Ah, V-Day, everyone's favourite mid-winter high-stakes stress-a-thon! When industrial-strength social pressure and sky-high expectations clash with the forces of capitalism to make everyone spend money but still feel lonely and miserable.
But don't worry: we promise there are ways to get through Valentine's Day without alienating your friends, breaking up with your partner, or spiralling into a sugar-induced panic. Here's how not to be a dick on Valentine's Day.
If you're in a new relationship
Maybe Valentine's Day is in fact a Hallmark holiday. But if you're a V-Day hater hater, try to put your opinion aside and think about your partner. If Valentine's Day is something they love — or even something they mildly appreciate, and have participated in in the past — the right answer here is to celebrate. Sorry, but it's true. What's more important — being right about something petty, or making your partner happy? Think carefully about that one.
The key to managing Valentine's-related expectations is to talk about it, no matter how hideously awkward that might sound. If Valentine's Day is a big deal to you, or if you suspect it might be a big deal for your partner, have the conversation.
"I know this isn't the most romantic approach, but if it's your first V-day together, you want to be on the same page since this will set the tone for all the future ones to come," says dating coach Samantha Burns. "Hoping they'll surprise you and roll out the red carpet when they've never been a planner before is likely setting yourself up for disappointment."
If you're in a super-new relationship — that is, you've only been on a few dates, or you're dating around — don't feel pressured to hang out. It might be easier for both of you to just take the night off, Burns suggests. "Don't allow an artificial date on the calendar make you feel pressure to speed things along or force a 'define the relationship' talk if you're not ready."
If you get a gift you don't like: smile, say thanks, and remember that it's the thought that counts. Do you really want to get into a fight because someone made the effort to make your day a little brighter, but they misfired? You have 364 other days to teach them the best practices of gift-giving.
If you're in a long-term relationship
It's comforting and lovely to know your partner's habits and traditions. But if you've been with the same person a long time, and your Valentine's Days tend to go the same way every year, Burns suggests trying something new.
"Doing new activities together activates the reward centre of your brain and releases dopamine, which is the hormone that gives you that excited lovin' feeling and can breathe fresh air into your relationship," she says. Maybe take a class together, or go try a cuisine neither of you have had before, or make plans to visit a new city.
As for gifts, she suggests looking for a gift that speaks to someone's "love language" — that is, the way they show affection. Maybe your longtime lover hates stuff, but likes to do things like bring you coffee in bed in the morning or vaccuum because they know you like a clean house. Their love language is likely "acts of service," and so they might like it if you make him dinner.
Does your significant other love holding hands and hate when you're on your phone while you're hanging out? She might be into physical touch and quality time — consider getting her a couples' massage.
As a general rule, try not to leave Valentine's shopping or planning to the last minute. But let's all be very honest, sometimes it's Feb. 13 and you're still getting it all together. You're only human!
One other note: if you have close friends who are single and don't want to be, or who recently went through a breakup, consider reaching out to them. It doesn't have to take a lot of energy — just say hi, or ask if they want to grab a drink soon, or tell them a funny story you heard.
Yes, your main priority today is your romantic relationship, but being single when many of your close friends are partnered up can be hard. Put yourself in their position, and ask yourself what you would want to hear from what Bridget Jones would call the "smug marrieds."
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If you're single and don't want to be
Don't fall into the trap of feeling like being single defines your worth, or that you're unworthy of love. "If you're bummed about your relationship status, surviving this holiday is about catching and challenging your negative thoughts," Burns says.
But make sure you don't make your partnered friends feel bad for celebrating, either. If you have other single friends, it can be fun to connect with them for a bit of solidarity. Otherwise, take the day to celebrate yourself: pamper yourself, do things that make you happy, and focus on what you like about your independence. The next day will be Feb. 15, and everyone will get back to hating the February weather, as per usual.