“How do I navigate Valentine’s Day when I’ve only just started dating?” Stylist Magazine...
BEC OAKES - STYLIST - Valentine’s Day can be a minefield in any relationship, but what if you’ve just started dating someone? Should you buy a present, make plans, or even celebrate at all? Stylist asks relationship experts for advice.
I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, in large part because I’ve had no-
one to celebrate with. I’ve been single my entire life and nothing reminds you of just how alone you are like an international holiday dedicated to happy couples flaunting their love for one another with gifts, grand gestures and social media posts tagged #blessed.
This year, however, my jealousy has been replaced with a dilemma of sorts. How do I navigate Valentine’s Day when I’ve only just started datingsomeone new?
I met Rich at the start of the year on Hinge. He’s handsome, funny and we have a lot in common. He’s everything I’m looking for in a partner. It’s early days — due to busy schedules, we’ve only been on a few dates. But we talk every day and I really like him.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, he’s been on my mind more than ever. While whatever’s happening between us is a recent thing, it’s showing real promise and I think I’d like to celebrate that. But, there’s no real indicator as to how I’m supposed to conduct myself when it comes to the cliche-ridden 14 February.
What I should expect at such an early stage in our “relationship”? How do I show Rich I appreciate him without sending him running for the hills? Thinking about it has left me feeling insecure.
Of course, Valentine’s Day can be stressful for all couples, whether it’s buying gifts or arranging a romantic evening together. And, in the age of social media, the curse of comparison is rife — your day has to be as good as if not better than everyone else’s. But, when you’re sort of dating someone but it’s not quite official, the holiday is especially tricky to navigate. Do you exchange gifts or just organise a date? Is it appropriate to even celebrate the day at all? Everything is up in the air and it’s absolute torture.
Maria, 31, from Brighton, had been dating a former partner she’d met through mutual friends for just over two months when Valentine’s Day came around. “As it approached, I found myself awkwardly dancing around the subject,” she says. “As much as I wanted to do something to celebrate, I was too nervous to bring it up. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him.” In the end, they didn’t spend the day together. “I know it didn’t mean anything bad, but it was still disappointing.”
For Alice, 27, from West Yorkshire, her insecurity came from not knowing whether her relationship was serious enough. “I’d been dating Sam for a while. We’d been on maybe 10 dates. But we weren’t exclusive, just having a good time together.”
She explains: “I knew we’d probably end up doing something but I didn’t know how big to go. I started overthinking things, which was weird because everything has always been comfortable and easy. I ended up letting him decide what we did. We just went for dinner and drinks and it was great, but the build-up was really stressful.”
Clinical sexologist and sex and relationships coach Ness Cooper explains why Valentine’s Day can be so tricky for new couples and how we can handle the stress that comes with it.
“The holiday can be overwhelming when you’re in a new relationship as you’re just starting to learn about the person you’re dating and you don’t want to disappoint them.” She explains that while it’s all too easy to become obsessed with planning the perfect day, or the perfect gift, it’s far more important to be present and in the moment. “Try not to overreach,” says Cooper. “Valentine’s Day can tempt you to rush to complete certain relationship milestones but take some time to reflect and decide whether or not the time is right. Remember you can aim for these milestones in the future; there’s no need to rush things.”
If you’re struggling to figure out exactly how to celebrate, relationship strategist Mairead Molloy says communication is key. “Talk to each other in advance,” she says. “You might think the whole concept of Valentine’s Day is crazy. Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic who thinks it’s the most important day of the year. Either way, your partner isn’t going to know how you feel if you don’t tell them and vice versa.”
“Ask them how they like to celebrate special holidays and listen before expressing your own preferences. Be direct but keep the chat lighthearted and positive. Discuss what you both like, share potential ideas, maybe compromise a little and make a plan for the day that you’ll both enjoy.”
And Molloy’s biggest piece of advice? “Don’t take it too seriously. It’s just a holiday. Of course, people often use it for big romantic gestures, but for new couples, it doesn’t need to be so serious,” she explains. “You don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on your brand new relationship, so save the dramatics for later and just have fun.”
So as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m managing my expectations and trying to relax a little. If Rich and I spend the day together, that’s great. If we don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Either way, if it’s meant to be, there’s always next year.