Figuring out what to do for your first Valentine's Day as a couple can be daunting, to say the least. When you haven't been together for very long, you might not know if you're even ready to celebrate such a romantic holiday, much less know where you'd like to go for dinner. It can quickly turn into a high-pressure situation and one that doesn't seem very fun.
Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming for anyone, but that first Valentine’s Day together definitely has an extra dose of stress, says Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating. Since the day is chock-full of expectations, you might start to overthink your plans, put a bunch of pressure on yourself, or wonder what’s appropriate to do, but it's way better to chat about it early on so you two can get on the same page and have a good time.
Maybe you and your partner agree to focus on smaller things like cards, flowers, or a night in with a box of
drugstore chocolates. You might also be into the idea of starting your own tradition as a couple. It’s all about figuring out what feels right for your new relationship.
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Valentine's Day tips for navigating your first romantic day as a couple, according to relationship experts. 1 Chat About Your Expectations
Since your relationship is on the newer side, you might not even know how your
partner feels about Valentine's Day. Do they like to go all-out with ritzy restaurant reservations and fireworks displays? Or are they more of a heart-shaped cookie kind of person? It’s time to find out.
"People have very different opinions and expectations about Valentine’s Day," Bennett says, which is why you’ll need to have an open and honest convo as you head into February. Make a point of getting it all out on the table so you'll be able to approach the day with similar expectations.
“Communication is key,” adds counselor
Kailey Hockridge, LPCC. “This doesn't have to be a ‘serious’ talk but it is a great opportunity for new partners to learn more about what they each care about and how to express their care or appreciation in ways their partners understand and can appreciate.” 2 Talk About Your Love Languages
The whole concept of
love languages definitely applies to Valentine’s Day, so go ahead and direct a conversation in this direction. Do you like to show love by giving gifts, spending quality time together, or sharing words of affirmation? Let it all out and ask your partner how they like to give and receive love so you can figure out the best way to approach the holiday.
Some folks are uncomfortable with certain displays of affection, Hockridge says, so it’s good to know the facts instead of just assuming. Basically, the more transparent you are with each other, the better your day will be.
3 Let Them Know What You Want
While surprises are fun, you can remove some of the pressure this year by being crystal clear about what you want to do on V-Day, says licensed psychologist
Dr. David Helfand, PsyD. A quick, “Hey babe. Let’s buy each other flowers and get pizza” is all it takes. That way no one will have to guess or stress. 4 Make Plans Together
If it feels like the pressure to plan the day is falling all on you or your partner, then “decide as a team something fun that you can do together on Valentine's Day,” says
Jordanne Sculler, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor. That way it won’t be up to one person. 5 Match Your Gift To The Mood Match your Valentine's Day gift to your level of intimacy.
A big part of Valentine's Day is the gift-giving segment, which often means doling out flowers, cards, and jewelry. But if it’s your first time celebrating together, you probably won’t know what’s right versus what feels like too much.
When in doubt,
Becca Hirsch, M.A., LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, recommends matching your gift to your level of intimacy. If you’ve only been together a month, a more casual gift like a box of cookies or a bunch of flowers is perfect. If it’s coming up on a year and you’ve already dropped the L bomb, that’s when you might want to do something bigger, like a weekend getaway.
"That being said, it really does depend on the relationship and what precedent has already been set,” Hirsch says. Again, this is why chatting comes in handy as you decide what’s right.
6 Give Your Gift With Confidence
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a gift? It’s always the thought that counts. “Remember, your partner can buy themselves anything they want or need,” says licensed mental health counselor
Jose Ramirez. “The reason gifts are so special is that they show the person that you are thinking of them. The intention behind the gift is what matters most. This simple reframe can save you a lot of headaches.” 7 Opt For An Experience Date 8 Choose A Casual Date Night Setting
When you're new to a relationship, it can take a while to get to the staring-at-each-other-across-a-candlelit-table stage, and that's OK. You can still go out while keeping it casual. Hirsch suggests choosing a fun, low-pressure setting. Think a bar with live music, a chill cafe, or the pizza shop where you first met. Remove the candles from the situation, and it’ll put you both at ease.
9 Start Your Own Tradition
Since your new relationship is a blank slate, that means you can drop all the expectations that don’t feel right and replace them with something that’s a better fit. And that includes
creating your own Valentine's Day tradition.
"On your first Valentine’s Day as a couple, consider making it special in a way you’d like to repeat every year,"
Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. This might mean choosing a restaurant that you can go back to every Feb. 14th. It might also mean going off the beaten path and trying something completely new, like staying home and baking a cake. 10 Go Into Full Corny Mode
When in doubt, lean into the cheesiness of the day. "Have fun with it, regardless of how corny others may think it is, or even if you've perceived Valentine's as corny in the past," says
Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher MA, CAGS, LMHC, a licensed psychotherapist.
To go all out, create a slideshow of your love from the past three months, wear matching pink and red outfits and bop around town, or read poetry to each other. If it’s mildly embarrassing, you’re doing it right.
You may even find that this vibe actually fits how you've been feeling. "During the first nine to 12 months of dating someone, our bodies are
coursing with dopamine and serotonin, your feel-good neurotransmitters," Weaver-Breitenbecher tells Bustle. “So you often want to scream your feelings for someone from a rooftop." 11 Throw An Anti-Valentine’s Day Party
There’s also the option to have an
anti-Valentine’s Day. If that feels more your speed, go ahead and plan a day that has nothing to do with hearts and roses and is instead unique to you and your partner. “Maybe instead of flowers or chocolate you decide on a cooking class or watching a horror movie on a different day in February that can become special to you and your partner exclusively,” Sculler says. Make it as un-Valentine-y as possible. 12 Share Your V-Day Memories
Tell your partner about a Valentine’s Day memory from when you were younger, says Sculler. Talk about how your second-grade class exchanged cards or how you’d always bake pink cupcakes with your grandparents. According to Sculler, sharing memories is a cute way to broach the subject without feeling too heavy and also helps you feel more connected.
13 Manage Your Expectations
Remember, your partner is also quietly Googling what to do on Valentine’s Day, and they’re probably equally worried about doing too much or not doing enough. Until you get your traditions sorted out, it’ll help to manage your own expectations when it comes to how the day pans out. “Focus less on the gift or plan and more on the intention and gesture behind it,” Ramirez says.
14 Resist Comparing Your Day To Anyone Else's
Whatever you do, don’t open Instagram and start comparing your Valentine’s Day to your friend who’s been married for five years. When more established couples are well into their Valentine's Day traditions, it’s possible you’ll feel as if your day isn't measuring up. So try to avoid comparing your holiday to the ones you see on social media or hear about from friends.
Kara Lissy, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist at A Good Place Therapy, tells Bustle, "It will help you keep the focus on your own feelings and relationship, and help you decide how and if you want to celebrate.” 15 Accept That It Won’t Be Perfect
Once you get potentially tough convos out of the way, sit back and see where the day takes you. "Valentine’s Day can be stressful for many new couples since they hope to make a good impression and worry about disappointing their partner," Bennett says. Ultimately, it's just an excuse to spend some time together. As the day approaches, remember there are no hard and fast
Valentine's Day rules. Instead, it's about figuring out what feels suitable for your relationship. 16 Do Something Nice For Yourself
While Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to show your partner some extra love, you also have the opportunity to share that love with yourself.
“Valentine's Day is a day for love and romance, but that doesn't have to stop at focusing on your significant other,” says
Shadeen Francis, a licensed marriage and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist. “Consider what makes you feel loved and cared for and see if there is anything you can do for yourself.”
This is also a great backup plan if you decide not to do anything as a couple. You can always stay in and
treat yourself to a self-care night that includes a face mask, a sweet treat, and a glass of bubbly. 17 Prioritize Kindness
Instead of grand gestures, Francis suggests showing that you are grateful for one another and that you’re committed to treating each other with kindness throughout the year. This is especially key in a brand-new relationship where you want to set the precedent for long-term happiness.
Rather than going all out on an expensive dinner or fancy piece of jewelry, consider spending some quality time together or showing mutual love by engaging in activities that honor both of your love languages. That way, you’ll set your relationship up to stay extra sweet all year.
Additional reporting by Lexi Inks. Experts: Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating Becca Hirsch, M.A., LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio Kara Lissy, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist at A Good Place Therapy Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher MA, CAGS, LMHC, licensed psychotherapist and owner of a private practice Shadeen Francis, LMFT, CST, licensed marriage and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist
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This article was originally published on
Feb. 5, 2020