How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day: A Guide for Every Type of Relationship

It’s the one day a year that strikes fear into the hearts of many, and it’s almost here. That’s right: Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. If you’re sort of seeing someone, but you haven’t put a label on it, February 14 can bring up some big questions. Even if you’re fully committed to one another, what happens if you can’t be together for the holiday? No matter what type of relationship you’re in, celebrating Valentine’s Day should be fun—not stressful. Here’s how to deal with the “V word” this year if you’re not in a conventional relationship.

Relationship Status: “Hanging out”

You’ve been spending time together, texting and Snapchatting, but you’re not exactly FBO. When you’re just hanging out with someone, it can feel awkward to broach the subject of Valentine’s Day. You don’t want to put pressure on your crush to move the relationship forward too quickly, but it would be nice to spend the fourteenth together. So, what do you do? Consider hanging out with a group of friends who are in similar situations. Plan a movie night at someone’s apartment, or go out for a sushi lunch. Including others and meeting up in a casual setting will lessen any anxiety, and you’re both sure to have a great time!

“Last year I lived in my sorority house and was single, so some of my sisters, one of their guy friends and I picked up sushi and Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, watched Sleepover, then played games in the house TV room,” says Iris, a senior at UCLA. “It was super low key, but I honestly had way more fun than the one time I wasn't single on Valentine's Day.” Valentine’s Day is all about love, and who do you love more than your BFFs?

Relationship Status: FWB

You’re definitely more than friends, but you’re definitely not dating. The infamous friends with benefits set-up is all fun and games, until it comes to Valentine’s Day. Even if you’ve talked about boundaries with your FWB (which you should have!), celebrating a romantic holiday like Valentine’s Day probably isn’t something you should do together. Instead, grab a few of your single girlfriends and treat yourselves to dinner and drinks.

Relationship Status: Just started dating

If you started dating right around February 14, be sure to talk about your expectations for the holiday. It shouldn’t be too big of a deal, but you want to make sure you and your new SO are on the same page as far as gifts and plans.

“I started talking to my current BF a couple weeks before Valentine's Day last year, so when the day came around we weren't officially dating yet,” says Rachel*, a sophomore at Indiana University. “However, leading up to Valentine's Day we had a really brief conversation just to make sure we were both on the same page—that we wanted to acknowledge Valentine's Day together, go out to dinner, give small gifts, etc. If you're with someone relatively new, I would recommend having that conversation and just getting it out of the way, that way there aren't any awkward misunderstandings. It made things a lot more stress-free and fun because I didn't have to do any guessing or worrying.” Communication is key in any relationship, so why not start now?

Relationship Status: In a LDR

Even if you’re in a relationship when V-Day rolls around, you might not be able to spend the day with your SO. If you’re in a long distance relationship and it’s too expensive to visit your partner for the weekend, Valentine’s Day can get you down. But you don’t have to let it! Plan a full out Skype date—watch a movie together, cook dinner at the same time and watch each other open the gifts you each sent. It’s not as good as being together in person, but it is a simple way to feel connected.

Relationship Status: Dating for more than a year

Finally, if you’ve been dating for over a year, you’ve already experienced the excitement of having a Valentine. Maybe you’ve even seen multiple Valentine’s Days with partner. Instead of doing the traditional fancy dinner or cliché gifts, try something new! Give each other funny presents or decide that gifts have to be handmade. Order a pizza and stay in binge-watching a new TV show, or go roller-skating.

“My girlfriend and I have been together for 7 years,” says Alaina, a grad from Emerson College. “What we like to do is try to do new things every year. Last year, we had an anti-Valentine’s singles party with all our friends and went out to dinner on Friday the 13 instead (just to be different). The year before we actually went out on the fourteenth, because ironically we never had before—the whole shebang, flowers, chocolate, candles, food. Other years we [did] things like see a movie, go bowling or go to the bookstore. This year we'll probably do something new again, like go to an aquarium, a museum or on a scavenger hunt around Boston, since it's our first year living together post-college.” The possibilities for an unconventional Valentine’s Day are endless, and doing something nontraditional will keep your long-term relationship interesting!

No matter the nature of your relationship, Valentine’s Day stress shouldn’t get to you. Communicate with the other person and make sure you’re on the same page. You may have to make some compromises, or maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Either way, try to remember that in the end, it’s just one day out of the year.

*Name has been changed