Valentine's Day- celebrating your relationship stage

Valentine's Day angst is not just for those who are single and unattached. Relationship coaches get lots of mail before Valentine's Day from people who are newly dating, in long term (unmarried and growing) relationships, and from those who are married--asking questions about the what and how of celebrating this day for lovers. Whatever relationship stage you are in, it's a good idea to brush up on how to best observe this day in a way that sincerely says "I?m thinking of you!" The following guidelines should address the most common questions of those who span the spectrum from newly dating to couples who have been married for many years.

Newly dating to three month relationship

Even if you have only had a few dates with someone, it is likely that the thought of what to do about Valentine's Day will be on both of your minds. It's fine to bring the subject up in a low key, open ended way that leaves a lot of room for the other person to move in a direction that is comfortable for them- which could be anything from suggesting a date to moving on to another topic altogether. It's also okay to wait and see as you tune into their non-verbal signals and any subtle messages they may be sending about how they are feeling towards you and the two of you together. Reading the signals right is always your best guide to moving forward or not in a relationship. Some Valentine's Day celebration tips for the newly dating:

* A nice card (yes, the paper kind)
* A nice and/or funny ecard
*A bottle of their favorite wine--not too expensive
* A single flower
* A CD
* Cook dinner for them at your place
* Go out to hear a favorite band together

Couples who have been dating three to six months

If you have reached the three month relationship mark, it is likely you are close to reaching or have already gotten to the second stage of your relationship. If so, you are more open and comfortable with each other and with sharing your needs and wants. It is also likely that you have had a discussion about Valentine's Day, and have either made plans together or are each thinking about how best to say "I care about you" to the other. Some good ideas for this stage:

* Spending the day together doing something your both enjoy

* Going out for a special dinner to a favorite restaurant or bistro- affordable and comfortable is best. End the evening sharing a night cap or coffee and talking about your individual (and any shared) plans, dreams, hopes for the future.

* If you know your significant other would love a certain gift, give it. Nothing too expensive or something that could make them uncomfortable because it feels like too much.

* Go to a wine tasting event if wine is some thing you both enjoy

* Exchange cards and small gifts, cook dinner together, watch a movie at home, and say I love you sincerely but within your budget.

Unmarried couples together for more than one year

If you have been in at least a one year relationship--you may be living together, may have already discussed marriage, and have most likely talked about what to do for Valentine's Day. You are in a more committed relationship stage than the newly dating, but have not yet make the ultimate commitment to marriage. Because of the comfort level of this stage, it is a good idea to make a break with the ordinary and take some time out to focus on the two of you, as a couple. Some ideas for how to celebrate:

* Plan a weekend away skiing at a bed and breakfast, visiting a favorite place- or pursuing an activity you both enjoy and that would give you some special on to one time together. Don't plan any visits with family--this is not a good choice for Valentine's Day!

* Get massages together or splurge and have a couple's day at the spa.

* If you are both foodies, a dinner at a very special restaurant is always a nice option. Make sure you include a favorite wine or follow it with coffee and intimate discussion. Wherever you go--turn the blackberry off, avoid all distractions, and make this about you, the couple.

Married couples

It's actually more important for married folks to take the time out to say "I love you and I'm thinking about you today." Between their roles of mom and dad, employee and/or employer, son, daughter, brother, sister, neighbor and friend--the important one of a lover and partner can get pushed aside and neglected. When this happens, it threatens the very foundation of the family and the other roles that revolve around this central one. So, if this is you, consider couple time to be sacred, and find a way to say I love you and value you, on this day, and on all the other days of the year. Some ideas for married couples on Valentine's Day:

* Plan an activity without the kids, and preferably not with a group. Go out to dinner, a comedy club, a movie and/or for drinks. Turn off the blackberry and resolve to block out any distractions. Stay focused on one another and talk, about anything or nothing in particular. The point is to be looking and talking/listening to each other, while the world moves along outside of that intimate circle you draw around you.

* Make up couples coupons. All you need is a pen or marker, a scissor and some paper. Cut out squares and on each one, write down one thing your partner really likes to do. Then, he/she can redeem them anytime throughout the year. Be creative--a night out with their friends, a day of golfing with the guys, a home cooked meal (by you), a foot massage, breakfast in bed, coffee made and served in the am, a night off from doing the dishes. You get the picture, creative, inexpensive, and it's a gift that keeps on giving.

* To all you guys out there- don't procrastinate. If you get all tied up in knots worrying about buying the right gift, you could end up in line at Hallmark on the 14th. She will conclude that you didn't care enough to put thought and planning into it.

* To all you women out there--don't expect him to read your mind. Guys need hints, sometimes they need them to be very specific and repeated several times. It's not that they don't care, it's that they fear doing the wrong thing and disappointing you. Men love to please. Help them do this.

Single and unattached adults

If you are single on the day for lovers--think about the best way for you to mark it, if at all. Every year singles come up with ideas that range from creative good for the body and soul activities- to the ridiculous and the ridiculously funny. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to live the 14th of February as a single person. For more ideas/thought on this, go to:

However you decide to pass this day, remember it is only one out of 365. Make sure you don't forget all the little acts of kindness, caring and love that you can sprinkle throughout the other 364 days of the year.


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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