“Have a day full of your favorite things.”
Long-term married couple Shel Horowitz and his wife D. Dina Friedman have been an unstoppable twosome since 1984, celebrating more than 33 years together. As a way to keep that lusted-after spark alive, Horowitz says it’s important to let Valentine’s Day be a day when you begin and end your day with kindness, affection, and love toward one another. Their favorite Valentine’s Day begins with breakfast in bed, followed by an adventure that takes them outside—even if it’s freezing outside in mid-February. “The cold air is actually energizing once you get going, as long as you’re dressed for it,” he adds. To top off the day, Horowitz suggests dark chocolate, a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant, and, if you can swing it, live music to encourage those romantic vibes. Here’s the best marriage advice from happy couples.
“Whatever you do, just make sure you spend time together.”
For Renee and Michael Jones, who have been hitched since 1995, it’s less about the what they do on Valentine’s Day, and more about pausing their busy, overworked lives and focusing on one another. As Renee shares, the romantic way to spend this holiday is to focus on one another, meeting the needs of their heart, body, and mind. That’s why after too much stress of booking restaurant reservations, they’ve switched up their tradition. “What we do depends on the weather, but we live in Texas, so there is a better than average chance that we can do something outdoors. The main priority is to spend time together, making meal preparation as easy as possible, and enjoy the company of this man I adore and married almost 23 years ago,” Renee shares. “One year, he took me to a proper British tea at a local hotel, and then we had a lovely wander around the very safe and intriguing city square. We may sit on the patio of a gourmet grocery store after choosing our food from their deli and wine from the store. It’s not about what we do, you see. It’s about connecting our hearts—regularly and not simply on Valentine’s Day or anniversaries.”
“Surprise them with a thoughtful, meaningful gift.”
For Kim and Mark Melton—who will ring in 25 years of marriage in July, the secret to a memorable Valentine’s Day is tied to a unique, meaningful gift. Since they have five children, going the extra mile to surprise one another with a thoughtful token of appreciation speaks volumes about their commitment to one another. “When you have been married a long time, holidays like Valentine’s Day help to keep the romance alive by reminding you to do something special for your spouse. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, just a small surprise that your spouse wasn’t expecting to make them feel special,” she shares. “My husband has written me a letter telling me the things he appreciates about me, and I do the same for him. And because we are busy with children, we make a point to set time aside to go to a favorite restaurant, no phones allowed, and have a nice dinner together.” We love these winter date night ideas that will keep you warm and toasty.
“Steal quiet time away.”
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner and her husband of 30 years, Steve, lead hectic, busy schedules, that sometimes make it difficult to steal away romantic time together. Even so, Dr. Trattner says her partner goes above and beyond to make her feel special, even making sure she has fresh flowers each week, without fail. When February 14 comes around, this successful, dynamic twosome lean toward a quieter celebration instead of one that requires fanfare and hoopla. “We always go to a place outdoors that is quiet and serene like the beach or a Japanese garden. By being in nature, we actually calm our bodies down and help increase focus, and we don’t have distractions like phones, computers, or throngs of people,” Dr. Trattner explains. “The gift of time and focus is the greatest gift to me and to my husband so when we both have time off, we reconnect for the day in nature where we feel revitalized and can enjoy each other’s company where we solely focus on each other.” Love nature? You’ll love these ideas for outdoor dates.
“Make Valentine’s Day an everyday thing.”
Instead of going all out and over-the-top romantic for Valentine’s Day, the best advice of married couple Mary and Mark Black is to treat one another with kindness and respect, 365 days of the year. In May, they’ll celebrate 29 years together and have learned what makes a marriage work through decades of natural ebbs and flows. “We kiss each other goodnight every night, hug when one of us gets home from work and go on date nights, usually dinner and a movie, holding hands and just spending time together,” she shares. “Being married has taught us that what really matters are the little things. It may seem boring to others, but both of our love languages are spending time together, so no matter how we do it, it’s romantic for both of us.”
“Go on a scavenger hunt.”
Wives Andrea Burnett and Barbara Cavoto have been together for 24 years and their go-to Valentine’s Day tradition is via an in-house scavenger hunt. Perhaps cheesy, Burnett says the beauty of her building her life with Cavoto, which includes twin daughters, is that she’s laughing every single day, no matter what. To keep that spark and fun alive, they’ll begin Valentine’s Day with sweet cards and notes left in unusual, unpredictable places around their home. “These little notes of appreciation or special memories we have shared over the years are always a delight to find tucked away in a boot, a drawer, in the refrigerator by the butter dish or any unexpected spot as we go about the day,” she shares. To top off the day, they opt to stay home instead of going out. “Since we are both big foodies, we always plan a special meal, shop for the ingredients and cook it together. We aren’t big on buying each other gifts or roses or dinners out on V-day, but we always take a long hike as a family. Being together and celebrating in our own way is so special,” Burnett adds.
“Recreate the beginning.”
As every couple knows, it takes work and dedication to maintain those loving feelings, especially as decades of trials and errors present roadblocks and hurdles to overcome. But for Linda and George Meyers, who have been together for 32 years and run a cooking school together, the key to remembering all of those reasons you selected one another as lifelong partners is to recreate some of the magic from your honeymoon days. Since they had their first kiss together at 16 and 17 years old in George’s car in her parent’s driveway, they try to have that same stolen moment on Valentine’s Day to encourage the flood of butterflies. And added touch? Homemade cards that take them down memory lane. “I can’t wait to see the card: It rekindles our love every year. I know he has put a great deal of thought into it and it cost nothing,” Linda shares. “My favorite was the 3D french fries with real salt glued on top. The saying was simple but perfect: ‘You are the salt on my fries for life!’ We both love french fries and made them often when we were in college because they were cheap. I would always complain that he put too much salt, but he loved the salty taste and would not eat them without it. That year we ate fries with extra salt and drank a Big Gulp for dinner. What a great memory and so romantic because we spent the night reminiscing about the old days and eating fries.”
“Prioritize one another.”
As much as you adore those rugrats you’re raising, without your partner, your family wouldn’t have been possible. That’s why Trent and Melanie Heppler try to use Valentine’s Day as a time to truly prioritize one another, away from their kiddos. They’ve discovered over 23 years of marriage how important it is to steal alone time—and what a difference it makes in their happiness levels on a personal and couple basis. “So much of our lives as parents are focused on the kids, and not each other. Our family is so much happier when my wife and I focus regularly on each other. Kids need loving, open, honest parents,” Trent shares. “Our best Valentine’s Days have been being together, walking hand in hand down a mountain path, talking to each other, being completely transparent, and not keeping secrets. I love to cook for my wife a special meal and share it together. Now that the kids are on their own, this has made the transition to empty nester easier. Before bed, we love to get in our hot tub with all the lights around us off so we can gaze at the sky, searching for the next shooting star.”
“Make it a group celebration.”
Though some couples like to have Valentine’s Day as an affair for two, for Jean and Martin Shafiroff, who said “I do” at the UN Chapel in New York City in 1982, a common ground for their different religions, the more, the merrier. They extend the invite to not only their family members and friends but their four-legged companions too, who Jean says no true celebration would be complete without them. “If you love to have people around then invite friends and try to surprise your mate. Invite both couples and non-couples. So many people do not have a significant other—so include them—and surprise them with little thoughtful gifts of friendship! Valentine’s Day is not about big expensive gifts,” she shared. “It is about showing that you love and care for your partner, family, friends and those who are alone.”