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3 ways to avoid wrecking your new relationship on Valentine’s Day

Volumes have been written on how to survive the relentless romanticism of Valentine’s Day when you’re single.

Story by Jen Sullivan

But Valentine’s Day can be just as awkward, and even destructive, if you’re in a new relationship. You’re still learning about each other, and your ideas of what is appropriate on Valentine’s Day may be miles apart. Even worse, what if you’re not exclusive yet or not even sure you ever want to be? How do you avoid the missed signals, hurt feelings, and wasted money on embarrassing gifts and prix fixe dinners?

Here are three ideas for seeing that your new relationship survives Valentine’s Day:

1. Tell the truth: If the expectations of romance and the perfect date make you nervous, say so. If you’d rather dial it back, or skip going out that night altogether, or not exchange gifts, say so. It is perfectly legitimate, and refreshing, to say that you are enjoying your new relationship as it is in the early days, and don’t want to wreck it by applying all the pressures of Valentine’s Day. Again, chances are, your new beau is feeling the same way. On the other hand, if you expect something specific on Valentine’s Day — red roses or a fancy dinner or a sparkly gift — make that clear. It’s better to be forward than set up your love interest for failure.

2. Tell a white lie and skip it: Make up a sick Aunt, a long-standing date with a single friend, or a work trip and announce, early on, that you won’t be around for Valentine’s Day. You can do this subtly: “I can’t believe my boss is making us stay late to do inventory on the 12th, 13th, and 14th!” No need to point out that you are giving both of you a “get out of jail free” card. Chances are he or she will be just as relieved as you.

3. Take charge: Whether you go with the truth or not, the best defense against a disastrous Valentine’s Day is a good offense. Make your excuses early on for skipping the big day. Or set up an attractive alternative that’s hard to turn down, such as tickets to a non-Valentine’s Day-themed show on Wednesday, Feb. 14, like “Dial M For Murder” at the Arts Center or the “Protecting our Nation’s Birds” program at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Plan a party with a mix of single and coupled friends and make the theme anything but Valentine’s Day. Or, if you want a splashy celebration, you should be the one to make the reservations and buy the gifts, without expectation it will all be reciprocated (or even appreciated) unless you’ve discussed it ahead of time.

The expectations around Valentine’s Day can put pressure on the most established couple. If you are just getting into a new relationship, a botched Valentine’s Day can mean the end of something promising. By taking matters into your own hands and avoiding the day or managing expectations around it, however, your new relationship might have a chance to make it long enough to celebrate properly next year.