Tips for a perfect Valentine's Day from a relationship expert

Valentine’s Day is great, but it also comes with a lot of expectations.

We once spoke with Dr. Randy Schroeder, author of Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, for his expert tips on staging a lovely Valentine’s Day evening that will live up to all of your significant other's expectations.

According to Schroeder, the key is keeping things exciting. "Seeking surprises for the two of you can stimulate your creativity as you value each other," he says.

For the best Valentine's Day possible, Schroeder recommends choosing a "surprise" that is meaningful for your partner. For example, those who are comfortable dining out can visit a restaurant they've never had the time to try. Otherwise, the two of you can at least order some takeout from a favorite fancy spot.

"If your partner likes Chinese food, take them to a Chinese restaurant you have never eaten at before. If they like ice cream, take them to an ice cream parlor that you have never tried before. If they like going for a walk in the park, take them to a park that you have never walked in before. It is important for both of you to be self-sacrificing with surprises as well as both of you accepting responsibility for those surprises.

"One way to enhance surprise experiences is to do things together that do not cost any money," says Schroeder, offering up a tip that's especially useful for folks with fewer options amid the pandemic. Do you enjoy hiking or biking, or even taking a long drive? An outdoor picnic can be staged on the cheap too, if the weather allows it.

When it comes to going out or staying in, Schroeder recommends the former. While he acknowledged that some couples need to stay in, due to "children or limited finances," he still advises finding a way to get out of the house, even for just a bit.

"After speaking with well over 1,500 couples, I truly believe that going out together is much better," he explained. "Keep in mind that going out does not have to be for two, three or four hours, but it could just be for an hour. I have had couples who thought outside the box and went to eat eggs and toast for breakfast on a Saturday morning for one hour, and they had a great time together and that led to a wonderful weekend. For whatever reason, going outside the home and spending time communicating, even for one hour, strengthens a heart connection even more."

Although, Schroeder did acknowledge that "picking up a pizza and watching a movie together on the sofa" can be nice as well.

There are also lots of reasons why people may try to wait until the night after Valentine’s Day to celebrate — what with lower costs and significantly lighter crowds at the restaurants that are currently allowing indoor dining — but Schroeder had one important piece of advice for anyone attempting to celebrate on the 13th or 15th.

"Celebrating early or just when convenient for you both is fine as long as you discuss it in advance," he said. "You never want your partner to think you forgot about Valentine's Day! And maybe still surprise them with a present, even just something small, or card or note for Valentine's Day, even if you can't celebrate it with them that day."

Ultimately, while Valentine’s Day is a holiday that comes with a lot of expectations, Schroeder stressed that "valuing each other is an ongoing process throughout the life of the relationship," and it can't be jam-packed into one romantic holiday.

"Roses and candy are gone quickly, but communicating eye-to-eye and valuing each other through self-sacrificing activities is what is essential. It is a privilege, not an obligation, to spend time together on a daily basis, not just on Valentine's Day. One-on-one time, talking with each other, and touching each other frequently during your Valentine's Day outing is what will be especially meaningful for both of you."