When you’ve just started dating someone, Valentine’s Day is more awkward than romantic. You don’t know if you should plan a lavish night on the town, buy them a gift, or simply ignore the day altogether. Here’s what two dating and relationship experts recommend.
No Matter What, Talk About It Beforehand
Before you make any sort of plans for Valentine’s Day, it’s best you talk things over with the person you’re seeing. Dr. Nerdlove, dating columnist and author of New Game +: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex, & Dating, told us that this is especially true if you’re someone who feels strongly about the holiday one way or the other. If you don’t like the commercialism, cheesiness, or manufactured pressure of it all, it’s best to mention it sooner rather than later.
Or if you like using the holiday to get into the spirit of romance, it’s important you let them know. As Vanessa Marin, licensed marriage and family therapist and Lifehacker contributor, explains, surprising them with a lavish celebration can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a huge gamble that’s more than likely going to make them very uncomfortable. And don’t stress about talking this out, says Marin:
Anyone in a new relationship feels that awkwardness around the 14th, so you’re not going to surprise your partner by bringing it up. Lead with something simple like, “I know Valentine’s Day is always such a weird thing, so…”
Get it out in the open, discuss it honestly, and come up with a plan together that makes you both feel comfortable.
If You’re Not Exclusive, Ignore the Holiday
It’s hard to measure the seriousness of a relationship with time, says Marin, since relationships unfold at wildly different paces. For some couples, dating for three weeks could mean you’ve only had one or two dates. For others, dating for three weeks could mean you’re already monogamous. So, as a general guideline, Marin recommends you base your plans off of your exclusivity, or lack thereof:
I think a better guideline to use is whether or not you’ve had “the talk” about being exclusive. Or, if you’re in non-monogamous relationships, that you’ve talked about being serious. If you’re not exclusive, I would ignore the holiday altogether.
You shouldn’t expect Valentine’s to be a big deal, especially if you’re in the first weeks of a relationship. Romance is just starting to blossom between you and your partner, so there’s no need to put any extra pressure on each other because of your timing. If it works out, there’s always next year. If you feel the need to do something, Nerdlove suggests you go with something small but cute like a cheesy card at most.
If You Are Exclusive, a Date Is Fine, but Ditch the Gifts
If you’ve had “the talk” with your partner and are now exclusive, celebrating is fine as long as it’s within reason. That said, Nerdlove still warns against anything too extravagant:
If you’ve been dating for a couple months, a simple romantic date is certainly a good way to celebrate, although I wouldn’t go overboard. My advice for couples is, if you’re not going to ignore it, then just stay home instead of trying to go out to a crowded restaurant that’s jacked up the prices. It’s more romantic, it’s cheaper and it’s a hell of a lot more fun.
Marin echoes the “dinner at home” concept, and notes a couple other perks that go along with staying in. First off, you won’t have to stress about getting a reservation on one of the busiest nights of the year. Second, you won’t make each other feel uncomfortable by surrounding yourselves with a bunch of much more serious couples. It’s just you and your partner enjoying a nice meal together without any pressure.
Even if you do have a date night, you should probably still avoid giving gifts. As Marin explains, one person inevitably ends up spending more than the other person, and both parties are left feeling awkward. And you should absolutely avoid giving any extravagant gifts, says Nerdlove. Big gifts very early on in a relationship raises a huge red flag to most people and will probably freak them out. If you’ve been together for a few months, however, and you see each other at least once or twice a week, a gift around $30 is reasonable. Maybe a book by their favorite author, or a movie you both mentioned wanting to see. Regardless, if you talk about it beforehand as we’ve advised, there won’t be any problems.
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