After almost a full year of COVID-19 restrictions in the U.S., we’ve made it to Valentine’s Day again…the last semi-normal holiday we had in 2020. And if you still have the same Valentine you had last year, that’s kind of a big deal.
When the pandemic first started, among the many panicked headlines were experts warning of an increase in divorces and breakups. But despite that grim outlook, divorces in the U.S. seem to have decreased during the pandemic. The cynics among us would be quick to brush those statistics off. Divorces aren’t easy right now—there’s extra childcare to manage and loss of income all around. However, a new study found that 41% of couples reported their relationship was better now than before COVID-19, and only 30% of couples thought their relationship had worsened.
So, yay us! The majority of America has pulled their relationship through the pandemic, and now we’re faced with yet another romantic hurdle.
Valentine’s Day can feel like a lot, even during a normal year. It begs to be celebrated, to be special. And, yes, we’ve made it through this past year stronger…but do we really feel up to special?
I’d count my relationship in the “stronger” category (and just to make sure I wasn’t delusional, I asked my husband to verify in a very non-confrontational way), but it wasn’t because we did anything special. Really, we just stumbled into a stronger marriage by trying to help each other get through every day.
So, this year for Valentine’s Day (and each day after), I’m shrugging off the expectations to make the day special and leaning into the very un-special ways we’ve made our relationship even better this year, like…
Foregoing fancy date nights
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good excuse to get dressed up and drop our kiddo off with the grandparents for a bit…but we were never very good at that, even before the pandemic. I think we had a whole two dates in 2019. This year, surprisingly, my husband and I probably broke our date record, and it’s because we redefined date night. We would tire the toddler out so he’d hit the hay by 7:30, then we’d order our favorite local takeout and just spend some intentional time together. Who knew planning dates could be so easy?
Noticing the small things
When you don’t have a hundred big things framing your days—things like events and to-do’s and schedules—you start to notice the million little things that live in between. Things like taking turns to sleep in on weekends, midday coffee runs, and the funny Batman voice your husband sometimes uses to read books at nap time. Grand Valentine’s Day gestures of love have nothing on these tiny moments. If you were to give me a choice between an office full of flowers and sleeping in until 10 a.m. on the weekend, I’ll throw those roses in your face every time.
Checking in with each other
Before the pandemic, I could easily slip into a day-long mood. I could wake up from a dream where my husband has committed some unspeakable act…like moved us all to Florida…and then been mad at him all day, even though that makes zero sense. Between my commute and work and any evening priorities we both had, I could go the whole day silently fuming over his unilateral decision to move to the Sunshine State. But now there are very few places to hide and stay mad at each other for dumb reasons. Spending all this extra time with each other is a huge benefit. It means more than just enjoying each other’s company—it’s also dealing with the latest crisis in real time. Staying at home all day doesn’t give you space to hide your Florida-sized problems. And that’s probably a good thing.
In 2020, we couldn’t immediately revert to our old standbys for entertainment. We had to get creative to get a little bit of variety in our life. We discovered new favorite outdoor spaces like Powell Gardens, we bought a random card game from the Learning Tree that requires impersonating a narwhal, we bought an air fryer and stuck a bunch of delicious things in it… The point is, when we were desperately grasping at straws for something to do together, we discovered some new things we can take beyond the pandemic. Like this recipe for airfryer pizza rolls.
This year, Valentine’s Day looks a little different. We’ll probably get takeout from our favorite, PotPie, and eat mussels at our broken coffee table. We’ll skip the big gifts and just share a few little moments together (although, to be clear, we will still be getting cards. Specifically, this one. We’ll be present with each other. We’ll Zoom in for a virtual comedy show.
The pressure is officially off and the pajamas are officially on. And honestly, it might just be our best Valentine’s Day yet.