Carolyn Hax: Valentine’s Day advice for couples and singles

February 14, 2012

It’s a potential minefield of a day for relationships: Valentine’s Day, the love-it-or-hate-it holiday that some celebrate as “Singles Awareness Day.” Whether you’re the champagne-and-roses type, or you’re preparing a pity party, we’ve mined the Carolyn Hax archives for some useful last-minute Valentine’s Day advice.

Newly single girl seeks solo V-Day activities

Newlysingle, D.C.: Dear Carolyn —

I really value your advice and hope you can help. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years about one month ago, and am feeling a little sad about V-Day, as well as my weekend nights. First, any suggestions for what I can do tonight? I don't really like the thought of sitting at home alone, but am not sure of any activities that a woman can do by herself.

As far as the weekends go, my friends are all coupled up, and I often join them when they go out on the weekend nights. I realize I am lucky to have this outlet, but am feeling like I should not depend on them for my social life. I am just not sure there are many desirable options for a single girl out on the town by herself. (I really don't have any friends that are single).

I don't necessarily want to "pick up" anyone, just maybe meet some people. I am still healing from my breakup, but think it would be healthy for me to "get out there." I am really busy during the days and enjoy doing a lot of activities. I just find my weekend nights to be a little empty. Any ideas for this newly single 30-year-old woman?

Thanks so much! I really enjoy your chats.

Carolyn Hax: "...but am not sure of any activities that a woman can do by herself."

Anyone up for a group barf?

What happened to ... go to a movie, go to dinner, go dancing, go shopping, read a book over a foofoo coffee thing at a bookstore, work out, work, go to a concert, see a play, go to a gallery opening, annoy a bartender, take flowers to a hospital and ask if there are any sick people who haven't been visited and make an anonymous gift.

You are living in one of the liveliest, busiest, most interesting spots on Earth and you can't think of anything to do because you don't have an arm accessory for it. Puh leez.

The thoughtful Valentine gift that wasn’t

Houston, Tex.: May I ask a post Valentine's Day question? Here's the deal. My BF surprised me with a very sweet, very neat, thoughtful and creative (I thought) gift. He said he wanted to do something original, and something from the heart. I was deeply, deeply touched that he had put something together that was so cool and "out of the box." The next day, I overheard a woman in my office describing word for word the unusual present I received. I was shocked. I learned that this cute, on-of-a-kind idea of his was not original. The message was copied word-for-word from an e-mail (thanking Salvation army volunteers for their efforts) that had made the rounds. Now -- I still think the idea is sweet, and I'm still touched and grateful that he took the time to do something for me, but I'm bothered that he passed off as original something that was totally ripped-off (he is not creatively inspired, he tries hard though). Do I call him on it, or keep my mouth shut and be glad that he read the words and thought of me?

Carolyn Hax: Call me a scab-picker, but I think you should say something. Just condense what you said here: You loved the gift and still do, even knowing the truth — but you resent being lied to.

The awkward new-relationship V-Day date

Los Angeles, Calif.: I recently started dating this girl. (We've been on two dates, both of which went well, and have a third planned this weekend) I suspect that in the near future we'll become an official couple, but we aren't quite there yet. This makes the upcoming V-day kind of awkward. Any thoughts on how I should treat in considering we are in this pre-couple stage?

Carolyn Hax: Food is good and safe for all situations. Ask her out to a nicer-than-average place.

What to get a partner who doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Washington, D.C.: Hey Carolyn. I really enjoy your advice column! The question I have is: do you think it is a mistake to send flowers to your g/f on Valentine's Day even if she explicitly stated that she doesn't like or celebrate the day?

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.

I think it's a mistake to be sooo boring about it. If she doesn't like/celebrate the day, give her something she can celebrate. A goofball handmade card or something, or a deeply unromantic dinner. If you have to do flowers, make them black.

The mediocre Valentine gift-giver

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day: At what point does "it’s the thought that counts" not cut it? I mean, if your significant other (or even someone else very close to you) can’t even choose a gift that you’ll enjoy, what does that say about your relationship? (And it doesn’t even have to be an object — planning/doing something that you don’t enjoy is just as bad.) I can understand if you’ve just started getting to know one another, but after a certain amount of time, your S.O. should know you well enough — and care about you enough — to make an appropriate gesture that you’ll enjoy. (And, no, I don’t think gifts are THAT important, but they’re bound to be given in the course of a relationship, and getting lame ones could be a symptom of the unhealthiness of a relationship.)

Carolyn Hax: Oo, this is a sneaky one. Good question. It's the kind of thing you find yourself wanting to dismiss as shallow — as if you have to be pretty materialistic not to be happy someone went to the trouble to buy you a sweater, and instead be deeply unsettled because said sweater was fluffy and purple.

But if your partner of three years has seen you in nothing but black, I think you're entitled to wonder. Maybe the fair balance is to wonder about it in context. What is the perpetrator of purple fluff like otherwise? Oblivious, attentive, strong-willed? Then you can look at a bad gift as a possible extension of character, which can then help you decide if this is a character you like. E.g., he's a goofball, and it would make complete sense for him to see the sweater, and like it for no particular reason because it reminds him of Grover, and want to see you in it, without its even occurring to him that it's not you. So, is this a character you enjoy, or not? Or, he's sick of the black and thinks you should dress more softly and buys gifts to match his will. Do you like -this- in a person, or not? Or, he's seen you in a black fluffy sweater and saw fluffy in another color and genuinely thought you'd like it. Etc.

Point is (finally ...), you continue to weigh the whole person, vs. letting it all ride on one sweater — but you use the taste in sweaters as part of that whole.

The couple that’s halfway to giving up on Valentine’s Day

Sterling, Va.: I have been married for almost 10 years and I hold the position that I am no longer under any obligation to partake in the Valentine's Day silliness. My wife begs to differ, her position is that if I "loved" her I would look forward to needlessly spending money on a silly manufactured custom. I have absolutely no problem buying silly cards for my daughters to exchange at their school parties, but I feel that my wife and I have gotten past this nonsense. Your thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Well, you have gotten past it, but your wife hasn't. And you're slamming her pretty hard for it. Which is probably more of the problem than some annual non-flowers — that an your seeing it as an "obligation" or not. Your marriage sounds about as touching and heartfelt as a President's Day car ad.

Not that I'm taking your wife's side, either. Any declaration about romantic gestures that begins with "If you loved me ..." is suspect at best. And I would object if she never did sweet things for you. But, dude, you're putting up a hell of a fight against showing a little affection. Hate the manufactured occasion, okay, but when was the last time you created one of your own?

MORE CAROLYN HAX

Archive: More columns by Carolyn Hax

MORE VALENTINE’S DAY

Valentine gift ideas

The complexities of love

Best movie kisses

Washington-area Valentine’s Day events

Living single: Why it’s not so bad

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers.
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