Whether you met during COVID-19 or are going on your 30th year of marriage, this pandemic has presented challenges for every type of relationship. And with many areas still operating with masks and social-distancing, holidays like Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult to navigate.
Luckily, there are several scientifically proven ways that can help you and your significant other connect and make each other happy from wherever you are. But don’t take it from us, take it from the experts! Here are 5 COVID-friendly ways to connect to your partner this Valentine’s Day, with special commentary from couples therapist Jessica Montague.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Crack open a photo album or look through your phone photos reel -- experts agree that remembering the positive memories of your relationship can help reinforce your bond. Dr. Elizabeth Hale-Rose has found that intentionally recalling good times helps strengthen the neural pathways that support well-being, and memory expert Meik Wiking curating “the happy 100” can boost wellness -- taking photos of the 100 happiest moments from your relationship into an album.
Jessica agrees that looking through photos specifically is a great way to connect with your partner. “We generally take photos of times we WANT to remember, so revisiting them can help bring back the joy of both big and small moments from the relationship.”
Whether you’re going on a walk or visiting the park, time outside of the house together can be very beneficial. Many studies have also found that working out together can increase happiness within a relationship. Jessica recommends ritualizing such activities, like an evening stroll or a Saturday morning hike, as they give reliable times of joy and connection as a pair.
“I also love gardening as an activity for couples, especially during the spring,” said Jessica. “It’s a shared activity that gives people a sense of accomplishment and teamwork, and a garden is also something that lasts over time. Tending a garden is not a one-and-done activity, but a source of bonding that continues through the seasons.”
Consume Content Together
We’ve been reading more books, listening to more podcasts, and definitely watching more TV in quarantine than ever before. But don’t make this just another “Netflix and Chill” night! Consider planning times to deliberately consume the content together, then ask questions and share your thoughts on it afterward. This creates a more impactful shared experience.
“One of my client couples curated a ‘film festival’ for each other at home. They have each selected and scheduled five films to watch in alternate weeks, including themes, discussion prompts, fun drinks, and snacks to go with their sweet event,” said Jessica. “In COVID times, bring the film festival to your living room, right? What a great idea!”
Try Something New!
Looking back on good memories is great for a relationship, but making new memories is also very beneficial. Arthur Aron, PhD, a research professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, has found that couples who participate in novel and challenging activities together experience self-expansion, a highly rewarding motivational state that can translate to a stronger relationship bond. The activity doesn’t have to be dramatic like scuba diving or mountain climbing -- it can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or taking a class together.
“Doing something completely new together is very bonding, as it involves discovery, a bit of risk and oftentimes, vulnerability,” said Jessica. “The experience can therefore create a unique association between the event and the other person, which can lead to a stronger sense of ‘us’ and ‘ours.’’”
Cook & Eat Together
According to research from relationships expert Dr. John Gray, couples that enjoy cooking together are significantly more satisfied in all areas of their lives than those who don’t. It’s in the same vein of doing something new and accomplishing a task together, which bolsters a sense of teamwork. It can also be fun and romantic, depending on what you’re making. ;)
“Cooking and eating together may seem trivial, but it’s everyday activities like these that can keep couples bonded over time,” said Jessica. “I love to have my clients ritualize preparing food or eating together. Even if they don’t want to cook, I’ve had couples order out and set up the food at home like they would in a restaurant -- it makes a great, intentional date night!”
Hope this inspires you to have fun with your special someone (or really, any loved one!). For anyone who’s long-distance, starting month 11 of quaranteaming together, or anything in between, we hope you have a happy, loving, and safe Valentine’s Day.