Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is an especially loaded holiday. Sure, there are some standard traditions you can lean on, like a romantic dinner and a box of chocolates, but mostly, the way this holiday’s celebrated depends entirely on the individual couple celebrating. So, when you’re thinking about how (or even if) to ring in V-Day this year, it's normal to feel pressure — especially considering the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day in a casual relationship, or one that’s so new it hasn't even been defined yet. You might not exactly know how to approach the holiday if your relationship is casual, but one thing you can take solace in is that you're far from being alone in this conundrum. And according to Eric Resnick, professional dating profile writer and online dating coach, social media has only added to the pressure.
"We've been indoctrinated by popular culture to believe in the importance of Valentine's Day. Now, with social media playing such a big role in so many people's lives, we've entered a world where we’re not only doing things to impress our partners, but also your date's friends and anyone else who might see a post about what you've done online. Even worse, your actions will inevitably be compared to people on social media who inflate (or even fabricate) Valentine's gestures just for the clout," Resnick tells Elite Daily.
But here's the good news: Just because everyone else seems to be doing it, you don't have to celebrate V-Day if you don't want to. "In the end, you never have to participate in anything if you don't want to, especially if you’re a new couple," Resnick confirms.
But what if you're somewhere in between? You're not ready for the grand romantic gestures of the holiday, but you also don't want to ignore it completely. In that case, it's all about finding a balance. Here’s how the experts suggest approaching Valentine's Day when your relationship isn't serious yet.
When In Doubt, Keep Things Simple.
Just because it’s Valentine's Day, doesn’t mean you’re required to make a big deal of the holiday. “Celebrating Valentine's Day with someone new doesn't mean you have to go to a fancy restaurant with a prix fixe menu,” Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, tells Elite Daily. But she does warn that outright ignoring it may not be the best option either. Her advice is to pick an activity that matches the casualness of your relationship. “I'm a believer in celebrating Valentine's Day, even if you're bringing in take-out and watching a movie together."
Resnick agrees that acknowledging, if not outright celebrating, the holiday may be your best option. “I’d suggest a small gesture. It should be something that shows you're paying attention to them,” he says. “Big gestures on V-Day imply a lot of feelings. If you’re keeping it casual, you’re sending mixed messages with something grand. Instead, stick to something small and thoughtful. Or, depending on the type of casual relationship you've got, it could be fun to find a small gift that is on the ‘spicier’ side of things,” he suggests. The key is to mark the occasion with something fun, but that doesn’t make the holiday a big deal. “But, if you purposefully ignore it, you're kind of making that the big deal,” he adds.
Get On The Same Page With Your Valentine.
If you’re still not sure how to best approach the holiday, Cherlyn Chong, a breakup recovery coach and dating coach with The League, says your best bet is to go straight to the source. “Valentine's Day doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, and the other person might be wondering the same thing about you too! So you might want to clear things up by asking if they have any plans,” Chong tells Elite Daily.
If you suspect the person you're dating might have some expectations for the holiday, Resnick agrees it’s a good idea to broach the subject to avoid any misunderstandings. “The last thing you want is for people to feel hurt. If it is a long-running casual thing, it doesn't hurt to send a text and bring it up. That way, you know the two of you’re still on the same page as far as intent,” he advises.
Don’t Sweat It. Just Do What Feels Right.
Ultimately, the best way to handle the holiday is to follow your gut and do what feels right, explains Chong. If your instinct is not to celebrate, that’s OK, too. It might just be too soon. “Sometimes, celebrating Valentine's Day brings the relationship to another level before either party is ready, and if you feel that would be the case, you don't have to celebrate it — at least not in full,” Chong says. Her advice is to acknowledge the holiday, then keep it moving. “It can be nothing more than just a simple ‘Happy Valentine's Day!’ text or a small gift. So no one feels disappointed, but no one feels like it's rushing the relationship either with a bigger financial, time, or emotional investment,” she concludes.
The key takeaway: The best way to celebrate Valentine's Day is totally up to you and your date, even if that means skipping it altogether. By following your instincts and being true to yourselves, you’re celebrating and cherishing the most important event of all: taking care of and loving yourself. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being your own Valentine.
Cherlyn Chong, breakup recovery coach and dating coach with The League
Eric Resnick, professional dating profile writer and online dating coach
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships