Your Relationship Doesn't Need a Huge Valentine's Day to Be Valid

'Tis the season of romance, and you know what that means: Valentine's Day. You’re already too late in getting everything you need for the perfect date: tickets to the hottest romantic movie in theaters, reservations at a fancy restaurant, an assortment of candles, rose petals and chocolates needed to scatter all over your bedroom. Or, maybe you still have time to assemble the perfect Valentine’s Eve, but your bank account balance says differently. Even if money isn’t an issue, who has the time?

We have good news for you – you can forget about all that.

You might’ve heard people call Valentine’s Day a “Hallmark holiday,” and brushed them off as single cynics. While it's true that many who lack a significant other attack the holiday out of spite, there is a grain of truth to their complaints. Our culture, through movies, TV shows, and yes, through greeting card advertisements, paints a very specific picture of how couples should show their affection for one another on February 14. It’s almost like there's a formula for the perfect date: fancy dinner + champagne + roses + chocolate + candles + presents + entire evening alone together = the perfect Valentine’s Day. And of course, the more expensive the better.

Valentine’s Day expects to rake in $18.2 billion this year from American consumers, with each customer spending an average of $136.57. While that may not seem like much compared to other holidays, it’s a considerable amount to spend exclusively on one person. Especially if you’re, say, a broke college student or something. Some people justify these expenses by saying that's to “show how much they love each other.” But if you have to use price tags to measure the strength of your feelings, there’s a problem. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to spoil your partner, but it seems odd that people treat their significant others to very similar luxuries on one particular day in the year. It’s important to see the flowers, chocolates and fancy dinners for what they truly are – symbols, and nothing more. The Valentine’s Day routine can’t work for everyone and shouldn't be upheld as a requirement for all couples.

Now, you may mistake all this for the tirades of a Valentine’s scrooge. But the goal here isn’t to tell people that they aren’t allowed to go big for their valentine; it’s to assure those that don’t that they aren’t dooming their relationship. Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate love, but for several people in relationships it can be a huge cause for stress. If there’s a very narrow expectation for what makes the “ideal” Valentine’s Day, then people have to compete with one another to make their own dates “the best.” Movie tickets sell out, restaurants get booked up and the prices for chocolates and roses rise with demand. And when you realize that you can’t get the perfect date that you see in the movies, or when something goes awry to derail your carefully laid plans, its easy to feel like you’ve failed.

Related: Why Having a Significant Other Doesn't (& Shouldn't) Take Away Your Freedom

During these times, its most important to remember what Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about: you and your partner. Don’t follow the blueprint the commercials and TV specials tell you to follow! Instead, think about the things you and your partner like to do together. Go on a hike and watch the sunset together. Spend the day at your favorite park or museum. Take a drive to explore a new city or stay in for a movie marathon and order pizza. If you want to give your partner something special, then think about the things they truly want or need, not about the typical Valentine’s Day fair. And if you do happen to enjoy the whole Valentine’s shebang, that’s fine! The ultimate goal should be your mutual happiness, and that can manifest itself in many different ways.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Valentine’s Day, but worrying about creating the “perfect” date creates unnecessary bills and anxiety. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to show your significant other how much you care all throughout the year. So do yourself, and your bank, a favor this year and don’t follow the Valentine’s Day trends this year – follow your heart!