By NATALIA LUSINSKI
Dating can be a lot of pressure as it is, without throwing holidays into the mix. And with a certain heart-themed one in just a few weeks, the pressure’s on, especially if you ~just~ started seeing someone. But it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of Valentine’s Day date ideas for new couples that can reduce the built-in stress.
“Valentine’s Day is just one day out of a remaining 364 in which to demonstrate your affection,” Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author of Allowing Magnificence, tells Bustle. “Don’t buy onto the consumer marketing ploy. Meaningful relationships are built on small, consistent acts of kindness over the entirety of a relationship. Grand gestures pale in comparison to the littler acts of ongoing appreciation and thoughtfulness.”
Could not have said that better myself. And Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of the relationship blog, You’re Just A Dumbass, agrees. “The beginning of a relationship is exciting and Valentine’s Day is often viewed as an extension of what two people feel for one another,” she says. “Often, it’s treated like a high-pressure competitive sport, where you must do this or gift this to express how much you mean to someone. Since it is the beginning of your relationship, make Valentine’s Day a day that is about developing your relationship, learning more about each other, and having fun.”
But what if you and the person you’re seeing aren’t on the same page? Maybe one of you expects something grandiose while the other appreciates the sentiment “it’s the thought that counts.”
“For a new couple coming up to Valentine’s Day, it can be a confusing time,” James Preece, aka The Dating Guru, tells Bustle. “You don’t want to make an over-the-top gesture in case they don’t do the same and it scares them off. On the other hand, you know you have to do ~something~ to mark the day. Have a short conversation a few weeks before about what you both might like to do together. This can save embarrassment later on and gives you something to look forward to. Spending time together on Valentine’s Day is more important than anything, so make it count.”
So here are 11 Valentine’s Day date ideas for new couples, because the holiday doesn’t have to be as stressful as you may think.
1Do What Others Won’t Do
Think about all the places other couples will go on Valentine’s Day — fancy overpriced dinners and flower shops — and do the opposite. Instead, binge on your favorite thin crust pizza or go to an ice cream shop that has atypical flavors and try samples of them all. Of course, you can throw some romance in there, too, like a homemade card and/or a token gift of something significant to the person you’re dating.
Another plus side of doing what others probably won’t be doing? Not only will your date ideas be more unique, but they’ll also probably cost way less than the prix fixe menus all over town. “Low-pressure dates create a low-pressure Valentine’s Day,” Winter says. “Be creative. Think of an ‘experiential’ date that bypasses the traditional routine of flowers, chocolates, and a dinner.”
2Go See A Psychic
Even if you don’t believe in psychics, it could be fun to go get your fortunes told together someplace — more like at a Venice Boardwalk psychic, not one that’ll cost hundreds of dollars and months on a waiting list.
3Make Something Together
Maybe you have an IKEA dresser you’ve been meaning to put together or perhaps you two decide to try painting a lookalike Van Gogh at one of those paint-and-wine places – whatever you choose, doing something together takes a lot of the pressure off of your date — and the fact that it’s a love-themed holiday.
“You create intimacy by doing,” Rhonda Milrad, Founder and Chief Relationship Advisor of Relationup & a relationship therapist, tells Bustle. “People create connection by experiencing and engaging in a task together. The event itself creates an opportunity to interact in ways that don’t occur when you are sitting politely across the table from one another. In an activity, you are negotiating, compromising, collaborating, demanding, sharing, and often working toward a common goal.”
4Have An Indoor Picnic — With Heart-Shaped Cookies
“It’s freezing outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t heat up your dating life,” says Preece. “Set up an indoor picnic with your favorite food items and put it on a rug on your living room floor. Choose some romantic music, light some candles, and you have a wonderful date sorted. Also, have plenty of your favorite drinks ready to make sure the meal goes well.”
I also think making your date heart-shaped brownies or Rice Krispie Treats — really, anything heartfelt — goes a long way, too. You can even make cookies shaped and decorated like Conversation Hearts. Something homemade will show that you’re not only thoughtful, but also creative.
5Don’t Go Out To Dinner, But Make Something Together Instead
It’s a whole different bonding experience when you actually cook with someone, and not something out of a box. Whether you grocery shop for ingredients together or use a service like Plated that’ll deliver all the ingredients you need, creating something from start to finish is not only satisfying, but also a great test for your relationship. Plus, you can set the mood, too, with music, candles, etc.
6Go Ice Skating Or Sledding
With winter in full swing across most of the U.S., there’s no better time to do something snow-centric outside — and why not on Valentine’s Day? Regarding ice skating, “There’s no competition, because few individuals are good at skating unless they grew up on an ice farm,” Winter says. “Plus, you’ll need to hold hands for balance.” And I think sledding’s an equally fun winter activity, complete with hot chocolate and snuggling up afterwards from the cold.
7Have A Movie Marathon
Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to cozy up together and have a romantic movie marathon — whether it’s cheesy movies you make fun of or rom-coms you cry over.
8Throw An Anti-Valentine’s Day Party
Yes, if you throw an Anti-Valentine’s Day party, you can have everyone bring along a single friend — or someone they’re dating. Point being, if it feels too soon to celebrate together, this will be a low-pressure situation for everybody and some unexpected love connections can happen, too. I met one of my boyfriends at such a party and we dated for three years, so you never know!
9Read Each Other A Story
“For something a bit different, get your partner comfortable and take turns reading them a story,” says Preece. “It doesn’t matter what it is — it could be a fairy tale, thriller, or comedy. It just gives you the opportunity to spend time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, while making sure they feel special.”
I have a friend who does this with his girlfriend almost every night and I think it’s ~adorable~ so why not for Valentine’s Day, too?
10Hit Up An Arcade
There’s nothing like some old-school arcade games to get you into a fun and competitive mood, in addition to taking off romantic pressure for the big day known as February 14. Who doesn’t like a good game of Ms. Pac-Man or Donkey Kong? Plus, with all the arcade bars around these days, you can up your game-playing ante by inventing a drinking game when someone scores, etc. Or, just drink something, even non-alcoholic, so you can toast to Valentine’s Day — even though you’re obvs acting like it’s nbd.
11Go To A Cat Or Dog Cafe
OK, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love cat and dog cafes, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to visit one with your date. Not only do animals put us in better moods, but what is cuter than your date cuddling with a cute cat or dog, right?! If you don’t find a cat or dog café near you, a Humane Society or animal shelter will do, as well. The animal possibilities are endless if you just look.
All in all, in reality, Valentine’s Day is just another day. “It’s not just about expensive reservations and gifts; it’s about celebrating that you found someone meaningful enough to spend this day together,” says Silva. “Do something highly thoughtful, but simple, for one another.” Exactly!
So there you have it, low-pressure date ideas for new couples, because you can still celebrate without all the societal Valentine’s Day pressure.