1. The single most important guideline is to apply these guidelines to fit YOUR relationship. Think about what is meaningful and positive for YOUR partner and YOUR relationship. This is the most important component of all the guidelines — giving thought to who your partner is, what he or she values, what your history is together. 2. Do not get misled by generic social expectations. If your partner hates crowded restaurants, don’t make reservations at the most popular local restaurant on Valentines Day. If your partner is following a sugar-free nutrition plan, don’t bring home a box of chocolates or bake a heart-shaped cake. If your partner is watching every penny, don’t ask for/expect/or give big ticket gifts. These kinds of gestures only reflect a failure to follow guideline #1. More than anything else your partner wants to feel that you have given meaningful consideration to the real him or her, not a generic concept of “partner”. Your partner wants to feel that you gave loving thought to what would make him or her feel loved. 3. Giving your partner a utilitarian gift, like a vacuum or new socks, is not likely to make him or her feel loved. It may even provoke anger. (The exception is if that item was specifically requested.) The interpretation is likely to be that no thought was given to the partner’s identity as a romantic partner. Your partner does not want to feel that you might have given the same gift to your sister, your brother, or your plumber. 4. Gifts are not a fundamental requirement of Valentines Day. Some people give them, some don’t. What is important is that there be some acknowledgement of the day as reflecting love in a relationship. For many people this is accomplished in writing, either with a card with appropriate sentiments or with a personally crafted card or letter. Either is fine as long as it it experienced by the recipient as meaningfully chosen or written. A Shakespearean quality sonnet is not required, but feeling that you picked up the first card you saw and never even read it will not be received well. 5. If you do give a gift, give one that will be felt by the recipient to reflect an accurate understanding of who he or she is and what he or she likes. Tickets to the Super Bowl are a a big deal, but they may not be experienced by a football-indifferent partner as showing much understanding of that partner or consideration of his or her feelings. There’s an old comic strip that shows Dennis the Menace giving his mom a baseball glove for Mother’s Day because HE would have liked to receive that gift. Give a gift that will make the recipient feel known and loved. 6. Partners often feel that you should know what he or she wants or expects because you’ve been told or received hints before. Sometimes those messages were direct (“Honey, I really like those golf clubs.”); sometimes they’re more oblique (walking past a store window nowhere near Valentine’s Day and saying, “Gee, I’ve always liked silk scarves.”) Partners often feel that if you cared, then you would have paid attention to and remembered all those communications. I think this is a terrible way of judging whether your partner cares about you. Expecting this kind of storage and retrieval of information seems to me to be asking a lot of a human partner. Failure to perform this trick should not be seen as a failure of caring. On the other hand, if you DO remember such a message you will look like a romantic wizard. You may want to pay particular attention to such messages, direct or oblique, in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day. 7. That leads me to the last guideline. If you have specific wishes or expectations about Valentines Day tell your partner directly. If it’s important to you to go out for a romantic dinner, say so. If only long stem red roses will do it for you, say so. If you need your partner to write you a poem, say so. Don’t assume that your partner has the same expectations that you do. You can increase the odds of a successful Valentines Day by asking your partner what he or she wants as well as by sharing your own wishes. Your partner wants to feel known and loved. Your partner also wants to be a successful Valentine. So, think, make it personal and romantic, ask, and tell. Happy Valentines Day.