Put Down the Teddy Bear, and Other Valentine's Survival Tips
By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Senior Editor
Now that I’m married I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do to celebrate this Valentine’s Day.
I don't feel the pressure of having to impress my partner anymore. And vice versa.
No longer dealing with inflated prix-fixe menus or having to go through the hell of finding an open dinner reservation at the last minute thrills me to the core, as does the freedom of not having to shop around for some sort of gift that is simultaneously thoughtful, personal and not ridiculously expensive now that we’re splitting our expenses.
But according to relationship experts, I’m taking the wrong track.
"I actually think it's more important to honor Valentine's Day when you're in a long term relationship," explained Andrea Syrtash, a NYC-based relationship expert and author of "He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing)."
"When you've been together a while, the dopamine's worn off," she said. "You have to recreate that. Valentine's Day is a fantastic opportunity to create that romance again and to reconnect."
Syrtash said singles aren't off the hook, either — since the spirit of Valentine's Day is "not always romantic, it's just an opportunity to take a quick time out and connect with someone you love" — whether that's your mom and your sister or your friends.
"How often do we put in words what someone means to us?" she added, saying people sometimes get too caught up obsessing about the perfect gift instead of spending time on what they write inside the card.
So whether you're single, dating, married, or other, here are some of Syrtash's tips on how to get through the next week without blowing your relationship, blowing your bank account, or blowing your top.
First: consider where you are in your relationship before you decide on a gift.
There are few things as likely to torpedo a new relationship as an inappropriately-expensive or overly-personal V-day gift, Syrtash said.
"There's a fine line between creepy and romantic," she explained. "If you share lavish gifts and shower your date with too much on Valentine's Day in the first few months of dating, you're setting yourself up. Either you're going to freak the person out or you're going to set high expectations."
So in the beginning, Syrtash recommends sticking to "stage-appropriate" gifts that are affordable, thoughtful, and not too presumptuous – like generic flowers or chocolate.
Be careful not to be too cheap, though, or else a stuffed teddy bear holding a silk rose from Rite Aid could bring about the end of the relationship, she said.
As the relationship gets more serious, Valentine's Day is a great time to get a more personal gift, like sushi lessons for someone who really likes Japanese food, or a spa package for someone who's been stressed at work, she said.
Second: a V-day gift doesn't have to be a physical item. It can also be a shared activity for you and your partner to do together, Syrtash said.
For example, DNAinfo pulled together a Valentine's Day interactive date calculator earlier this week that offers a great collection of events, activities and destinations all over Manhattan where New Yorkers can spend their day together.
"I am a big fan of gifting experiences. Unless it's a special gift, most people don't need more stuff," Syrtash said, adding that little presents run the risk of becoming just another "tchotchke" that the recipient has the obligation to find space for.
Third: Valentine's Day doesn't have to mean you suddenly change your entire personality for the day. If you and your partner spend the other 364 days of the year drinking craft beer, eating barbeque, and watching sports, you might not want to spend your Valentine's Day with a megabucks trip to the opera followed by a meal at a snooty French bistro, unless you're looking for a change.
"If you're a funky alternative couple … you don't have to do the prix fixe," Syrtash said, "Tailor it to you."