• Valentine's Day is around the corner, where many feel compelled to make big gestures to celebrate their relationship

  • Richard Templar suggests 10 alternative, simple ways to show your partner you love them

There are lots of ways to express your love, and in many ways spending money on your partner – even if you have it – is the least thoughtful. Of course a really considered gift is worthwhile, but most of the best ways to treat your partner on Valentine’s are about showing you’re thinking about them. There are much better ways of doing this than just buying them chocolates, or picking up some flowers as you pass the garage. 

Here are ten ideas to kick you off. There’s no reason why you can’t do them all to give your partner the full Valentine’s experience.

1. Make the ordinary special

You can make an evening in front of the TV into an event with a bit of creative thinking. Turn down the lighting, maybe even light a candle or two, let them choose what to watch (or you choose their favourite). Maybe organise some popcorn, or hot chocolate, and perhaps a snuggly blanket if it’s chilly. Anything to show you’re thinking of them, because that’s what it’s all about.

2. Make dinner special

Same again but with food... you cook (even if it’s their turn), and choose one of their favourites. It might be steak, it might be beans on toast. Make the room and the table look good, and take care with the food presentation too. Yes, you can even do that with beans. Again, it’s the effort that tells them they’re worth it, and the fact you’ve focused all those efforts on them.

3. Message them

If you’re at work, phone or message them just to remind them that you love them. A romantic message, or a silly one, it just shows they’re in your mind even when they’re not with you.

4. Do their chores (without being asked)

I know putting the bins out or hoovering round sounds unromantic, but that’s when it’s routine. Having someone else do those boring jobs for you, just so you don’t have to, is a lovely romantic gesture. Not only does it give your partner the day off, it also shows you’ve noticed those little everyday things they do the rest of the year for both your benefits.

5. Make them tea

Or coffee, or whatever it is they drink. Not just once, but from when they wake up until when they go to bed. Give them a whole day of never having to stand up and put the kettle on (or at least while you’re not out at work).

6. Help them relax 

If your partner is often tired or stressed by the end of the day, make their Valentine’s special by helping them relax. Gentle music playing when they come home (or once the kids are in bed – you’ll have to adapt a bit if you have kids), a candlelit bath, a soothing massage with scented oils; anything you can think of to help them wind down gently.

7. The right flowers are good

Don’t bother with the supermarket or petrol station variety, but if you’re in a position to pick flowers from the garden, for example, that’s a different matter altogether. Or ask a friend with a garden (and some spring flowers). If you live near the countryside, you can pick wild daffodils or snowdrops or primroses, or catkins and pussy willow (it’s illegal to uproot wild plants but you can pick the flowers).

8. Give them a token

You can make them a simple token that entitles them to... well, whatever you like. They can exchange it for an evening off all their chores, a romantic day together, you cooking when it’s their turn. Anything you’re prepared to offer as a token of your love and affection. You’re limited only by your imagination.

9. Write them a poem

Write few lines describing what they mean to you, and maybe leave it on their pillow to find, or tucked somewhere they’ll see it part way through the day. Or think ahead and post it to them. If poetry isn’t your thing, make it a letter to tell them how important they are and how much you love them.

10. Turn off your phone

This goes alongside all the other suggestions, as well as being worthwhile on its own. You can’t properly show your partner you’re focusing on them if you keep checking your social media, or replying to messages, or even playing games. Spend an evening without your phone so they have your full attention. It’s the least you can do to show you love them.

Think about how you’d feel being on the receiving end of any of these romantic gestures. The effort and imagination that goes into them is worth so much more than something bought; it really is the thought that counts.

Richard Templar is the author of The Rules of Love


Further reading

What is love?

How do I talk to my therapist about sex?

Why do I feel ambivalent about my relationship?

The unconscious reasons that opposites attract

How your attachment style affects your relationships