Valentine’s Day Etiquette: How to Handle Tricky Situations


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Christoph Niemann

I am living a gender-stereotype reversal and am embarrassed about it. Here goes: I love my girlfriend of two months, and she treats me really well. But she is not demonstrative. She never volunteers an “I love you,” but I can tell she does by her loving ways. (Also, when I ask her if she loves me, she says yes.) But sometimes, I sense her pulling away for short periods. Should I say something about this as Valentine’s Day approaches?

JARED, NEW YORK

Even afterward, don’t push her to go faster than she wants. You may end up chasing her away. And for the love of Tevye (from “Fiddler on the Roof,” a Broadway Valentine’s date, maybe?), stop asking, “Do you love me?” It makes you sound as scared and needy as the rest of us early in relationships. That doesn’t mean we have to cop to it.

Things are going nicely, right? Let them unfold. So, moony talk is not your girlfriend’s strong suit. Happily, moony talk is pretty useless in relationships. And her independence will be a help. When you need to tamp down your perfectly normal insecurities, fire up some old Paul Simon — with a new Donald Trump edge: “They got a wall in China. It’s a thousand miles long. To keep out the foreigners, they made it strong. I got a wall around me that you can’t even see. It took a little time to get next to me.”

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Your girlfriend may be like Paul. She may not load up her U-Haul until the third month. Just keep treating each other with love and respect. And if you still feel anxious in six months, check back in.

Give Freely

I am the mother of a sweet (but eccentric) second grader. He loves making Valentines for all of his classmates, even the ones who haven’t given him one for the last two years. I hate to dampen his excitement, but I worry that his feelings will be hurt when he realizes that some classmates are not reciprocating. Thoughts?

ANONYMOUS

Our feelings are always going to be hurt (see below). But don’t hinder your son from throwing himself into his Valentine project with an open heart. That should be encouraged. I get that looking out for his feelings is part of your job. But if or when he is saddened by the lack of reciprocity, tell him how proud you are of his generous spirit and refusal to keep score. We should all be more like him.

Wise and Otherwise

I find myself recently and surprisingly dumped after a 10-year marriage. My husband opted for a younger model. My question: What should I do for Valentine’s Day as a newly single gay man who is about to turn 40?

J.G.

Sorry for the nasty bump in the road. They have a knack for coming when we least expect them, don’t they? I am going to assume that there is no close pal waiting in the wings for a quiet dinner on that night of crazily high expectations. (Or why write to me?) Also assumed: You are not interested in Grindr-ing your newly single heart out.

Here’s a counterintuitive idea: Go see “45 Years,” a film about a marriage of precisely that length, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. It was the most elegant and haunting film I saw last year. And it will remind you that no marriage is a picnic. Or stay home and read. It’s only one night and, like the rest of us, you have many good ones and bad ones in store.

Delayed Gratification

My boyfriend has been training for a mini-triathlon. I’ve had the date in my calendar forever. I didn’t notice that it falls on Valentine’s Day. Now I feel cheated that he will be going to bed at 8 the night before the holiday (when my friends are all at romantic dinners) and falling into bed after the race. What should I do?

VERA, LOS ANGELES

Be a good sport, or take the long view. When my brothers and I were given Valentine candy as children, two of us gobbled it down, while our middle brother saved it and taunted us with it for weeks. Perhaps a romantic dinner on the weekend after Valentine’s Day will have a similar effect on you and your pals. You will be sitting down to candlelight after their molten lava cakes are long forgotten. Besides, a buff boyfriend is always nice.



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