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What you do for Valentine’s Day depends totally on how long you've been dating. Whether you're in flush of a new relationship or figuring out how to have a romantic dinner sans kids, we've rounded up the perfect date ideas for every stage of a relationship.
You’ve only been out once (but it was awesome)
Date idea: Now that you know he’s not a dud and that you have great chemistry, you’ll want to see what else’s in store. Here you have two options: If he does ask you out, you should get him something, but make it small, inexpensive (under $10) and silly. It should be thoughtful enough to show you’re interested, but simple enough that you’ll have a good laugh with him on your casual second date. If he doesn’t ask you out, send him a funny e-card (try Zazzle.com or Someecards.com) mocking Valentine’s Day to show that you’re thinking of him the day of but aren’t putting any pressure on him to do something.
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Your Valentine's Day gift should be as casual as the relationship right now -- hold off on the hot and heavy stuff until you've been dating a little longer.
You want him to make it official already
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Date idea: Cook him a romantic homemade meal. Relationship expert Rachel Sussman says, “Food has been a way of showing love and devotion. With a date like this, you’re really showing him the benefits of being in a relationship.” So take the pressure off your hopefully soon-to-be new man by offering to cook him a nice, quiet, dinner for the two of you. Have roommates? Ask if you can have free rein of the kitchen/living room for the evening. And, unless you’re a Top Chef enthusiast with a black belt in cooking five-course meals, stick to a simple dish so you can focus more on your night. Try an easy pasta and meatballs dish or maybe a homemade pizza.
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: This is the kind of date where you are doing something for him, which gives you the opportunity to see how he reciprocates. Does he arrive at your door with flowers and wine? Or at least a card? Pay attention to what he does to get a hint if he’s ready to make it official.
You just became official
Barry Gnyp/Getty ImagesDate idea: Buy two tickets to a concert
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: No need for anything elaborate here -- the night is all about having fun and being together. (You can even split up who buys the tickets and who covers the drinks and snacks.) At the end of the night, surprise him with some sexy lingerie to celebrate your new-couple status.Cost: $$$
You just started saying, “I love you”
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Date idea: Take an overnight trip somewhere close
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: This is a good point in the relationship to really focus on the two of you, and what better way to do that than with a quickie getaway? It doesn’t have to be lavish or even somewhere new -- it’s all about putting the daily stresses of outside life on hold to savor your love. Sexpert Dr. Pepper Schwartz says, “Since the two of you just took a big step, it’s important not to put too much pressure on anything right away. Avoid the stresses of traveling far together: traffic, parking tickets, or missing a flight would only complicate things. Something easy, quiet, and local will work best.”
You’re long distance
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Date idea: Schedule a Skype session
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Valentine's Day is a sexy time for couples. If the two of you can’t physically be with one another, “send flowers, a sexy card, and definitely, definitely plan a romantic Skype session,” says relationship expert Ian Kerner. Intimacy can be hard when the two of you are far apart, but being able to look each other in the eyes and talk dirty over the web can strengthen your chemistry.
You’ve been together a few years
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Date idea: Show up in your winter coat… and nothing else.
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: At this point, the excitement of being in a new relationship has faded. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reignite that spark and recreate the excitement. Tell your man want to go out to eat at your favorite restaurant, or “your place” if you have one. Shortly before the date, tell him you forgot to pick something up and will meet him back at his place instead. Knock on his door wearing nothing but a winter coat. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you (or anyone else!) ever gave him…Cost: $
You just moved in together
Date idea: Scavenger hunt around your new neighborhood
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Since you just took a huge leap by moving in together, take some pressure off by doing something fun. “Try to keep things fresh by reminding each other that life doesn’t become boring when you move in together,” says Sussman. Create a scavenger hunt that leads him to a small Valentine’s Day present related to your new home together. Maybe it’s a nice piece of artwork or a framed photo of the two of you. Start the adventure in-house then lead him outdoors. Use lines from his favorite movies or books for the clues, and add in some guessing games about a few of your favorite things. This might require some creativity on your part, but it will ensure a fun night full of all kinds of exploration that we’re sure will lead, um, elsewhere, too.Cost: $
You just got engaged
Date idea: Have a guy-themed Valentine’s Day
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: A lot of men can feel left out when it comes to wedding planning. (He may also feel broke, since he just spent a lot of money on that gorgeous rock you’re flaunting.) So this Valentine’s Day, make it about your man. From beer to football to a judgment-free hour of playing video games, think about what your soon-to-be husband really needs right now and let him have it.
You just got married
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Date idea: A simple night cuddled up on the couch
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: If you’re like most newlyweds, you might still be decompressing from the big day. “Part of the reason to marry is to really get comfortable in nesting mode where you can celebrate life’s simplicities with someone,” Sussman says. A quiet night in with some takeout and a good movie is all you’ll really need to celebrate -- or not -- the day.
You’ve been married a few years and you’re bored
Date idea: Go to a single’s party
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Head to an all-singles event, have a few cocktails, and have him “pick you up” for the first time all over again. Adding some spontaneity to your relationship is only going to bring back the excitement of when the two of you first met. So have a little fun and let yourself go. He'll be bringing you home either way, but tonight, make him work for it!
You just had a baby
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Date idea: A spa day for two
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Life has changed -- big time -- since baby made three. And your man may be feeling a little left out of the loop lately, now that you and baby are spending more time together during feedings. Arrange for the in-laws to babysit and head out for an enjoyable day at the spa and, if you can handle it, a night away from your babe.
You have no energy (and a few kids running around)
Date idea: Plan your own wine tasting -- at home!
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Between diaper changes and day care drop-offs, you barely have time for yourself, let alone energy to research and find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Make things easy by hosting your own wine tasting for two at home. After the kids go to bed, pop the cork on some nice bottles, and don’t forget the cheese and crackers (even if it’s just string cheese from the kids’ lunchboxes).
You’ve been married for 10 years
Date idea: Go back to your “special place” as a couple
Why it’s good for this relationship stage: Whether it’s where you had your first date or where he proposed, head back to this special spot on this special night. “Rituals can be very romantic and they bring you back to the feelings from when you were in those moments,” Sussman says. Let the memories of your most intimate moments return, bringing back the most basic elements of your relationship: What attracts you to this person? Why do you want this person by your side through good and bad? Thinking about your partner in this new way will help bring back the magic.