Knowing what do to for Valentine’s Day with a new partner can be an absolute minefield. If you try to be cool and ignore the day, you might feel bad when they do something romantic, but equally you could come off too strong if you shower them with gifts and they turn up empty handed.
To avoid any misunderstandings and make sure you’re on the same page about the big day, communication is key.
Of course, when and how you bring it up will depend on how long you’ve actually been together. If you’ve only been on a few dates and you’re feeling bold, Anjula Mutanda, relationship psychologist and Relate ambassador, recommends asking them outright how they feel about celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Alternatively, if you’re shy, you can casually mention that 14 February is approaching and try to prompt an opinion from them. If they say they like it, you know it’s safe territory to get them a card. If they rant about commercialisation, you’ve determined that a full fanfare is probably not the best move.
For those who are a little more established in their relationship, broaching the subject might be slightly different as you’ll know them better - including their likes and dislikes. If this is the case, Mutanda recommends to mention that you’ve never really discussed Valentine’s Day before and to ask if they’d like to do anything for it.
“Mention that the relationship has been going really well and ask: ‘Shall we plan something lovely together?’” she suggests. “You can even drop hints about what you like: ‘I love getting cards, it puts a smile on my face’ or ‘I hate surprises’. And ask what they like too. By asking them, you’re simply communicating to them that you care about them.”
On the card front, it can be hard to know where to start thanks to the endless stream of choices available on the high street. Relate counsellor, Barbara Bloomfield, says a simple card will suffice, but nothing too gushy. Instead, keep it lighthearted.
In terms of gifts, Mutanda advises keeping things lowkey if you’re only a few dates in: “Suggest cooking a meal together or going to the cinema. And why don’t you suggest to do it on a day that isn’t on actual Valentine’s Day?”
Bloomfield says the gift you give is “a big metaphor for what you want in the future”, so you should be careful about it. “I’ve heard of people giving a ring after a month or two. That was the beginning of the end of that relationship,” she adds. Like Mutanda, her advice is to give the gift of an event - for example, taking them to the cinema or going out for dinner or drinks.
If you do opt to buy them something, gifts should be “thoughtful but not over-the-top” says Gemma Lovett, lifestyle manager for gift-buying service Hour Hands. “Flowers may be a cliché but a beautifully handpicked bouquet is thoughtful and romantic.” Adding her two cents, eHarmony’s relationship expert Verity Hogan says you should absolutely avoid buying them a giant teddy: “Nobody over the age of 16 wants to be carrying a life-size bear home on the bus.” Fair point.
In terms of money, according to a survey from eHarmony, the average UK resident will spend £22.57 on Valentine’s Day celebrations and presents. But most importantly, make sure you work to your own budget.
If money is an issue, don’t sweat it. Tell your partner a week or so before that, while you would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day, you need to keep things cheap and cheerful. That way, there won’t be an expectation from your other half and they’ll be less likely to shower you with expensive gifts that you can’t reciprocate.
If you still really want to do something to show you care, Hogan recommends getting crafty and making a gift instead. “Remember that presents don’t have to be shop-bought to be meaningful. If you’ve hit the six-month mark, why not create a collage of photographs from your relationship so far or try recreating your first date?” she asks. “Something handmade can carry just as much significance, if not more.”