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Valentine's Day 2021: Best ways to celebrate during a pandemic

From engaging painting classes to relaxing robes and work from home upgrades, experts recommended these Valentine's Day gifts for a very unusual year.
Hugs all the way
Whether you've been quarantined together or apart, here are a few gifts to give your significant other during this Valentine's Day. Katleho Seisa / Getty Images

This past year, couples have experienced major restrictions on "normal" dating activities while following stay-at-home orders, social distancing and working from home — a universal conflict for couples of all stripes, new or old, healthy or strained. This didn’t just impact how people met, explored romance or even how much time they spent together in 2020. It’s also now spilling into 2021 and elevating a new conundrum: What should Valentine’s Day look like during a pandemic? “This year, couples are trying to figure out how to celebrate safely to minimize exposure but still have all the romantic feels,” noted marriage and family therapist Beverley Andre, LMFT, who owns BeHeart Counseling Services.

SKIP AHEAD Valentine's Day gifting for the new couple, the suddenly sequestered couple and the especially distanced couple

Despite limitations on Valentine’s Day demanding nearly unprecedented attention and creativity, experts say it’s still worth it even if it doesn’t look the same as years past. “Valentine’s Day is very different this year because this is the most popular day couples celebrate by eating out,” said Deanna Crosby, AMFT, a licensed therapist and clinical director at New Method Wellness. “For many couples, Valentine’s Day is a special day to take a break from the monotony of everyday life relationships. It can feel disappointing to not be able to make one day a year special with your partner.”

So what should you do? We consulted experts on the best Valentine’s Day gift ideas and approaches for couples at various stages of a relationship — whether you’re freshly intertwined with a quarantine bae or have found yourself suddenly spending way more time with your partner than either of you ever anticipated.

Valentine’s Day for couples during a pandemic

With Zoom first dates and long distance check-ins lasting longer for some couples on one end and others dealing with increased and unending proximity, what you’re looking for is going to be different depending on whether you've been forced to adjust to endless time together or apart. And while many of last season’s big holidays canceled, Valentine’s Day is one that doesn’t necessarily require getting nixed, explained Caroline Madden, PhD, a marriage and family therapist. That’s because this holiday can be all about couples, “regardless of whether they live together or are still seeing each other — this is a holiday that can be celebrated,” she said. “All couples should make an effort to treat the day special — even if they don’t typically celebrate these ‘Hallmark holidays’ — dress up and celebrate.”

Stay at home and create a ‘bubble of love’ right in your own bedroom.

Diana Wiley, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist, board-certified sex therapist

Best Valentine’s Day gift ideas for new couples

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, you can certainly still create a memorable Valentine’s Day experience. “This year, you can sidestep any expectations of traditional ways to celebrate and start some new traditions,” said Diana Wiley, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist.

“Stay at home and create a ‘bubble of love’ right in your own bedroom,” advised Wiley, whose highly-rated “Love in the Time of Corona” published in May 2020. Here are some gift ideas to fit Wiley’s recommended approach:

1. Wander + Ivy Valentine’s Day Gift Box

Bring an intimate evening of wine tasting from the comfort of your home with Wander + Ivy’s Valentine’s Day Gift Box. This special occasion holiday pack comes with eight modern single serve glass bottles of rosé, Cabernet and a red wine blend for you and your significant other to sample. In addition to the Valentine’s Day set, the online company also offers a variety of boxes allowing you to choose the wines that best match your palate.

2. Painting To Gogh Date Night Painting Class

Surprise your loved one with this at-home twist on a popular pre-pandemic date night idea. Instead of heading out for a relaxing paint class, you and your boo can pick your painting kit of preference with everything you need delivered. Then, follow along with a video tutorial at your own pace as you sip a beverage of choice and unwind. For added romance, consider opting for one of their “diptych” options, which allows you to each work on a canvas that, when combined, create one complete painting.

3. Brooklinen Super-Plush Robe

If you can’t pamper your love with a trip to a sophisticated spa or hotel, you can at least enjoy the comfort of a luxe robe everyday. Made from 100-percent Turkish cotton, this ultra-thick material makes for the ultimate post-bath or nap robe. With a piped collar, deep pockets and cuffed edges, “little details” will leave him or her feeling like royalty.

Best Valentine’s Day gift ideas for newly merged couples

You may want to consider offering up to them “the gift of space.”

“When couples are suddenly on top of each other due to Covid-19 restrictions, a way to celebrate can be the gift of alone time,” said Deanna Crosby. “When a relationship is secure, both partners can feel good giving each other space. If you and your partner have been working remotely 24/7 together for the past year, be secure enough to give them some space to do an activity they love on their own.” Here are some gift ideas to fit Crosby’s recommended approach:

  • Art supplies, bubble baths or new books can all encourage and incentivize the gift of alone time.
  • Give your partner a “day off,” arranging for you (and your kids if you have them) to allow them solitude for a whole day.
  • Elevate their work from home setup or at-home life otherwise, Crosby recommended, noting some specific examples: “An ergonomic chair, new houseplant for a desk, comfortable fleece slippers, noise cancelling headphones, white noise generator or a laptop stand.”

4. Apple AirPods Max

If you’ve had to learn to work together from home or just spend way more time together than normal, give the gift of headphones with these stylish active noise canceling headphones from Apple. In addition to reducing background noise from kids during homeschooling for more focused Zoom meetings, it also uses a microphone to automatically tune music, depending on the shape of their ears. Plus, Apple is offering free engraving right now, an added romantic touch.

5. HermanMiller Sayl Office Chair

Depending on the needs of your partner’s new makeshift home office, consider upgrading their lap desk or laptop stand. We consider this sleek option was the best designed desk chair — its plastic-webbed back design, offering strong lumbar support, was inspired by suspension bridges. It comes in many different color combinations as well as a 12-year warranty. If they’re doing some gaming from their chair, you may score bonus points for considering a new gaming chair.

6. Poppy Flowers At-Home Kit

Instead of presenting your Valentine with a bouquet of blooms, channel his or her love of flowers into a relaxing experience. With Poppy, you can pick from nine floral collections for Valentine’s Day, any of which will be delivered to your door. The kit comes with design instructions and access to a Poppy video tutorial with arranging tips. From there, you can decide if this is a date night bonding experience or a chance for your significant other to enjoy some alone time.

7. Garmin Instinct GPS Watch

This stylish smart watch, which comes in 20 different color options, is a robust gift for an active significant other who thrives on time outdoors. In addition to tracking a range of activities, this rugged watch has an extended battery life through solar charging, and navigation via GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. It’sshock- and water-resistant (up to 100 meters) and can help monitor their heart rate, estimated sleep time and pulse oxygen levels.

Best Valentine’s Day gift ideas for especially distanced couples

Long distance relationships can be challenging under any circumstance but appear to have only gotten harder during the pandemic, according to Crosby. “If you are away from your loved one this year, make some extra special virtual time together,” she suggested. “We have come such a long way with technology, you and your partner can take advantage of it.” Here are some gift ideas to fit the recommended approach:

  • Wiley suggested a remotely-operated “toy” to add some spice during phone calls and Zoom “chats.”
  • Consider books, stories or poems you could read to each other.
  • Wiley also recommended the distanced game Skin Deep Long Term Couples Edition to play from afar that “helps long term couples continue to explore each other and interests, and builds on that connection, which can get lost the longer you’ve been together.”

8. Talsam Smart Jewelry

Described as wearable technology for love, a piece of Talsam smart jewelry is a way for long-distance partners to stay connected. The charms, which can be worn as pendants or bracelets, are made from semi-precious stones, Swarovski crystals and hypoallergenic stainless steel. Each piece pairs to a messaging app that can only be accessed through the charm, a fingerprint, retina scan or password. But in addition to being able to share secret messages, the charm also allows you to instantly notify a loved one that you need help with an SOS alert. When activated, this will send an email and text with your location, as well as an emergency phone call.

9. Whisk Takers At-Home Baking Kit

Bring some heat to the kitchen even if you’re apart with a range of baking kits for a virtual date night. “Whether you're going to be with the one you love during Valentine's Day or at a distance, these pre-portioned kits enable a fun activity together or an enjoyable way to pass time for those who are apart,” said Jennifer Teplin, LCSW, founder of Manhattan Wellness. Each kit comes with pre-measured ingredients as well as detailed recipes and there’s a range of choices, including s'mores brownies with hazelnut cupcakes, a gluten-free bundle with pistachio cake, hazelnut cupcakes and peanut butter maple cookies or a vegan bundle with s'mores brownies and chocolate cookies.

10. Apple Watch Series 6

Since this smart watch makes hands-free communication easier with the ability to call and text without needing to grab your phone first, this might be a thoughtful gift for someone in a long-term relationship, not to mention a cool tech upgrade. Plus, as Apple’s newest watch, it boasts innovative (and timely) tools, including the ability to measure blood oxygen levels and an improved feature for measuring sleep. It even has a countdown timer for hand-washing to encourage loved ones to stay germ-free.

How to choose a romantic Valentine’s Day during a pandemic

In order to keep the “fun” in both new and old relationships during Covid-19, it is important to specifically demonstrate to your partner how special they are to you.

“It can be so easy to take your special someone for granted in everyday life,” Crosby said. “Take some time to consider what is fun for your partner … Often when one partner is making an effort to acknowledge their partner’s needs, the concept is contagious.”

Meagan Prost, a licensed clinical counselor specializing in couples therapy, told us that it’s imperative to consider one thing while shopping for the perfect gift: their love language, which combines nicely with the specificity Crosby advises above.

“When thinking about giving to your partner, consider: What fills them up? What means the most to them?” she advised, noting that often “the way we prefer to receive love is the way we give love but sometimes our partners may have a different love language.” Gary Chapman coined the concept in his 1992 bestseller, "The Five Love Languages," which could make for a relationship-changing purchase on its own. It includes a quiz, which you can take online, that lets you learn more about each other's preferred way of receiving love. A romantic dinner out (when it’s safe for indoor dining) might be your go-to way of showing your affection but your quarantine crush might have a different way of perceiving love. So here’s what Prost recommended keeping in mind while shopping with an eye toward their love language.

  • Gifts. If receiving gifts is their love language, consider sending gourmet cookies, a gift basket of your partner's favorite things (like flowers, a bottle of wine, chocolates, etc.), a framed favorite picture or piece of jewelry.
  • Quality Time. For those who prefer quality time, gift something around a future date night like a living room campsite, backyard wine tasting or at-home spa.
  • Acts of Service. Consider preparing (or picking up) your partner's favorite meal or investing in something that will make their daily life easier.
  • Words of Affirmation. Order cards or post-it notes to express appreciation for your partner, write out positive affirmations or things you love about them to hide within other gifts or start a new journal with a love letter that you’ll add to each year.
  • Physical Touch. Shop around gifts that allow you and your partner to be intimate like a bath set, soothing candles or massage essentials.

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