic, many educational and creative industries are now providing virtual classes. Airbnb expanded their “experiences” to online experiences, which include everything you can think of, from drag bingo to mixology classes. Plenty of local artists and small businesses host similar classes or private sessions on Zoom. Be sure to check your local listings to support creators in your community.
8. Watch a movie together.
Watching a movie together is the holy grail of long-distance dates. Since there are so many streaming options and extensions like Teleparty, couples can watch the same movie at the same time. “This is a good way to feel like you are actually at the movie theater with your partner or watching a movie together at home,” Jackson notes.
Muñoz suggests each person “make popcorn separately” and “cozy up in a favorite chair or on a couch.” Grab your favorite snack, pour yourself a soda (or your preferred drink), and hit “play” at the same time for a movie or a marathon.
9. Ask each other questions.
One of my favorite memories with my partner is an afternoon when we wandered around downtown Manhattan and asked each other “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” No matter how long you’ve been dating, these questions will reveal something new about your partner, big or small. You can also source questions from We’re Not Really Strangers, a card game designed to help players get real, really quickly.
Making an effort to get to know your partner may strengthen your bond and increase your emotional intimacy. “Deep connections are often built off of the feeling that your partner really knows you, and the only way that can happen is if you make a practice of sharing,” Francis explains. “Talking about vulnerable topics like feelings and dreams is a way to continue to feel involved in one another’s lives beyond the often superficial recounts of the day. Naming hopes or dreams for your relationship’s future can also reassure your partner that you are invested in continuing to grow the relationship.”
10. Read to one another.
Reading to another person may elicit uncomfortable memories of reading in your primary school days, but don’t let that deter you from making new and better memories! Muñoz recommends couples to “cuddle up in your different beds and alternate reading to each other,” whether they’re love poems or your favorite novel. Through this activity, you may even discover a new level of intimacy.
11. No matter what you do, end your date with a note of appreciation.
“It’s entirely possible for long-distance couples to manage the indefinite separation during the pandemic with commitment, communication, and creativity,” says Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a relationship counselor, clinical sexologist, and founder of Eros Coaching. Her recommendation: End every phone call, video session, or interaction “with a genuine appreciation or acknowledgment of your partner.” For example, Dr. Lee says to share “what aspect of them you still admire; what specifically you enjoyed of your one-hour chat, and so on… Fill your love bank because this is the time more than ever we need to feel seen, heard, and loved.”