Valentine’s Day comes with a set of expectations, and couples often feel pressured to “perform” the day properly — whether they actually want to or not. This year is no different, though traditional Valentine’s plans, like going out to dinner, are quite literally off the table. Plus, we’re stressed as is! Is it really worth adding even more to our plate, especially when so many couples feel suffocated by their partners already?
Curious, we asked eleven real couples how they’re spending their pandemic Valentines Days. Read on for some perspective on what Cupid has in store (or doesn’t).
Sherrie & Brandon, Rancho Cucamonga, California
“I’m a stay at home mom to two and Brandon works at a paper mill. Valentine’s Day is often an afterthought for us both and he is almost always working a twelve hour swing shift. It used to bother me. Then last year, on Valentine’s Day, he rescued a six week old kitten that was abandoned at work. We named him Cupid and will be celebrating his birthday for Valentine’s Day from here on out. This year, we’re going to solve a ‘Hunt a Killer’ box together. We love a Murder mystery.
I used to put so much pressure on having an Instagram worthy Valentine’s Day to show off to other couples. Now, over four years into the relationship, I’m just so grateful to be able to tell each other ‘I love you’ and do something nice for him, even if that means just throwing a towel in the dryer so it’s nice and warm for his after shower. And yes, our sons will be getting some cupid cake to celebrate our cat’s birthday but no, they are not invited to Hunt a Killer with us. Mom and Dad need to THINK!”
Leila & Grayson, Hudson Valley, New York
“We don’t live together yet. Grayson lives with his parents and I live with mine — my parents are very traditional and don’t believe in moving in together before marriage. But they leave us alone assuming that we just watch TV and workout so usually we’re always able to sneak in a quickie in my room and in the basement. We always celebrate Valentine’s Day and give each other a gift, ALWAYS. Our Valentine’s Day always consisted of going out to dinner and if we could sneak in sex we did. This year for Valentine’s Day, we don’t want to go to a restaurant, so we’re having dinner at my house. My mom said she will let us have the fancy dining room for us while she, my dad and brother will eat in the kitchen. After dinner hopefully, we can sneak in sex if we’re upstairs and my parents stay downstairs watching TV in the family room.”
Olivia & Soan, Los Angeles, California
“We were looking for a place together when the pandemic hit. I was living in an apartment with my best friend, then decided to move out to save money not knowing how long this would last and what else would happen. Soan and I moved into his parents’ home, they’re both above retirement age so we are literally all home together all the time. I feel like I am living in a sitcom. Last Valentine’s day I was sick and we ate Panda Express in bed. This year, we are hoping for something slightly more romantic. We have yet to settle on where we will be ordering food from but we are hoping to recreate a cute candle lit dinner moment in our backyard, I bought a dress for the occasion, because why not.
We have had to let Soan’s parents know we are planning ‘our own thing’ that evening. They wanted to order from ‘the best’ barbecue place in Kansas City, and we narrowly escaped that situation.”
Jessie & Luke, Phoenix, Arizona
“We’ve been together nine years, we met through mutual friends in Luke’s hometown. We usually travel for Valentine’s Day, sometimes to Oregon for beer tasting or just a quick staycation at a resort. One year we went to the Grand Canyon! This year, we’re taking our daughter and dogs to see my parents in our social distancing bubble one hour away in the mountains. There’s no romance in it, but it breaks up the routine and gives extra hands to help with entertaining the toddler so it’ll give us both a break. That felt like the closest we can get to romance right now.
I think it’s hard to feel romantic when everyday is balancing the stress of work, health, parenting, socializing without seeing anyone, mental health, and in my case chronic pain. But we have set fires in the backyard and had some wine and that felt very intimate! I think when everything else feels taken care of, we can focus on that. It just doesn’t come up as often as it used to. It makes me sad, but we’re also living through a pandemic so I’m giving us a huge dose of grace on that front.”
Emily & Jason, Portland, Oregon
“We met on OKCupid and we’ve been together for 3 years. In the past, Valentine’s Day hasn’t been a big deal. But I like to do something a little special. We usually try to go on a low key date, like a home cooked meal, something like that.This year, we’re actually going a little bit big. I highly miss going to the movies so we’re splitting the cost to rent out a movie theater. It’s cheaper than I thought it would be! We’re going to watch Spirited Away and eat popcorn and brownies, and I cannot wait.
I definitely think it’s worth a try to be romantic during the pandemic, even if it’s hard to feel any sort of way right now. I still know that Jason is my person, like that’s concrete, so I know when I get mad at him for the little things, I know that’s a product of what’s going on in the world. We’ve been really trying to make an effort to do stuff together like going to the beach, taking a drive with the cat, something to get out of the house. It may not be the most ‘romantic’ thing in the world, but it feels like normal. And if that’s not goddamn romantic, I don’t know what else is.”
Selena & Tomás, New York, New York
“We’ve done long-distance for most of our relationship, in different countries. I was able to make it to New York for graduate school last August. This will be our third Valentine’s Day together but it will be the first we actually spend together in person, so we don’t really have a tradition. Over time we’ve found that it’s a nice little break to remind ourselves to celebrate each other and talk about our relationship. When we were long distance, we’d do a virtual dinner together. Last year, we both ordered pizza and got dressed up and FaceTimed. This year, we’re going to brave the cold, and made reservations to have a Valentine’s dinner at a nice restaurant in the city. I don’t know which one, because Tomás insists on keeping it a surprise, but I’m excited because he said their outdoor dining area looks very cute.
I also did buy some fun lingerie online, but whether or not I end up using it depends on whether my roommate will be home that weekend. Either way, it’s good to take time and be romantic for a bit.”
Lauren & Carlos, Los Angeles, California
“We live in a small one bedroom apartment with a toddler so in general that is hard. I’m a stay at home mom and student, and Carlos works full time. For Valentine’s Day, we’re considering either making the day special, eating good food and spending time together at home, or maybe going up to the La Canada Mountains and having a picnic. We’re just trying to stay safe in the pandemic. We’re including our daughter, Mia, in the celebration — I bought some window decals for us to put up together, maybe we’ll do some artwork. We just really make sure to have quality time together as family.
Before COVID, we would typically go out for a nice dinner, maybe go to a movie, and just have time away from Mia and enjoy us alone as a couple. Since we can’t do that, we sometimes leave Mia with either my parents or Carlos’ parents so we can eat an uninterrupted meal, watch a movie that wouldn’t be appropriate for her and be able to just relax.”
Charlotte & Alex, San Bernardino, California
“We’ve been together ten and a half years, and moved in with my parents in part to save money and for a change of scene. We’re finding it hard to maintain a sense of adult independence. We don’t have Valentine’s traditions, we’ve done dates in the past but nothing particularly memorable. Historically, it’s not a super important holiday to us.
But I’m more excited for Valentine’s Day this year than I have ever been! We are planning a long weekend in a beach town a few hours away. Ironically, after moving here to expand our pod, we are DYING for a few days with just each other. I don’t think we’ll do anything particularly special or romantic, outside of having loud sex I guess — can’t do that here. The place we’re staying has a jacuzzi so we’ll definitely take advantage of that. We’ll probably order a takeout feast and a bunch of ice cream.”
Rebecca & Nathan, Chicago, Illinois
“We were living in Dubai when lockdown started and it was very strict. That was a lot of together time, and we started to go a little stir crazy. The need for alone time actually got worse when we moved back to the U.S. in November, because we spent about a month with his family and then a couple of weeks with mine, and by the time we moved into our own apartment I just really wanted to lock the bedroom door and watch all of Bridgerton in one day, which I did, and not get dressed or think about anyone else’s plans. I think he felt the same. Overall, we’re lucky and still enjoy each other’s company and are still excited to get married in a few months!
This Valentine’s Day, Nathan is going skiing with his sister and two of my best friends are spending the weekend at my house. They’re both married but are ‘happy for a weekend away,’ as one put it — it’s worth noting she lives a mile from me so a weekend ‘away’ seems like more ‘away’ from her apartment and husband than anything. When Nathan decided to go skiing I think we both forgot it was Valentine’s Day, then when he remembered and asked if I was mad I was like, ‘no please go!’ I was excited about the prospect of some alone time, and time with friends. I don’t think we’ll celebrate before or after. It’s just not that important of a holiday for us, especially this year when we’ve had so much together time.”
Gia & Mateo, São Paulo, Brazil
“We have been together for the past seven years with a couple twists and turns along the way. We met in ninth grade and kissed when we were sixteen, but only went on our first proper date after graduating from college. Our first date was a weekend away at the beach, kind of a go big or go home situation. We aren’t big on Valentine’s, but always try and do something sweet for both American and Brazilian Valentine’s Day. Usually flowers and if we are together a delicious meal. Last year we went for burgers. Honestly it feels weird that Valentine’s day is even happening this year. I feel like it should be canceled. That said, maybe we will make a nice dinner and light some candles to set a mood?
I think it’s vital to recreate ‘romance’ in the pandemic, much more so than usual. Breaking the monotony with wine, some music and cooking together has worked wonders. Going on a walk and holding hands, making time to just be together and not be ‘amid a pandemic’ for a couple hours is so refreshing. I wish we had more options, I would love to go on a date to the movies or feel comfortable having a cocktail in a noisy bar, but in the meantime we can do a lot with what we have.”
Annabella & David, Los Angeles, California
“The day before lockdown, I matched with David on Bumble. He was really handsome and we had great banter. We set up a Facetime ‘date’ that lasted hours, and continued Facetiming every day, some nights falling asleep and waking up ‘next’ to each other through the screen We finally met, socially distanced, on my lawn between the sidewalk and the street. We didn’t ‘make contact’ for a month. It felt like a Jane Austen novel! Then after we realized quarantine wasn’t ending soon, we made plans to hang out, normally, after isolating and testing. It was surreal to finally hold his hand. We spent so many hours talking, it felt like we’d been together much longer. Now, we’ve been together almost a year!
Our relationship follows the timeline of quarantine, which is dark. We’ve had to spend time apart here, sometimes weeks, and we’ve never been on a proper date or met each other’s friends. But it will be all the more special when we can do so safely. I’ve never been a big Valentine’s Day person, but this year we’re going to cook dinner, eat chocolate, and dress up at home. I feel incredibly lucky to have found David and experience something beautiful in such a dark time. If we can get through a pandemic, we can get through anything.”
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