Valentine’s Day stresses a lot of people out. There’s a cultural expectation that it has to be the most romantic night you’ve ever had, with candles and rose petals all over your bedroom or a flash-mob marriage proposal like in the movies. Honestly? That’s too much pressure. (And kind of takes the fun out of it.) My experiences with V-Day have run the gamut. I’m newly in a relationship, but before that I was single for two years. And before that I was in a four-year relationship, and we were both broke AF. I’ve had to make love work with no money, some money, by myself, with a partner … every scenario you can imagine. So I feel pretty qualified to be your guide this Valentine’s Day, no matter which stage of a relationship you’re in. You ready?
First of all, good luck, because there’s a lot of trash out there and now you’ve gotta weed through it. But honestly, this is the perfect time to get used to not being someone’s partner. Lean on—and reconnect with—your friends. We all spend so much time texting our besties during a work meeting or while we’re in the middle of watching Master Chef, but how often do we sit down and really focus on them for a few hours? Last year on Valentine’s Day, my friend and I got dressed up, went to a screening of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot, and then had some drinks and got mac ’n’ cheese for dinner. You can’t be mad on a day like that—it was super fun. So whatever will put you in good spirits that’s legal and isn’t going to hurt anyone? Go for it.
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Friends with Benefits
I think friends with bennies really have to talk this thing out and figure out what the hell you each want this day to mean. This may be a situation where you’re just hooking up and that’s all it is. (And if so, good for you! I’ve never been able to do that. I’m always like, just be my boyfriend.) Holidays like this usually bring out the true emotions in one or both of the people involved, so address it. Have some tea, listen to an Oprah podcast to get that warm, calm Oprah energy, and then find your boo and talk it out.
Three Bumble Dates In
You just started connecting with this person, so there’s no need to stress or make the night a huge deal. Have a normal date like going to the movies—don’t expect any candlelit dinners. Keep it normal. If you want to give each other a little bit of chocolate, that’s great. And if you guys feel like taking it to the bone zone, go for it. Outside of that, keep it low-stakes. You’re still in the early phase of trying to figure out how you really, truly feel about this person.
Just Said I Love You
You just said I love you? I’m so happy for you! Listen, this Valentine’s Day, just have a ball. If you want to go all out and do something over-the-top, now’s the time. That said, make sure you talk about your expectations. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your partner got you tickets to Paris and you got them pants from Express. But really? This is the moment where you just said I love you—it’s like, yasyasyasyasyas, orgasm central. So get some cute lingerie, make a playlist, and have fun. Lean into it.
First, congratulations on making love work across many, many miles. My boyfriend and I are long-distance now, and the biggest thing we’re both looking for is the chance to spend quality time together. Plan something experience-based. If you’ve always wanted to take a painting class, do that. Or if you guys really like to cook and you haven’t seen each other in two months, just be like, “Hey, let’s crack open this new Giada recipe.” Doing something new and unforgettable will tide you over when you’re apart. Make some memories, you crazy kids!
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Just Moved In Together
At this stage of the game I’m a big proponent of date night. Ideally, you’re in a relationship with someone you love who’s also your BFF—but you don’t want to veer into the friend zone. Get a little dressed up, put on a Meg Ryan movie, order the most delicious dessert from your favorite delivery app, and chill on the couch. But make it special. (What I’m saying is: Take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and trim your pubes if you have to.) You should always keep courting each other, even if you share an address.
Five Years and Counting
OK, you’ve been together a while, so let this holiday be an excuse to shake things up and do something new. It’s important to always surprise each other. Be in the mindset of making new memories together and never feeling bored, like “I kind of know what Jerry wants” or “I’ll make the same dinner reservation I normally get Meghan.” Jerry and Meghan, listen: You always want to be in a place where your partner is like, “Ooh! I didn’t think Meghan had this in her.”
Together So Long You’re Basically Roommates
Romance can go away the longer you’re with someone. Use Valentine’s Day as a jumping-off point to kick-start a new, sexier phase for your relationship. Talk it out first and see where you’re both at on romance. Because this is your ride or die, and you should be able to be honest. My parents have been together forever, and I think it’s because they support each other, remember that there are going to be hard times, and try and have fun and do new things. There’s a reason you fell in love with your partner—and there’s no better time to remind yourself why than on Valentine’s Day.
Robinson co-stars in HBO’s 2 Dope Queens comedy specials, the first of which premieres on February 2.
For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.