Valentine's Day Sucks The Most For People In Relationship Limbo

Imagine asking someone you're seeing casually, "What are we?" Kind of terrifying, right? Now imagine you're asking the same person that question on the most loaded day of the year for couples: Valentine's Day. Death trap, right? Sure, it doesn't have to be that way, but Valentine's Day can often make it feel like the pressure's on, or at least amplify the awkwardness for people who haven't clearly defined what their relationship is — a.k.a. those in a "half-relationship" or "relationship limbo."

"Valentine's Day can feel awkward if you're casually hooking up or in a budding relationship, because it's a holiday geared toward declaring your love and making romantic gestures," says Samantha Burns, a licensed mental health counselor and dating coach. But, the fact that Valentine's Day is technically a calendar holiday is no reason to speed anything up, or put extra pressure on yourself or your relationship, no matter what stage you and your partner are in, she says. And more importantly, you don't need to pretend like you're living in a bunker and are completely oblivious to the passage of time like some overly chill "cool girl" — you know what day it is.

On that note, you're not a monster for wanting to make plans on Valentine's Day with your half-relationship partner, either. You have every right to express that, and you shouldn't freak out about scaring away your partner, says Gabrielle Applebury, a sex and marriage therapist in Orange County, CA. "We all have expectations, and if we don't share them, they're not going to be met," she says.

But how exactly should you go about sharing those expectations? Luckily, Applebury says it's not that difficult, after all. "You don't have to be creepy about it, like, I'm obsessed with you, be with me on Valentine's Day, but you can say, Hey, do you want to do something on Tuesday?" Applebury says. "Tuesday is not a romantic day, but it happens to be Valentine's Day." It's not a trap, and you're not being coy — you're just asking for what you want. "You can be with your partner for 50 years, but nobody will be able to meet your expectations unless you share them," she says.

If the person you're asking to make plans with says they don't want to hang out on Valentine's Day and shuts down plans entirely (as opposed to just explaining that they are busy, which happens), it could be a peek into what your relationship would look like if you were to pursue it on a deeper level. "If you're looking to build an equal partnership — which is healthy, as opposed to having one partner in control — then that shift [from wanting to have plans to not] could be a big deal," she says.

Another way to think about it is that a loving partner would want to do something to make you happy (if they can), and if that means doing something for Valentine's Day, then that's cool by them, Burns says. But remember that transitioning into monogamy (or some other form of LTR) and having the define-the-relationship talk isn't contingent on your plans for February 14th. "Before you pop the status question, make sure signs are pointing in the right direction, that these feelings will be reciprocated," she says. If that person generally puts in a little effort — like, when you make plans together, you're not left guessing whether or not they'll actually happen — then you have reason to believe that that person would also make and keep plans on Valentine's Day.

Burns says that you could try to explain to the person you're seeing that Valentine's Day was always a thing for your family, so you want to continue the tradition. "Learning about your differences may be enough to make you realize this relationship isn't going anywhere," she says.

Moral of the story: communication is key, no matter how awkward Valentine's Day is for you. "Every couple needs to learn to communicate clearly," Gabrielle says. "Romance is lovely, but you don't have to be secret agents about it."
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