It’s hard to be a cool customer when Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and you’ve only been dating someone for a short period of time.
Is your new guy making a dinner reservation? Should you exchange gifts? Is he going to say those three big words?
Like New Year’s Eve, there's oodles of pressure and expectation riding on this romantic holiday. “Valentine’s Day is loaded with hype, advertising and ways for people to make money—and have to spend money,” says Susan Hendrick, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. “It’s a day that many people in relationships, especially men, dread!”
Adds Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor’s Guide to Lasting Love,“People will have high expectations and when they’re not met, it backfires.”
If you're in a new relationship, it's important to avoid being sucked into the hype—and subsequent disappointment. Here’s how to manage your Valentine’s Day expectations.
If you’ve been together for two or three weeks…don't expect to be swept off your feet. You’re in the baby stage of a relationship and putting on too much pressure when things are still so new is the kiss of death.
“At this point, you have ‘dated’ a few times,” says Hendrick. “You don’t necessarily have ‘a relationship.’ The safest and most sensible—but hard to follow—rule here would be to have no expectations that Valentine’s Day will be anything special for the two of you. One of the hardest things in any romantic relationship, especially at the beginning, is to avoid expectations of certain behaviors from the other person. Don’t let Valentine’s Day get in the way!”
Prepare yourself that your beau may not have big—or even any—plans for Valentine’s Day because things are still new. Or because the holiday may not carry as much weight in his eyes as it does yours, especially so early on. “Valentine’s Day doesn’t necessarily mean as much to a guy as it does to a woman,” notes Kirschner. “So don’t take it as such a big sign. It doesn’t necessarily indicate how serious he is about your relationship.”
Adds Kirschner: “Your job is to not take it overly-seriously and to really lower your expectations so you don’t get angry or bitter. It will save you a lot trouble and angst.”
If you do have plans, things have been going amazingly well from the get-go and your guy has “emotionally available” written all over him, it can be appropriate to give him a card, suggests Kirschner. “You’re not pressing on the relationship to make it more than it is,” she says. “It’s something small, sweet and endearing that will pull the person closer to you without pressuring them or scaring them off.” Just be sure to steer clear of cards with the word “love” anywhere on it.
If you've been together for three to four months…it’s reasonable to expect you'd spend Valentine's Day together. On the flipside, it’s understandable to question the seriousness of your relationship if he seems to develop amnesia about Valentine’s Day and doesn’t acknowledge it, even if it’s by saying, “I’m not big on celebrating Valentine’s Day, so let’s pick our own night to do something together.”
Now that you’re a few months in and you’ve gotten to know each other better, you should feel comfortable enough to speak up that you’d like to celebrate the love fest together. “Use the magic phrase, ‘I would really love it if…’ and then fill in the blank for Valentine’s Day, such as a dinner out,” suggests Kirschner. “You can’t expect mind reading.”
As far as gifts go, exchanging something small can be thoughtful, but don’t expect jewelry, which is more appropriate for a serious relationship that’s further along, notes Kirschner. And don’t hold your breath that he’ll blurt out "I love you" on Valentine’s Day when you’re still relationship newbies. “If you’ve been together for a few months, it would be nice to get a card or even a rose or some chocolate from a guy, but ‘I love you’—I don’t think so!” says Hendrick. “’Love’ is a word used too often, too early and unwisely.”
Instead, release the pressure valve, keep your expectations in check and focus on enjoying your time together—however you two new lovebirds choose to spend it.
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