lgbtqia couple sitting on the couch and giving flowers
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Valentine’s Day is once again on the horizon, but it’s safe to say that this year is sure to look a whole lot different than last February 14—or any year before it. Romance in a pandemic is certainly hard to come by for some, especially given the fact that so many Valentine’s Day date ideas are not on the menu this year, including normal restaurant dining, concert and theatre going, lavish travel experiences, etc.

The good news is that, if you’re lucky enough to be spending Valentine’s Day with your significant other, there’s more than enough opportunity to make it special in your own unique way. One of the best ways to do this is to first determine your partner’s love language.

What is a love language?

In short, a person’s love language is how they prefer to give and receive love from others in their life. Love language doesn’t have to be romantic—it can be how you show your love to everyone from your family member to your close friends. “We all have ways of feeling loved that are meaningful to us—for example, some people experience love and connection the most when they're engaged in activities with their partner, while others don’t feel appreciated unless their partner is giving them praise,” explains Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., dating coach, founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, author of Exaholics and host of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. “We're all individuals, and have a set of life experiences and family cultures that shaped us—particularly with how we relate to others.”

What does your love language mean?

Depending on how you learned the concept of what it means to “be loved” in terms of an action, you won’t feel deeply loved or cared for without being spoken to in that particular language, explains Dr. Bobby. There are five in total as coined by the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman: quality time (doing things together), physical touch (ranging from hugs to hand holding to sexual intimacy), gift-giving, acts of service (doing things that need to be done without being asked), and words of affirmation (praise, words of affection and compliments).

“Being out of step and unaware of each other's love language can create unnecessary hurt and sadness in a relationship,” explains Dr. Bobby. “In contrast, if you know what your partner's love language is, and then tailor your efforts to make them feel special in the way that is most meaningful to them, it will have much greater impact.”

Here’s a guide to which love language your significant other might fall under and some Valentine’s Day date ideas that are sure to knock their socks off this February 14th.

Words of Affirmation = Write and share heartfelt letters.

If your partner speaks this love language, it’s incredibly important for them to be told how much they are loved and how wonderful they are. In other words, don’t assume your partner just knows you love them—be sure to verbalize it, on the regular. If there was ever a perfect time to tell your partner how much you love them, Valentine’s Day is sure to be it. Amy McManus, LMFT, relationship therapist and owner of Thrive Therapy, Inc. in Los Angeles, recommends writing your partner a poem or a heartfelt card that says how you feel about them. “If you are not much of a writer, look for a poem that closely expresses your feelings, and then write it in a card for them to keep,” she says. “Be sure to tell your partner why you chose this particular poem for them!”

Gifts = Shop for and exchange special presents. 

As the name suggests, this love language is all about gift giving—but it doesn’t have to be extravagant, just thoughtful and planned out. “If your partner's love orientation is built around gifts, you've likely experienced how it feels to be presented with something that is tailored just for you,” says Dr. Bobby. “The key here is to be extremely thoughtful—going back through your mind to things your partner has mentioned, or things you know they'd like, or even things that would signify something special between the two of you.”

This gift can be truly anything that you think your partner will like, from a new handbag or wallet to a kitchen appliance that you know he’ll use on the regular. McManus suggests going the extra mile to wrap the gift in pretty paper—something that is especially appreciated by those who love gifts. “And whatever you plan, make sure you have a special souvenir to give them to remember what a great time you had together!” she adds.

Acts of Service = Take on some tasks around the house. 

If Acts of Service is your love language, you feel loved when someone makes a point to help you out so that you don’t feel like you’re on your own and the only responsible one, explains Laurel House, dating and relationship expert and host of the Man Whisperer podcast. “Having someone who loves you and shows you by taking on some of your responsibilities can offload a huge emotional burden, creating space for you to feel emotionally open and connected to someone else,” she says. “This might mean taking out the trash, picking up some milk, fixing that forever broken latch, ordering dinner for delivery when you’re too tired to cook, drawing you a bath... it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference.”

Quality Time = Start a Date Box subscription. 

One great way to carve out quality time on a regular basis is to subscribe to Happily’s Date Box subscription, which allows you to choose a plan that’s right for you and your partner, customize it to fit your personalities, as well as your likes and dislikes, and then sign up to receive your box around the 15th of every month. Boom—an easy way to make sure you get quality time on the calendar once a month minimum.

Physical Touch = Plan an erotic adventure. 

This one isn’t hard to figure out—it involves being physically intimate as a form of love language. “For some people, the only way they truly feel loved and cared for is through physical expressions of love and affection,” explains Dr. Bobby. “These people can be showered with gifts, told ‘I love you’ a thousand times, but don't really feel special unless they're wrapped in your arms, or having their hand held.” Sexual intimacy is a huge component of this love language, but is hardly the only one—a simple hug and a kiss can go a long way as well.

“While a great Valentine's Day date idea could certainly include a sensual, high-touch and erotic day (scented candles, a gourmet meal, massages, warm baths, and more) what will be much more impactful over the long haul is to be lavish and generous with all things sensual, most of all—you,” adds Dr. Bobby.