Valentine's Day Advice from Philip Galanes

Thursday, February 14, 2013

High expectations for romance can make Valentine's Day tricky, for single people and even for long-term couples. Expert Philip Galanes is here to give some advice on how to make the most of Valentine's Day, and how to navigate matters of the heart. He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Do you need advice on avoiding a dating debacle or how to handle a Valentine's Day social dilemma? Leave a comment below!


Philip Galanes

Comments [51]


Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you all have a good one. Signing off now.

Feb. 14 2013 05:11 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

"men can be knuckleheads about this stuff sometimes..."...instead of a real commitment..."? Seriously, Laura, you can soft-pedal what dboy, Becky and I said earlier (and you have), but you're not doing Sarah any favors by not opening her up to the possibility or likelihood that she's being a knucklehead, as well--particularly in light of the fact that Sarah's beleaguered boyfriend isn't here to tell his side of the tale.

He hasn't yet made a "real commitment?" He's living with her, which Sarah entered into as an adult. I'm pretty sure she doesn't need to hear she's the wronged party here. Otherwise, women will forever make plans (in their heads or otherwise), lay down ultimata, and be continually disappointed when everyone doesn't bend to their will. This isn't the way the human beings create loving, lasting relationships.

Feb. 14 2013 04:38 PM

Sarah, thanks for saying that I made sense. Remember sometimes this kind of thing is a dance, and the more you step forward, the more he will have the instinct to step back. The best thing you can do is thank him for his lovely Valentine's gifts, take care of yourself, and give him the room to step up to his promises. Men can be knuckleheads about this stuff sometimes, so give him the timeline he suggested of June. However, if June arrives and you are still getting excuses, instead of a real commitment, then I agree that it's time to move on.

Feb. 14 2013 03:08 PM
The Truth from Becky

Oh, hey SARAH, do me a favor, promise you will come back in June and give an apology to dboy and thatgirl.

Feb. 14 2013 02:12 PM

...oh, boy!

Feb. 14 2013 02:05 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

What is it about that expression, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt" and how it applies to this thread?

Yeah--only Laura told you what you wanted to hear. Never mind that I said you're impatient if you think February equals June right off the bat. Grow up, Sarah.

Feb. 14 2013 02:02 PM

dboy is being a bit of a jerk. I didn't have to sneak around in drawers; I know where the diamond is because it's a valuable asset that we share. And I've said nothing about wanting a wedding, a fairy tale or overpriced designer dresses, never mind submission to "the patriarchy". I want commitment. To some people, that doesn't involve marriage. To me, because of specific reasons in my past and my world view, it does. I have been up front about this need for a long time. He has said he is on the same page, and that he is ready for that step. If he was just "going along to get along," how am I the one who is not being honest? How is it my fault if I've been up front about what I want and need from our relationship, and he has agreed he wants the same things?

This entire ordeal today has led me to think Laura is the only one making any sense. He did say June, and I should respect that he meant it, until he proves otherwise. Good bye and good riddance to the rest of you. Post all the advice you want, I won't be back to read it.

Feb. 14 2013 01:43 PM

Klown™ "experts" like Philip Galanes just perpetuate these RIDICULOUS and UNREALISTIC fairytale rituals/expectations.


Feb. 14 2013 01:33 PM

You cannot be made whole by an arcane ritual or by waiting for someone to be the person YOU want them to be.

At a certain point you need to give up the fantasy or the boyfriend...or preferably, both. Actions (or, inactions) speak a whole lot louder than words (forgive the cliche!).

Take back your power by OPENLY discussing a solution(ie. NOT sneaking around in drawers!!)... if the TWO of you can't decide on a NON-FAIRY TALE trajectory, then get on with it!!

...close the Vera Wang website and grow up!!

Feb. 14 2013 01:29 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Sarah - This IS a discussion about Valentine's day--read the show description. To YOU it's about "love and relationships," because that's what you think it's about. No harm in that, but don't take dboy to task over your beliefs.

Fine that you think we're "cynical and cruel," but we're only being direct to someone who's post what you have, publicly, seeking advice. My day began fabulously: I woke up next to my husband, in a beautiful violet silk chemise he chose for me (I'm wearing it--not him). He let me sleep in, took the dog for a walk, and when I came out to greet them home, thrilled to the flowers he picked up on the corner this bright, sunny morn. I'm deliriously happy, particularly because my relationship and life developed organically--not on a timetable.

Chide everyone all you like about our perceptions, but you're responsible for them. dboy and Becky are right: stop with the Veruca Salt "NOW!" jazz and be thankful for what you've got, and simply live. Either of you could step off the curb and get hit by a bus tomorrow. Will it matter then that you have a ring on your finger and "plans?"

Feb. 14 2013 01:16 PM

Sarah - He set a deadline of June, and guys procrastinate. Give him until June. If he's still avoiding it after that, then you may need to move on. Don't make an ultimatum. After 5+ years, if he doesn't deliver on his promise, then you have your answer.

Feb. 14 2013 01:10 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Sarah - My advice wasn't meant as cruel; it's realistic, and probably what a good, objective girlfriend would say to you.

Look at the way you set this up: "I have other reasons to believe..." "I have decided..." "...and he agrees," "I can think of nothing MORE romantic..." all "I" statements, and very few "we." Even though you've "talked" together about this, you are clearly trying to drive a gesture or behavior out of him to which you believe he agrees (seems he agrees that you should be married before buying a house and children, but it's possible he either doesn't think it's time yet--or he doesn't necessarily want to follow your precise vision), but if you really gave him the "by June" ultimatum, you show quite a lot of impatience by not calmly waiting for June--and that's only if he responds to ultimata. Perhaps he doesn't.

You attach so much to the gesture of proposal: purchasing a house, having children. For your intended, these might be more realistic on a slower trajectory. You don't say how old you are, but I've known few men who respond well to someone tapping their watch. In fact, for those I know who've done that on some kind of "expected" schedule, they've found themselves incredibly unhappy soon after--one is now divorced. His nodding "yes" to your wishes doesn't mean it's right for him. Perhaps he's good at meeting his own goals--why doubt that he isn't this way in all areas? Because you think your goals should be his? Maybe you need to consider what's comfortable for you both--not setting yourself up for disappointment because it doesn't happen when you think it should.

So go ahead--tell him you find the weekend's plans disappointing, that you dread the Monday following, and that you found the diamond unmounted; you'd be honest, at the very least. Then keep quiet while he crafts a response that doesn't depend upon what he thinks you want.

This is not the way to happiness.

Feb. 14 2013 01:06 PM

..."cynical and cruel" are another person's grounded and realistic.

If your parter/relationship is so great go have a a house...with a picket fence - whatever "Leave It To Beaver" scenario you need. Maybe, if you free yourself from chasing the cliche, you may find life more fulfilling.

I was out earlier - absolutely beautiful!!! I feel GREAT!!

All without a diamond!! Despite having a kid and a dedicated partner!!

Thanks for asking!

Feb. 14 2013 01:04 PM
The Truth from Becky

SARAH - now that's the difficult part, if you make an ultimatum and don't follow through, you are teaching him that you have no spine. I promise you you are NOT getting engaged or married in June 2013. The mistake was/is living with him, move out, set the ring yourself and just let it go! Sorry but it sounds like he's just not that into you. It's a big world, there is someone else who wants what you want when you want it! NOW,

Love yourself and enjoy the day!

Feb. 14 2013 12:59 PM
Dee from Brooklyn

CM from the UWS - I absolutely agree with you and I am single woman. Taking such a passive aggressive approach would really upset me and cause me to pull back. I have had men and friends behave like that towards me before and it did not work. If anything, I felt that they were being sneaky and manipulative. Just be upfront and try to make a compromise. When people truly care about each other I feel there is no need for "beating 'round da bush."

Feb. 14 2013 12:53 PM

Dboy- I would go to city hall with him tomorrow if he asked me, and I have told him so. This is not about a wedding, this is about commitment to me and to the life with me he has said he wants to build. I am saddened people are so cynical and cruel today. Valentine's Day is commercial and cheesy, but this discussion was supposed to be about love and relatioships, which is why I posted. Go outside and get some sunshine, maybe it will cheer you up a little. Jeez.

Feb. 14 2013 12:49 PM

Girl From Manhattan - What you don't know: We've been talking about marriage, and about buying a house and starting a family, for two years. I have been incredibly honest with him about my desire to get married before starting towards the other two goals. He has said he understands, and agrees. For two years. I love him dearly, and can't imagine having another partner in life. But he knows I do not want to be the only one pushing the gas pedal, because I want and need to know a life together is something he wants equally as much as I want it. I can think of nothing MORE romantic than showing the person you love that you want to commit to her, whenever and however you do it. I felt that if I knew he wasn't going to propose, it would be easier to enjoy the weekend for what it is, instead of holding my breath the entire time waiting. I think I can, but it is Monday I am worried about, when I will try to have the discussion Phillip and Leonard recommended. This is not an easy situation for me. Your reply was cruel.

Feb. 14 2013 12:46 PM
Anonymous from Manhattan

MM - here ya go "I hate red roses" try that.

Feb. 14 2013 12:45 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Genevieve - That's nice that you feel so loving toward your children that you want to show sweet gestures to them on this day, but you wouldn't have them without your husband. I'd recommend you make him your first valentine, and afford him that same level effort!

Feb. 14 2013 12:44 PM
John from Washington Heights

Wow, Leonard and Phillip are on fire today! I love the comment about the woman with the skateboard/Coco #5 gift, the comment about single roses being the least ungreen flower in the world and the snarky comment about people being trusting enough to actually eat the chocolates secretly placed on their desks. I'm serious in my admiration. You guys are making me crack up today. Great show!

Feb. 14 2013 12:42 PM
The Truth from Becky is what my grandmother used to say: "if you will LIE, you will CHEAT, if you will CHEAT you will KILL"... ur girlfriend is not to be trusted sorry.

Feb. 14 2013 12:42 PM

How do I tell him I really don't want red roses anymore? I've told him I love different flowers, my favorite color roses, but still, on every occasion it's red roses.

Feb. 14 2013 12:41 PM

Why this guy, AGAIN!!!???!!??!

"Expert"??? OF WHAT???!!!


Feb. 14 2013 12:41 PM
Tony from Canarsie

The supposed skull of St. Valentine can be seen in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. The perfect setting for a romantic rendezvous for Charles Addams and Edward Gorey fans?

Feb. 14 2013 12:41 PM
The Truth from Becky

At the same time, stop the madness people!! It is just another day! Happens every year, get over it! Make yourself a bubble bath with candles, have a good dinner and a glass of wine if you're alone and you love yourself and fuggghedaboutit!! It "ain't" that serious.

Feb. 14 2013 12:40 PM
CM from UWS

The "make your own gesture and hope he ups his game advice" is terrible. unfortuantely, it seems you both have a big blind spot and that is that neither of you are the kind of men who hate valentine's day and the kinds of pressures that fall to (mostly straight) men in romantic relationships with women--it seems either of you are stressed by this.

I've known a lot of guys who are, and let me tell you the subtle "hope he ups his game" move is nothing new. It's called passive aggression. They know what's being hinted at and they know what their role as the man (with a female partner) is supposed to be. There has to be a conversation about how expectations for the holiday cause pain for both, because the expectations also hurt the woman in this kind of scenario. They need to work something out together and not give a hinting gestue guft that will surely be poorly received. I've seen it many times.

Feb. 14 2013 12:40 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Damon - I think that's a wonderful gesture, and wholly appropriate!

Feb. 14 2013 12:40 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Charlitte from Brooklyn - You are a wonderful, warm-hearted person! Have a wonderful day!

Feb. 14 2013 12:38 PM
Lissnah from NJ

Like so many 'Hallmark' holidays, this is another driven by pressure from commercial interests.

Feb. 14 2013 12:38 PM

sarah ~

Give up your pathetic, patriarchal, princess wedding fantasy!!

Try thinking about your relationship, instead...there's more to life than an obsolete ritual.

Feb. 14 2013 12:37 PM
The Truth from Becky

Uhh hello Patty, but it's NOT "random acts of kindness day" it is St Valentine's Day and people want candy and flowers and dinner or some real expression of LOVE!!

Feb. 14 2013 12:37 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Sarah - I can't think of anything more horrible than an ultimatum. And what's so romantic about a promise to propose "by _____ date?"

That you're digging around so much that you found the family diamond, and already know that the plans for the weekend don't, supposedly, include a proposal, it doesn't sound like you have a very honest relationship--or one that allows much surrendipity OR the thought process/desires of your partner--and you are very key to that "honesty." Did the axiom "the more you persist, the more ____ resists" ever occur to you? Ever think your boyfriend doesn't respond to rigid expectation?

It's quite possible that this isn't happening on your expected schedule--or at all. But hell--it's only February 14th! You've already ill-fated your weekend, because it doesn't match up with your expectations. Maybe you need to step away from the relationship, because you seem to keep finding reasons why your mate "is a bigger talker than doer," and not why he's a wonderful life partner as-is. Go and develop some patience--and realistic expectations, based on honest love--not your calendar.

Feb. 14 2013 12:34 PM
Matt Helme from N.J.

The pain does not alway's pass

Feb. 14 2013 12:33 PM
Nancy from New York, NY

Heart shaped pancakes are good any time.
Valentine's day can be what you make it.
Why put so much heaviness on this day.
Enjoy yourself. (It's later than you think.)

Feb. 14 2013 12:25 PM
Genevieve from Jersey

As an adult woman in my 40's in a committed long term relationship do i really need to care about this day? Honestly, I really like celebrating it for my kids. giving them candy, cards and teddy bears. If I had it my way, I'd have a kids valentine party every year. But i don't want to dissapoint my partner.

Feb. 14 2013 12:24 PM
marlo from manhattan

What's with the non-sequitur questions, Anonymous and Susan? This isn't an "open phones" show.

Feb. 14 2013 12:23 PM
Charlltte from Brooklyn

Give anonymous chocolate! I buy wrapped chocolate hearts and hand them out all day long--to the guy in the token booth, to the crossing guard who greets me, to the bus driver, to strangers at cashier counters, to gym class companions.... And when I was working in an office, I used to tiptoe around at lunchtime and leave the hearts on random desks. This always brings a smile to faces, and it make me grin too.
And, although widowed, I like to think/hope that various men are thinking of me on this day, with affection and wistfulness. It's a great day. Don't mope!

Feb. 14 2013 12:21 PM

Philip has no clue about anything. He spews unoriginal platitudes and never takes anyone's feelings in to consideration. He assumes everyone thinks and feels the way he does, generically and not very deeply. A man who takes his divorced mom out for V Day has "mommy issues"? Are you kidding?!? Sounds like the nicest man alive. V Day is NOT a holiday. Never liked it when I was single, never liked it when I was dating. Why does everyone buy into it?? I turned off the radio and am going for a 5 mile run to sweat out my disgust.

Feb. 14 2013 12:20 PM
Thomas from Stamford

My Alma Mater, a small New England college, sent out a card to me and my wife "to all of our alumni whose love began [here]" Happy Valentine's Day. Turns out there are more than 800 married couples among the school's alumns. We thought this was a wonderful way for our fundraising-friends there to connect with us.

Feb. 14 2013 12:20 PM
Serendipity from Westchester

Any advice for two 'non romantic' men who happen to have dinner plans for tonight? Is there a strategy for dealing with going out and not wanting to be part of the festivities? Are there any good Puritan restaurants in the area???

Feb. 14 2013 12:20 PM

My boyfriend of 5+ years (3+ years living together) said last fall that he would propose before June. We have a family diamond that he is going to reset into a ring style we've discussed at length. When he came up with a great Valentine's weekend plan for us, I thought maybe now was the time. But I just found the diamond, still unset, which worries me that June was just something he said to placate me at the time. I have other reasons to worry that he may be a bigger talker than doer, and I've decided a proposal could ease some of my fears in those areas, too, by showing me that he just needs to work on his own schedule, but he will complete tasks he sets his mind to. What are your opinions of relationship ultimatums: "Follow through on your promise, or I walk"? And if one makes an ultimatum, how do you stick around for months knowing you might leave?

Feb. 14 2013 12:19 PM

i would say what the F is wrong with his mother!

Feb. 14 2013 12:18 PM
Susan from Westchester NY

Please ask Philip to comment further on Silverlining Playlist and Bradley Cooper. I loved this movie!

Feb. 14 2013 12:16 PM
Nina from Jackson Heights

Just have fun with it if you can. My husband and I have both always found traditional symbolic acts of romance to be extremely embarrassing. We don't give each other gifts at all. Instead, I'm going to enjoy making an all-pink and red dinner for the whole family.

Feb. 14 2013 12:15 PM
IAN from brooklyn

even though I am happily married, why does this day brings back memories of past lovers and a wanting to reach out to them?

Feb. 14 2013 12:14 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Who invented this silly "holiday," the chocolate bon bon manufacturers or the greeting cards industry?

Feb. 14 2013 12:12 PM
Damon from Manhattan

Should flowers or a Valentine's gift be sent to your mother and/or sister?

Feb. 14 2013 12:11 PM

There is a couple that my husband and I used to be close friends with. Due to various problems we are wanting to pull away from the friendship, but they have invited us to their wedding reception. Should we, 1) Go to the reception, give a gift, and then ease away after that. 2) Say no to the RSVP but send a gift anyway, or 3) Say no to the RSVP and don't send a gift? We don't want to become enemies with them, but we would like to move away from the friendship.

Feb. 14 2013 12:11 PM
Matt from Brooklyn

Daniel, unless her lies sound something like "You're the most handsome man in the world," you've got a problem.

Feb. 14 2013 12:07 PM
daniel from queens

What should I say or do when I have a great partner and so wonderful but.sometimes I still catch her lying to me? Nothing big r serious (i hope) but she still lies to me. What should I say or do?

Feb. 14 2013 12:03 PM
Shelley from nyc

Is it bad professional etiquette to have flowers delivered to one's sweetheart at the office?

Feb. 14 2013 08:49 AM

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