Relationships

Five Ways to Have an Extra-Tender V-Day

| 02/11/2021

valentine's day Illustration by Yadi Liu

For this Valentine’s Day, our theme is Stay Tender: There’s nothing quite like a personal touch, especially at a time when personal touch is hard to come by. Don’t be afraid to reach out with a little tenderness—to others, and to yourself.

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: It’s been a hard year. People are feeling isolated, super-emotional, smothered by their partners and family obligations, or any combination of those. The last thing anyone needs is to feel stressed about putting on a big Valentine’s Day, a holiday that, at its worst, can reinforce negative messages around consumerism, gender norms, and coupledom. 

Here are some ideas to give grace, gentleness, and TLC to your partner—or yourself—this Valentine’s Day.

Think Small

There aren’t many places to go, anyway, so let go of the idea that you must celebrate this holiday in a big, dramatic, expensive way. If you’re coupled, take a walk to the prettiest place you can find—within walking distance of your house. Play a card game, buy a nice bottle of wine, cook something delicious together. This V-Day can simply be a slightly more elevated, intentional version of your daily lives.

If you’re single, do little things to be nice to yourself. Change the sheets, listen to your favorite album, order takeout from a fancy restaurant. Or just ignore the holiday altogether, which will be easy during COVID!

Reach Toward Your More Generous Self

At bottom, this holiday should be about appreciating the love you have, whether romantic or platonic. So beyond planning a specific activity, resolve to have a big heart towards the people in your life. Nip fights in the bud with a sense of empathy and overstanding. Fill out our gratitude worksheet with your partner. Even if it’s just for one day, try to remember the bigger picture and acknowledge all the love in your life. Take this opportunity to wipe the slate clean with either your partner or yourself. New Years is the more famous holiday about starting over, but Valentine’s Day can harness the power of love and forgiveness, too.

Focus on Relaxation, Not Orgasms

If you’re partnered, there can be lots of expectation to have world’s most mindblowing sex. Start by taking that pressure off and have a non-goal-oriented session where you slow down and enjoy each other’s bodies. Put on something that’s pleasing to the touch, even if it’s not traditional sexy lingerie. Compliment and stroke each other. Have a long, languid makeout. Revel in the language of sexual currency, rather than going straight for the orgasm. Take a shower or bath together. If it feels right, have comfort sex.

If you’re single, there are more ways to explore yourself besides masturbation (although that’s a great one). Again, this is a time to be sweet to yourself, especially if you’re experiencing skin hunger or touch deprivation. Check out Sarah Seely’s guide to self-massage, or Reina Gattuso’s suggestions for cozy self-love.

Get Present

The pandemic has been hard on relationships, especially longterm coupledom. We’re either separated by the constraints of travel and social distancing, or we’re together all the freakin’ time. In either of these scenarios, it’s sometimes tough to really be present with your partner and clear away the drudgery of everyday life. A wonderful way to foster intimacy is to make an effort to set aside that time. Put away your phone and just talk to each other, with no distractions, no expectations, no worries about the future. That advice works just as well if you’re single, by the way. Stop the doomscrolling just for a second and give yourself an hour of reflection for meditation, journal-writing, or another ritualistic activity.

…Or Get Passive

There’s also such a thing as being too present. To the overworked, overstressed couple, vegging out can feel more relaxing than looking each other in the eyes and saying why you love each other. Be forgiving with a lowkey, parallel-play activity like listening to music or watching a movie with a low-stakes plot. (It doesn’t even have to be romantic!) Make this day about doing whatever the hell you want.

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