Valentine’s Day: Go big — or stay home?
How to celebrate the Feb. 14 holiday if you’ve been together a month, 5 years or decades
A brand-new couple might feel pressure to overdo Valentine’s Day. Two partners together for decades might skip the holiday altogether. Someone in a five- or 10-year relationship might wonder if it’s silly to even ask for a card or acknowledgment.
How should couples celebrate Valentine’s Day who have been together for not long at all, a good amount of time or a really, really long time?
Lynn Zakeri, a therapist in Skokie, Ill., said some advice applies to all couples — communicate well, don’t be mad you didn’t get something you didn’t ask for — but that couples, no matter the relationship’s time frame, can be thinking of how to celebrate the holiday differently.
“Don’t set your partner up for failure,” Zakeri said. “If something’s important to you and you’re going to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, let them know.”
New couples (less than a year). First, don’t worry about an extreme celebration for a new coupling.
“Two weeks doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money, because if you do spend a lot, you may overwhelm your partner,” said Katie Ziskind, a marriage therapist in Niantic, Conn.
A common pothole with new couples is the urge to make too little, or too big, of a deal about the holiday. Some might want to go all-out.
“You’re setting a precedent,” Zakeri cautioned. “If you’re going out that first year and the next year you’re not, that leads to second-guessing. Are we still good? Are you not as into me?”
And others might water down their own wishes, not wanting to seem needy or more into the other person.
“Nobody wants to be seen that way, to be seen as, ‘I like you more than you like me. I need you more than you need me,’ ” Zakeri said.
But there’s nothing wrong with some small hints. In fact, it’s better to deliver those than anticipate someone knowing what you want, especially so early in a relationship. Try, “Hey, just FYI, I love getting flowers.”
Perhaps a simple dinner — that’s what Mike
Roberge and Lauren Sharp plan to do, after dating about three months. Sharp said she didn’t plan to bring up the holiday, and Roberge said he hadn’t considered planning anything when it was still weeks away.
“Maybe since we’re pretty new, I didn’t want to ask, because I didn’t want to seem pushy,” Sharp said. “If we didn’t do anything, I wouldn’t be upset.”
Now that the holiday is closer, Roberge said, “I probably will plan to ask to take her out to dinner.”
Been together for a few years (five to 10 years). For couples together more than five years, this is where some might start to slack on Valentine’s Day. The important thing is to talk about whether either of you wants to acknowledge the holiday.
“If it’s important to one of you, then you need to celebrate it,” Zakeri said. “It’s an excuse to say, ‘I love you,’ and it’s an excuse to say, ‘My life is better because of you.’ ’’
When the initial list of Valentine’s Day plans has been exhausted by years together, that’s the perfect time to check in. And perhaps by this point, life has gotten busy — kids might be in the picture, busier work schedules than the early days. All reasons it’s more important to communicate.
“Valentine’s Day is an excuse to be nice to each other, tell the other person why you’re glad to be with them,” Zakeri said. “It doesn’t have to be anything more extravagant than that, as long as you’re both on the same page.”
Ask the person if you’re correctly anticipating needs or assumptions, and how, or if, he or she would like to celebrate.
Maybe you go to a restaurant on a different day to avoid the crowds or plan something other than dinner. But if one person wants to celebrate, find something that feels fun together.
And don’t worry about direct and clear communication ruining the romance, or a surprise.
“Telling somebody you want a card doesn’t mean you ruined it, because the card they pick out is awesome,” Zakeri said. “Telling someone you want flowers is OK, because maybe they’re going to surprise you with the timing of it.”
Perhaps it’s a time you are considering bringing up a conversation such as engagement or taking the next step in your relationship.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, who runs the Marriage Restoration Project in Pikesville, Md., with his wife, Rivka, suggests setting a time when you will have each other’s undivided attention. “You may also want to prompt the conversation by letting your partner know you have something serious to talk about.”
Long-term couples (10+ years): This is when Valentine’s Day can be forgotten or overlooked. Perhaps that’s because both people truly do not care to celebrate it, but the important thing is to check.
Just as with a new couple, communication is key.
“Throwing the suggestion out there is vulnerable in itself,” Zakeri said. “And then the partner’s job is to recognize that they’re taking a risk asking, even if you think it’s a bad idea.”
If you’re having trouble deciding what you’d like to do, ask yourself, How did you feel in the past? What did you enjoy that you’ve done to celebrate in previous years?
Therapists say any excuse to reconnect in a relationship is a good one. Use it as a chance to set up a trip to take together, or summon happy memories.
The Slatkins suggest traveling together, taking a class together or revisiting a place where each of you has fond memories.
As far as Zakeri and her husband, Darius, who have been married 20 years this summer and met in kindergarten, she’s already bought cards in their tradition — one cute and funny, one sentimental and mushy. And she already has a gift, but it’s a surprise.
Lynn and Darius Zakeri, of Skokie, have been married for nearly 20 years and plan to celebrate with cards and possibly a gift or two.