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How to handle Valentine's Day when you're in that 'middle ground'

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How casual is too casual for Valentine’s Day? Is there a right or wrong answer to that question?

  

 

Obviously, the answer is different for everyone, depending on the individual's personal situation, but why is it such a big deal? Why do we suddenly panic when this annual, commercial, superficial holiday comes around? Whether you’re single, in a relationship or somewhere in between, if you are happy with where you are, the date shouldn’t change anything.

Over the Christmas period we have seen the season of breakups left right and centre, along with a few engagements (because if you can’t ask for a diamond ring at Christmas when can you?). Christmas tends to be a time that makes people realise whether or not they really want to be with the person they’re with, and it appears to particularly highlight this if the answer is no.

So, now that it’s the new year and there are more single people around than before, let’s disregard all the people posting unrealistic ‘new year, new me’ posts, most of which are irrelevant. This a very common time of year for new relationships to begin, especially as it is easier than ever before to meet new people. Which brings us straight to Valentine’s Day.

Whether you like it or not, you will be overwhelmed with soppy posts and people celebrating in the most cringe-worthy, but lovely way, especially if you work in a restaurant. Of course, if you are one of those overly affectionate couples, you might want to do your waiter (and everyone else around you) a favour and hold back the displays of affection a bit.  

The way people view relationships and labels has changed so much over the years. A key example is the television show Friends, which often had characters refer to people they had only gone on one or two dates with as their boyfriend or girlfriend. Nowadays, if you went on one date with a guy and then immediately referred to him as your boyfriend, he would likely get freaked out. Times have changed kids! Boys, in particular, seem to scare incredibly easy these days, queue walking on eggshells phase.

There are a lot of different ways to word and define the stages of a relationship, while there also appear to be more 'stages' than ever before. You’ve got the ‘seeing each other’ stage, which may or may not be the same as ‘dating’, and then there’s the ‘exclusive’ part which seems to come after the initial dating. This is followed by the ‘am I ready to commit’ stage, followed by having ‘the talk’ and that’s all before you even get to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage! Confused? Me too. 

In addition, people seem to be full of excuses nowadays, which leads to all sorts of confusion, denial, self-doubt and avoidance. It seems like as soon as two people have feelings for each other ‘the talk’ is inevitably imminent. 

Here are some of the excuses we've seen so far:

 If you think having a conversation about Valentine's Day with the person you are seeing is going to freak them out, that might be a sign the communication is not quite there yet. Then again, conversation alone scares some people.

   

Men are constantly avoiding talks of commitment these days, meanwhile, women are feeling pressured to know where they stand and where things may be going. A lot of relationships are ruined before they even begin due to these conversations occurring way too early, at a time when enjoying each other’s company should be the only priority. What is with this constant need to know where we stand?

We're all guilty of trying to get clarity and a definition, so I'm not criticising, but it certainly seems a shame when this desire to feel secure gets in the way of a potentially very successful relationship. Of course a guy isn’t going to know what he wants if you ask him after one date! That’s not to say we shouldn’t feel able to ask these things when it feels necessary, but let’s cut each other some slack here and let a relationship progress before we try and define it. 

The way it often goes if the conversation is started too early is the reaction to be emotionless. In my experience, this leads to them not wanting to talk about it at all and instead, they make excuses. As a general rule, telling someone you’re not ready to have a conversation with them is a much better way of communicating than avoiding the conversation.

There is an overwhelming, undeniable sense that people don't know what they want because of their fear of labels. This can lead to breakups, breakdowns in conversation or an inability to ever have a serious conversation. 

Why are labels such a scary thing? We all love watching Ross, Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Rachel and they weren’t afraid of labels (with the possible exception of Chandler). Ten years ago, you would have rarely heard someone say, ‘I just don’t want to label it’ because being sure of what you want and putting labels on things didn’t have the same meaning. They still don’t, just to clarify, but people now think that you have to be 100% sure before you become someone’s partner. Honestly, how are you ever 100% sure? Getting into a relationship is always going to involve some sort of risk unless you can predict the future.

Ultimately, don’t stress about Valentine’s Day, because nobody is going to have a meltdown if you have a conversation about how to handle it. I recently told the boy I’m seeing that I didn’t want to celebrate it at all and he was totally ok with it. We all worry and pick holes in our relationship, even when there’s no problem. So, how about we try and do things a little differently now on? Let’s stop picking holes, worrying about labels and placing so much importance on it all. As long as you are happy, you and your partner both like each other and you are both at roughly the same place, everything is fine!

Stop worrying and just enjoy your relationship. It doesn't matter how long you have been going out, as each relationship is different. You might celebrate Valentine's Day, you might not. Similarly, you might know exactly where you stand, or you might be waiting for a conversation or label to clarify things. Everything takes time, so don't panic and remember if someone doesn’t want to label things just yet, it doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings for you.

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