It doesn't matter if you've been dating for two weeks or two years, Valentine's Day is like sticking your relationship in a pressure cooker.
On February 14, every relationship issue you have, had in the past or may have in the future will intensify.
Here are three key areas where something can go disastrously, spectacularly wrong:
1. The Gifts
Wouldn't it be awesome if there were some magic formula that could tell you exactly what gift to get your SO?
Alas, mathematicians have yet to come up with an equation for these delicate social problems.
Thanks a lot, math. I knew I would never need to know algebra after high school; you have to navigate these tricky waters on your own.
Here's just some of what can go wrong in the gift department:
• You spend $350 and three weeks finding front-row seats for his favorite band while he gets you a Bath and Body Works sampler (And not even with your favorite scent).
If one of you gives a thoughtful, personal, special gift and the other one gives a generic, last-minute fill-in (no, she will not appreciate an Amazon gift card in any amount), the rest of your Valentine's Day is probably not going to wind up well.
• You get him a gold lamé Speedo, Ben Wa Balls and a cock ring, while he gets you a Dyson cordless vacuum.
This type of gift disconnect has several connotations, and none of them are awesome.
Yours says, “I want a piece of that hot ass.” His says, “Get your ass in the kitchen and clean my house.”
Or maybe yours means you think of him as an entertaining boy toy, while his says he thinks of you as wife material.
• You give her the limited-edition, designer's collection Marie Antoinette pumps from Christian Louboutin you finally scored on eBay for just north of a grand she's drooled over for years, while you get nothing at all.
“Hey, I bought you a nice dinner. What more do you want?”
It's not that you have to receive (or give) big gifts to show your love at Valentine's Day.
The hubs and I boycott V-Day pressies altogether because we have a hard enough time figuring out what to get each other for Christmas, and don't want to do it all over again not even two months later.
But, we still have a rockin' romantic good time.
But if you've been together for more than a few weeks and you're under the impression that V-Day is the time to show your love in a very splashy way, if your SO does not, you will be sorely disappointed.
2. The Date
Again, we're talking context here.
On a normal date night, hopefully most of us are pretty happy with anywhere our date takes us, whether that's a fancy prix-fixe chef's table or the hottest new food truck in town.
But not on Feb. 14.
Right or wrong, Valentine's Day can be the one night of the year when even the most low-maintenance and easygoing can overanalyze how much our SO cares about us, based on what kind of date he or she takes us on.
What does it mean if you wind up at the Mexican dive bar down the street because every place else was booked solid?
Or, was it that he didn't care enough to make a reservation somewhere ahead of time?
Did she take you to Applebee's instead of somewhere more special because it's what she can afford?
Or was it because that's all she thinks you're worth?
Why did he order himself a beer instead of a bottle of champagne for you to share?
Does he think champagne is way too romantic for the way he feels about you, and he's afraid you'll get the wrong idea?
That doesn't even factor in the flower quandary: Did he bring you any? Are they special-order or a generic bouquet picked up on the fly from a grocery store?
Red roses, or —*shudder* — pink carnations? Seriously, carnations is the anti-Viagra of flowers.
It's not that we're judgy, materialistic or high-maintenance.
It's just that all the commercials, ads and TV shows and movies leading up to V-Day showing picture-perfect romance can make even the least judgmental of us start to wonder: How does my relationship measure up?
3. The State Of The Union
Even if you're a Valentine's Day savant, the most careful plans can go totally off the rails, depending on where your relationship stands.
What if you've been thinking of breaking up? It's not like you want to go all-out on gifts or dinner or flowers if you know you're about to pull the plug.
That brings us to the age-old conundrum: Is it worse to dump someone right before V-Day or right after?
What if you had a bad fight the night before, and you're still fuming over it?
It's hard to create a romantic mood when all you can think about is how much you'd like to stick your steak knife into his eyeball.
And then there's the mother of all Valentine's dilemmas: Will there be a ring? And it's perhaps even more terrifying flip side: Oh f*ck, what if there's a ring?
With emotions, tensions and expectations running high, Valentine's Day can make or break your relationship solely based on where things stand between the two of you.
Given every obstacle, challenge and potential catastrophe littering the Valentine's Day landscape, if you've managed to have a romantic, sweet, sexy evening with the one you love, hang on to that sucker.
You've found a unicorn.
Phoebe Fox is the author of the Breakup Doctor series (from Henery Press). Her latest book, "Heart Conditions" comes out February 9.
You can find her at phoebefoxauthor.com or on Twitter @PhoebeFoxAuthor.