Saying it just right this Valentine's Day

You two have only been dating for a few weeks and Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Should you acknowledge it, wait to see if he or she brings it up- or go ahead and make plans with single friends for that day?

Your relationship is almost one year old and this will be your first Valentine's Day together. Should you go all out, do something low key or wait to see what he/she suggests?

You are in a committed relationship and planning marriage. Past Valentine's Day celebrations have involved a night out and an exchange of gifts- but you always feel a bit unsure of how much to give and uncomfortable if she/he does more. What's right for a couple in your stage?

You have been married/coupled for a number of years. Too often, Valentine's Day feels forced due to work and life pressures and the feeling that you are supposed to do something because to ignore this day would say something terrible about the state of your relationship. How do you find a way to say I love you that is appropriate, meaningful and nurtures what you have with your partner while not adding more stress?

If any of the above scenarios resonates with you, you may be in need of some useful guidance in planning the right way to celebrate Valentine's Day this year. Not only should you decide what is appropriate for a couple in your relationship stage, it's also important that whatever you choose fits with who you two are as individuals, how each of you feels about the relationship and about celebrating it in the context of Valentine's Day. Since you may have only been dating a very short time, and therefore, hardly know one another, or perhaps you have been together for years and have fallen into a negative pattern regarding how you approach it- some basic guidelines will help you to stay in a comfortable zone, while allowing you to find an expression that could foster greater openness, comfort and intimacy in your relationship- not to mention a fun experience that you can share together and build on in the future.

The following guidelines can be used as a template or you can come up with some creative (comparable) ideas of your own.

* Newly dating (less than 3 months)

A simple card or a single flower will say I appreciate you and am glad we are dating. Sharing a home cooked meal prepared by one or both of you is also a nice way to mark the day. If your new friend suggests it and it feels right for you or vice versa- going out for a casual meal or to hear some music is simple, can be romantic- and doesn't feel over the top or too much too soon.

* One year old relationship and this is the first Valentine's Day together

Think of something you both like that you can share. Consider making a favorite meal together at home, if you love to cook and he doesn't, surprise him. Going out to eat at a place you both like a lot allows you to both relax, converse and share the meal with no related work or distractions. Renting old movies and ordering in may be just the thing if your schedules are usually hectic and you make sure you sit together, eating ,watching, laughing and conversing--with no distractions allowed (mobile devices especially). You could even get food from two places to make sure you both have your top pick. For some couples, a double date with a couple you really enjoy is a great way to mark the day. Gift ideas should be modest, carefully thought out and very personal. Avoid last minute runs to the florist and/or mall.

* Committed relationship heading to marriage

Plan a romantic evening with massages and a favorite food/wine. Or do something special for him/her that would make their life a little easier- wash their car, do their weekly chores, or just a few random, small acts of love throughout the day. Make a lunch date at a local nice hotel and book a room for the day--and stay into the night (overnight) if possible. Many cities have lovely packages for quick and short getaways and the amenities can be very nice. For gifts, make it fun, give it a lot of thought--and feel free to splurge as long as it?s not over the top, would make your partner uncomfortable or would break the bank.

* Married/partnered for a number of years

Talk to each other beforehand about what each of you would like to do if anything were possible--the list can range from simple to ridiculous. Then, come up with a few realistic possibilities and see how they fit into your budget, time constraints and family life. Consider asking unmarried friends, grandparents, others who are able and willing, to take the kids for an evening or night if this is realistic. The key here is to get some real private, quiet, romantic time together. Go to a hotel and have room service, soak in the tub, enjoy one another, and come home very late or stay the night if this is possible.

If getting away is not possible, you could make a coupon book for your significant other. Each coupon can be redeemed for something you know they will like. Be creative, put the expiration date within the year or offer days/dates that each can best be redeemed. After all, with the demands of life crowding us all the time, if the offers aren't realistic, they won't happen--and the year will pass without them using their gift.

Another idea is to put off the celebration until a weekend night. This way it will be easier to get back-up or plan an evening or night away. If all else fails, you could have a few hours of kid-free time in evening- when you focus on one another, eat a late meal together and get reacquainted as a couple without all the usual family distractions between you.

Most importantly, whatever you decide, make it about pleasing your new friend or significant other. Nothing says I care about you like choosing a gift or activity that you know they will like. If they are Valentine's Day adverse, pick another day of the year and let them know you are happy they are in your life.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

This is the first "Relationship Stage Challenges" article.

List of more "Relationship Stage Challenges" articles

"Making the decision to cohabitate--or not"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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