Dating and Relationship Advice

Every Valentine’s Day seems the same: bouquets of fresh roses, cards aplenty, declarations of love on social media. It suddenly feels like everyone is in a relationship and February 14th is the Super Bowl of showing that off. In high school and college, I'd see girls walking around with stuffed animals, chocolates, the works. Every time I'd notice one of those cheesy Instagram posts or an armload of candy and roses, I would think Wow, I didn’t know (insert name) was such a romantic! That must be nice.

And then, like the stroke of midnight in Cinderella, the romantic intentions and gestures would vanish by February 15th.

Cue all the complaints of “he never does anything special for me”, “they practically ignore me unless they want something”, “she’s so busy, we have no time to be together”. I would hear those comments all year round until the next Valentine’s Day, when the roses and posts and gushiness rolled out like a routine. It never made sense to me. If you love someone, wouldn’t you want to show it more than once a year?

What's the point?

I realize I sound like a relationship-hating, rom-com trashing cynic, but the truth is that I never really understood the hype around Valentine’s Day. Even as a kid, I thought that Valentine’s Day was the holiday where you had to love pink and eat those conversation hearts that tasted like chalk. As an adult, I get that the purpose is to let your SO know how important they are to you. But why go all out for only one day a year?

Why do we treat Valentine’s Day like a romantic version of The Purge? One time a year when you can pour your heart out and shower your SO with romantic gestures, then resume regular life and basically ignore them for the next 364 days?

I’m not talking about taking your boyfriend out for fancy dinners every night, or bringing your girlfriend with a new bouquet every day. That would get expensive fast. In my opinion, the biggest misconception about Valentine's Day is that you have to hit your credit limit in order to express to someone that you love them.

Showing love in simple ways

When I was in sixth grade, my mom gave me a copy of a book about love languages. She explained to me that “actions speak louder than words” and stated that this also applied to “I love you”. In other words, you have to illustrate that you love someone beyond just saying it.

Fortunately, the five love languages are easy to pick up and are now well-known among the general populace. The dating app Hinge even offers a prompt about your love language so you can match with someone who has compatible ones. These love languages demonstrate that there are many ways to show your loved one that you care about them, without breaking the bank or waiting until Valentine’s Day.

As a refresher, the five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts:

If your partner likes physical touch, perhaps that means giving them a neck rub when they have had a busy day.

If quality time is it, try scheduling a special day together once a week. That could be anything from a Sunday morning walk and brunch to a Friday night movie.

What about words of affirmation? Sending a message to your SO, whether it is on Post-it notes that spell out "I Love You" all over your apartment or a simple text every day that says “You’re important to me, don’t forget that.”

And acts of service? If your partner has been cooking a lot since lockdown started, step in and make dinner for a while, or order takeout from their favorite place.

It's different for everyone

Romance is not one-size-fits-all; some people really hate being put on the spot or being the center of attention in any way. Just because you identify with one (or more) of the love languages doesn’t mean that you’re confined to it. For instance, my friend Anthony and his girlfriend Zara equally enjoy physical touch. Beyond cuddles and hugs, the two of them enjoy dancing and playing with each other's hair.

Another couple I know, Rachel and Emmanuel, have different love languages. Rachel prefers words of affirmation, while Emmanuel likes physical touch. And yet, he wrote Rachel a beautiful card that illustrated how happy he was that they were together and how excited he was about their future.

Above all, you should be with someone who celebrates you more than once a year. When I say "celebrate", I mean showing you the love, affection, and support that you deserve from another person. Going all out for Valentine’s Day is fine as long as your significant other also shows you affection the rest of the year. If they only go big on the 14th out of obligation, that's not treating you the way that you deserve.