Posted by Stella Lang on 07 Feb 2020

Picture this: You and your Valentine sit in a dimly lit restaurant surrounded by other couples who awkwardly stare into each other’s eyes ‘defining their love’ by the little red-boxed gifts they exchange. This while a random person harasses you into buying an overpriced red rose, because if you can’t spend that kind of crazy money on a wilting flower, do you even love your partner? It must be the least romantic situation ever! And who even wants a stuffed animal holding a red heart, or any other mass-produced, commercialised drivel? No wonder it is estimated that $9.5 billion will be spent on unwanted gifts this year.

It is not just this particular scenario that gives me the creeps; it is the whole idea that a single day sends people into a frenzy of love-inspired everything. Call me unromantic, but I just cannot get excited about, or even appreciate, Valentine’s Day. Instead, my husband and I rebel against the day of red hearts, cheap-tasting chocolates and overpriced roses.

For us it is more important to celebrate our love and grow our relationship throughout the year. Whether you agree or not, relationships require a lot of thought and hard work. Every. Single. Day. Because if something is not growing, it is dying. Fact! When you have been in a long-term relationship, the day-to-day grind can be a distraction. Getting up and going to work, paying the bills, feeding the family, doing the laundry… I mean, it is pretty mundane stuff, and for the most part not very exciting. It is easy to forget that the important stuff also needs attention. And by important stuff I mean relationships. Not just the romantic type, but all relationships, even the one with yourself…

When was the last time you and your partner spent some time on your own, without any interruptions? Or when was the last time you have been out with your best friend(s)? But also, when was the last time that you took time out of life, by yourself? Reflecting, celebrating and just doing the things you like to do, like reading a book or watching a movie all by yourself?

After child number two arrived thirteen months ago, my husband and I found ourselves in a dilemma. We were exhausted and, with all the things associated with running a family of four, very little quality time was being spent together. If we weren’t working or tending to home-related matters, we were tired and just wanted to hit the pillow. It is quite frightening how easily you can get into survival mode.

It was during one of the rare moments where we had five minutes to talk as two adults that we discovered we hadn’t had any alone time together for quite a while. We made an agreement to have a date night at least once a week. Alone time—just the two of us—talking about everything but the day-to-day stuff… Talking as the two people who fell in love with each other 19 years ago.

These weekly date nights have been a revelation and something we honour and commit to. It has evolved and now includes a number of different ways to celebrate and enjoy our relationship. Below are 10 ways you can celebrate your relationship throughout the year. I encourage you to make a conscious effort to develop your own unique ways to connect and build a strong and healthy relationship, not just on the February 14, but also on the 15th, 16th, 17th and beyond.

1. Weekly date nights

You do not have to go out of the house on a date every week, but you must dedicate one evening a week to focus on yourselves. You could have a picnic on the lounge floor or cook your favourite meal together. Talk about the things you never get time to discuss. Your goals and dreams. Plan your year ahead. Your holidays. Whatever you do, make sure there are no distractions. Turn off the television and put the mobile phones away. Make sure you are fully focused on one another and listen to what your partner says. It is important that you respect these date nights. Do not default to “we can do it tomorrow night.” Make a commitment and stick to it. Respecting each other’s time and effort is really important, so don’t jeopardise it with an” I’m working late tonight” or “I’m meeting my friends this evening,” unless you replace it with an alternative.

2. Have traditions

Even if it is just one thing you do together every year, make sure you schedule it into your diaries. My parents reserve the same table at the same restaurant every year for their wedding anniversary. And, we recently started a tradition of seeing The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall just the two of us every Christmas. It is really romantic to do the same thing every year for a special occasion as it becomes somewhat magical. There are many great restaurants you could visit. Our favourite London restaurants are Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden and Bob Bob Ricard. At BBR you order Champagne to your table by simply using the ‘Press for Champagne’ button conveniently located at each table. Not difficult to guess why this is my favourite restaurant…

You can find a list of local romantic restaurants including The Cock Inn and Le Raj here.

3. Time away

At least once a year, go away on your own. By “away,” I mean, take total time out from life as you know it. It could be anything from one night to a weekend, or even longer. Your circumstances will most likely dictate how long this can be. It is so important for couples to take a break from the daily chores. Order the Champagne and have it in an hour-long bath, pack the sexy lingerie, splurge on a nice restaurant. This is your time together. Time to rejuvenate and focus on nothing else but your relationship and enjoying each other. Beaverbrook Country Hotel and Spa and Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa are two amazing properties in Surrey. Look out for special offers throughout the year. For something a little different, book a Shepherd’s Hut at the Merry Harriers in the Surrey Hills. These huts are super luxurious, offering a private ‘glamping’ experience like no other. Relax outside next to a log fire pit or cosy up in front of the internal log burner during winter months. It is hard to imagine anything more romantic than that.

4. Random acts of love

Write a ‘Thanks for last night’ or ‘You look hot today’ note and stick it in his suitcase, or leave a single flower picked from the garden on her pillow… It doesn’t have to be expensive or big. It is the thought that counts. Just a little something to let the other person know you are thinking about them. On the first day back at work after my maternity leave my husband sent flowers to my office with a sweet note. I kept the card and well up every time I read it. There are so many opportunities throughout the day to sneak in a thoughtful gesture. Of course, you can’t do this every day, but once in a while, a little thoughtful surprise might just make the heart beat a little faster…

5. Get out of your comfort zone

On one of your date nights, or date days, do something you’ve never done before. Go for a pottery class, learn glassblowing or swing dancing. Being out of your comfort zone makes you naturally more inclined to operate as a team, building a stronger relationship. You can push the boundaries even further and tackle something epic like a Tough Mudder Challenge, sign up and train together to run a half-marathon or test all boundaries and combine it with your time away to climb Kilimanjaro or walk the Camino de Santiago together. You can really let your imagination go but make sure you both are fully dedicated to the challenge before you sign up, otherwise it might just backfire when the going gets tough.

6. Be adventurous

Do things that make your adrenaline rush. It releases endorphins which help to calm anxiety and reduce stress, and is associated with feelings of attachment…

Axe Throwing is the new kid on the block in terms of fun, unexpected activities. It can make for rather an adventurous outing. Indoor rock climbing is great, as it builds upon key foundations of any relationship: trusting each other, letting go of control and supporting each other are all critical elements.

Fancy floating around the waters of London’s docklands in a wood fired hot tub? These hot tub boats takes seven passengers and are heated to a balmy 38 degrees. Why not hire it for just the two of you? One of you will have to be appointed as skipper and undergo a short training course. Apparently, it is super easy to steer this hot tub boat around the waters, and to top it all off, you are allowed alcohol on board. I think this is one of the most unusual experiences you’ll ever have. I will certainly be hopping into one this year.

7. Share your passions

You might be an antiques lover while your partner has an appreciation for museums. Take turns enjoying each other’s passions. Be open to new ideas and experiences. Learn how to bake bread at The Epsom Bakehouse. Or, if you or your partner is into classical music, The Epsom Symphony Orchestra is playing at Epsom Playhouse on March 7th. The Ultimate Tribute to Moulin Rouge shows on March 27th, also at the Epsom Playhouse. Do you both love animals? Then a Couple’s Zookeeper For a Day experience at Hobbledown Farm might be just your thing.

This special offer is valid 10-14 February. Contact them on 01372 235 125 to book. Or, is your partner into games? Reztron is a pop-up retro gaming entertainment bar with venues across London. Both of you into art? Look out for fun painting events by Brush Party where you can enjoy a glass of wine while learning a new skill. Showing your partner that you are interested in their passion might just be the most romantic thing you will do for them.

8. Random act of kindness

Why not volunteer your time while building a stronger relationship? Helping others builds a deeper sense of belonging in a community—a feeling you are giving back. And it will make you feel great. You will also see some unique qualities in your partner that might not be visible day-to-day at home, for example, them effectively leading a team or solving a problem. Go on a food shopping trip and deliver the items to your local food bank. The Epsom and Ewell Foodbank is currently asking for donations of tinned meat, sugar, noodles, shaving cream, ladies’ deodorant and nappies. Contact your local food bank to find out what they need. Or, go outdoors and pick up litter around your neighbourhood. Alternatively, volunteer at one of your favourite festivals. That way you get a free pass to see a show. The opportunities are endless.

9. Have a theme

Both have a love for food? Make a list of all the restaurants you’d like to dine at in your area and work your way through the list. Or, learn how to cook curry food together at Breech Lane Curry House. Love an afternoon tea? Visit all the best places serving afternoon tea over the next year. Silent Pool Distillers in the heart of Surrey is hosting G&Tea Afternoon Tea from April to September. It sounds fantastic and as an afternoon tea fan, I will definitely give it a go. Other theme ideas can include alcohol tasting—wine, gin, whisky, ales, the list is endless. At the Portobello Gin Distillery you can make your own gin after receiving a master class in gin making. I recently did this and had so much fun. What I love about this experience is that they store your recipe on file, meaning you can re-order your own gin as many times as you like by using your unique recipe code. Clever, isn’t it?

10. Dream together

Sometimes you just have to sit down and dream together. Imagine winning the lottery and how you would go about your daily lives if it happened. Or, what does your dream home look like, or your dream holiday? It is an enjoyable way to learn more about each other while potentially planning your next holiday.

And, in the name of love, I’ll throw out one bonus idea:

11. Be young again

Get up early and watch the sunrise together. Skinny dip in the ocean, pool or jacuzzi. Go on a Ferris wheel or camp out in the garden watching the stars. Pack a picnic and enjoy an al fresco movie at one of the outdoor screens this summer. Luna Cinema will be launching their 2020 season soon, so sign up to get the latest information when tickets go on sale. Be young, be free and be adventurous.

And with that, I wish you the most love-inspired journey ahead, whether it is with your partner, your family, friends or yourself. Take time out to appreciate your relationships.

Stella Lang xxx

Stella Lang
Stella is a family lifestyle blogger who lives in Epsom with her husband and two young daughters. Her passions include travelling, discovering new experiences and being outdoors as close to nature as possible. She is known for her love of good food, champagne and quest to raise happy, healthy children and enjoying all the wonderful family outings Surrey has to offer.

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