Valentine’s Day — like any holiday where we give gifts — can create immense pressure to buy the right thing or devise an elaborate experience. Many people worry about disappointing their loved one. They assume that pricey or extravagant presents are the way to go.
However, as clinical psychologist Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D, said, “the best gifts are something thoughtful and personal.”
Life coach Nova Reed, MA, CLC, suggested couples make an agreement to give gifts from the heart — “no wildly extravagant gifts, no marriage proposals, no grand expectations, just the purest, sweetest expression of romance and love.”
She also encouraged individuals to remind ourselves of the origin and true meaning of Valentine’s Day. According to one legend, Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century who secretly married soldiers with their loves, she said.
“The Emperor Claudius had outlawed soldiers to marry, deciding single men made better soldiers. Despite risk to his own life, Valentine performed ceremonies, secretly, uniting and celebrating love.”
For Reed, who works with couples, “this is the soul of Valentine’s Day.”
She shared these suggestions for meaningful gifts:
- Give your partner the key to your heart. As Reed said, “I adore the tradition in Europe to give keys as a romantic symbol and invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.” One idea is to copy a house key in gold tone, and to inscribe it with something that is meaningful for both of you. This could be the day you met, your first kiss, each of your initials, or a special symbol that only both of you know about.
- Make a whole day of it. Surprise your partner by serving breakfast in bed and joining them. Make pancakes “in the shape of hearts with sweet words spelled out in berries resting in whip cream,” Reed said. Think of it as creating your own retreat. Watch comedies or romantic movies. In the afternoon give your partner a massage using scented oils. At night share champagne, strawberries and hors d’ oeuvres.
- Buy a silk flower, and on each petal write meaningful words or phrases.
- Create a time capsule. In the spirit of St. Valentine and his secret unions, each of you can write what you hope your life looks like this year and how you feel about your partner today. Then pick one object that symbolizes your love. Keep the letters and object a secret. Place them in a container or thermos. “Bury this container like a time capsule, and plant a flower or special plant over it to symbolize the growth of your life together. The next Valentine’s Day retrieve your capsule for you each to read what the other wrote and reminisce.”
Nickerson, who specializes in relationships in Orange County, Calif., views Valentine’s Day as another “opportunity to focus on love and relationships.”
She shared these creative suggestions for gifts:
- Cut out snowflakes or hearts from any pretty paper. On each piece, write something that you love about your partner. Put the pieces of paper into a glass bowl.
- Create a box of happy memories. Fill a decorative box, which you can buy or make, with “snapshots, shells, ticket stubs, or anything you like that reminds you of great times shared together,” Nickerson said.
- Give a coupon book. Make it yourself by binding beautiful paper with glue or yarn. Hand-write 10 coupons for anything that’ll be meaningful to your partner. Nickerson shared these examples: “I’ll take the kids out for the day so you can have the house to yourself” or “This coupon is good for a home-cooked meal and a 20-minute massage.”
- Create an original work of art. This might be anything from a song to a poem to a painting.
- Build your partner a rack for their ties or a shoe organizer or anything else that’s personal to them.
When selecting your gift, Nickerson suggested avoiding anything overtly sexual, unless you’re positive that your partner will like it.
“I can recall getting a teary phone call from a client who received fur-lined handcuffs from her new husband for Valentine’s Day. She thought this meant that something needed to change, that he wasn’t happy with their sex life, and that she was boring.”
Lingerie and a heartfelt card will probably make good gifts, but she reminded readers that the holiday is about “love and closeness, not sex per se.”
Nickerson also stressed the importance of knowing your partner’s love language. That is, ask yourself: “How do they express love? Do they like to give gifts to people, or do they prefer to do an act of service, like make someone a nice meal and deliver it? Does your partner treasure greeting cards and love letters, or would they rather have a long kiss and a warm embrace?”
Ultimately, whatever gift you decide to give, spotlight the reasons your partner matters to you, Nickerson said. “Make your gift about them.”