Am I being too sensitive? Valentine's Day stupidity inside.
February 15, 2011 12:30 PM   Subscribe

How should I be interpreting this?

I’ve been seeing a guy for about three months, and I’ve fallen in love with him. We’re both in our early-mid thirties if that matters. I haven’t told him anything about my feelings for him; we don’t talk about that sort of thing, at all. Some of his actions suggest that he’s serious about this: he has introduced me to his friends and family, we’ve taken trips together, we spend 4-5 days together every week. He refers to me as his girlfriend, he’s affectionate, we’re monogamous. But yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and he didn’t even get me a card. We saw each other but we didn’t acknowledge the day in any way. I know that some people just aren’t into it, but I’m wondering if I’m selling myself short by feeding myself this line. Frankly, I’m not that into it either, but I figured, hey, it’s our first one together. I did get him a card and some nice chocolates but I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances; I ended up just throwing them out when I got home. Am I being ridiculous for thinking that he’s probably just not that into me? Should I just get out while I’m still relatively intact?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that the guy had no idea what day it was?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2011 [7 favorites]

Am I being ridiculous for thinking that he’s probably just not that into me?

He's probably not that into the bullshit holiday that valentine's day is.
posted by birdherder at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2011 [32 favorites]

Oh crap! It was Valentine's day yesterday?!?!? :p

He probably just didn't even think of it. Valentine's Day ceased being important to me when I stopped getting candy in gradeschool.
posted by ian1977 at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

For some of us, Valentine's day is just another day. But if you want to acknowledge the day in some fashion, tell him. He may think you're of the same mind about it...communicate!
posted by johnn at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Did someone order a large helping of beans with a side of beans and beans to follow?

Ok, sarcasm aside, people (especially guys) can be forgetful, he might just have a thing about how commercial the whole valentine's thing is as many people are, he might have misread your feelings, especially as you say you haven't told him about them. In short, lots and lots of reasons why this could have happened, and none good enough for you to "get out" over something that (IMHO) is as trivial as this.

Speak to him, and without making it sound like a loaded question or a lose-lose scenario for him, ask him why we (include yourself) didn't do anything for Valentine's.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2011

Data point: I (early 30's male) didn't nothing for Valentine's Day for my beloved fiancée. Agree with birdherder's sentiment above.
posted by oblio_one at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2011

I know that some people just aren’t into it, but I’m wondering if I’m selling myself short by feeding myself this line.

My Largely Mythological Husband went out in the freezing rain the other night to get me pâté and oranges and cake with icing, even though we had a house full of other food, because I was feeling miserable and he thought I should have a treat. He also brought me a beautiful bouquet of purple tulips.

That was on February 12. He didn't do jack or shit for me on Valentine's Day (other than being an awesome husband as usual) nor has he ever in our 13 years together, because he hates the whole "mandated loooove day" thing.

I know I'm not selling myself short with him; I love him, and that's how he rolls. Maybe it's how your guy rolls as well, I don't know. You know who does know? Him! So maybe ask him--since it's official Half Price Chocolate In Heart-Shaped Boxes Day today, ask him what he thinks of Valentine's Day as a custom.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:37 PM on February 15, 2011 [29 favorites]

it probably has nothing to do with you, based on what you describe.

what is important, it seems, is that it bothered you - even though you are sharing that you're not into the holiday either. you could ask him what he thinks of vday and then make out?
posted by anya32 at 12:39 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did get him a card and some nice chocolates but I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances; I ended up just throwing them out when I got home.

What's to say he didn't do the same thing?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2011 [33 favorites]

What's so humiliating about telling someone you care about them? It sounds like SOMEONE in your relationship needs to summon the guts to say, "Hey! I really like you a LOT!" Why should that someone not be you?

I think it was very silly of you to not give him your card and gift. So, yes, I believe you are being ridiculous on several levels: by refusing to be the first one to bring up your feelings; by thinking you know what he's feeling when neither of you has discussed it at all; by thinking the answer is just to get out of the relationship (presumably because talking about feelings is so scary.)

Come on now -- you're in your mid-30s. It's time to put away these childish behaviors. When adults like someone a lot they just come right out and tell them.
posted by rhartong at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2011 [40 favorites]

It sounds like you're afraid of your emotional vulnerability. You are being passive by not talking about your feelings ('I haven’t told him anything about my feelings for him; we don’t talk about that sort of thing, at all') or expressing that you're hurt that he didn't make a little bit of effort for Valentine's Day. Takes a giant boob to not even bother to say that he doesn't like doing something for Valentine's Day, IMO. :-/

You should have a heart to heart talk with him and figure out what's up on his side before you decide he's not that into you. It might be painful for you to express that you are feeling neglected, but you need to take action for your own wants and desires or they will always be shuffled under the carpet. You've been together three months - you are not out of line for wanting some form of acknowledgment.
posted by griselda at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

The thing that caught my attention was not forgetting / ignoring Valentine's Day, it was this: I haven’t told him anything about my feelings for him; we don’t talk about that sort of thing, at all.

I'm not going to tell you when the right time to have a talk about your feelings is. And I'm not suggesting that you need to talk about it - if you are comfortable with the current situation, then keep running with it as long as you want to. But if you two aren't close enough to talk about whether you have feelings for each other and whether you are dating, then in my mind Valentine's is optional. If I didn't know whether I was dating someone, I might be skittish abut Valentine's day too. Or I might forget V-day entirely, because to me it's something for 'official' couples, not people who are dating casually, so maybe it didn't cross his mind that V-day might apply to you two.
posted by Tehhund at 12:42 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Oh fuck, I forgot to do anything for Valentine's Day. I'll look like a fool for not doing anything. But I'll look like a bigger fool for trying to do something lame at the last minute. I sure hope she doesn't bring it up or give me chocolates or anything. But if she does, I'll just man up and apologize profusely. Whew. She didn't mention it. I guess she doesn't care. Boy, it would probably be really weird if she did get me chocolates and ended up throwing them away or something because BOTH OF US WERE TOO TERRIFIED TO ACTUALLY SAY ANYTHING."

In other words ... ease up. You're gripping way, way too hard.

"Hey, fucker. It was Valentine's Day on Monday. Wanna go get hammered?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:42 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Me and my boyfriend have been going out for a year. And valentines day is our "official" anniversary. We didn't do anything. No cards, no flowers. And i have absolutely no doubt he loves me.

If thats your only red flag in the relationship, its a daft reason to break up. And if it was me I would have given him the chocolates anyway, I don't see why its humiliating. Embarassing for him, at worst.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:45 PM on February 15, 2011

Grrrr. That's tough!

On the one hand, you want to believe this was no big deal. OTOH, you don't want to find yourself in the future on AskMe worried about what it means when your husband of ten years ignores all the holidays including your kid's birthday or whatever!

You could try talking about it with him now. But I suggest you proceed carefully and with your eyes open. It's weird he totally ignored the day. It sets a bad precedent that will make you sad down the road if it continues or starts cropping up in other areas of your relationship.

But I think you already know this.
posted by jbenben at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's to say he didn't do the same thing?

Exactly. For all you know he had chocolates and a card for you, and threw them away because you didn't mention the date. Why should it be incumbent on him? You guys have some communicating to do.
posted by gaspode at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

So wait. You basically don't communicate about feelings with each other, and you wonder why you're having a bad feeling about this? Why didn't you just say "Happy Valentine's Day!" early on? Why throw away nice chocolates because a guy you love every other day of the year didn't acknowledge that it was Valentine's Day? For all you know, maybe he spent all day wondering if you were going to say anything about it, leaving you both wondering if the other is really serious. Or maybe he doesn't care about Valentine's Day, or maybe he forgot. Is this really the only problem you're having with him? Think about it.
posted by wondermouse at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

My last girlfriend's neurotic obsession with patently commercial holidays like Valentine's Day is one of the contributors to my breaking up with her. Granted, it was only one of a long list of reasons why we weren't good for each other, but it didn't help.

I'm not saying that's the case here, but I am saying you need to chill.
posted by valkyryn at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

You threw the chocolates out!?!? WHA?!!

Ok, here's the deal. Don't give him or anyone else the chance to forget if the event/day is important to you. If you wanted to do something/get something, if it's important to you, then start talking a week or so in advance that you'd like something done. I do this for my birthday, for Valentine's Days, anniversaries. That way it's clear what, if any, expectations there are. It's up to my husband to do something for me, but at least he's reminded constantly and there are no misunderstandings. How on earth do people not talk about these things before the event?
posted by Sassyfras at 12:53 PM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just to be clear...

Not talking about feelings after 3 monthsOf dating + ignoring an obvious opportunity to say, "Hey! Glad you're my girlfriend!" could = someone who will always keep you on the outside guessing just a little too much.

I think you are right to have this question cross your mind.
posted by jbenben at 12:56 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like you're using Valentine's Day as an excuse to voice concerns you already had. If you have doubts about your relationship with him, get to the bottom of them. One missed Hallmark holiday after three months together is not reason enough to break up with the guy. After all, remember that you bought him chocolates and a card and then chucked them before he even knew! You didn't want to be humiliated. Well, there's WAY more pressure on men than women to pony up on Valentine's Day. He might have been just as afraid of humiliation as you. "What if she hates this sort of thing? Will she be insulted? It's only been three months. Will it seem like too much?" You don't know because you haven't talked to him about it.

I say let this one slide. Next time there's a special day coming up, ask him about it ahead of time. "How do you feel about [holiday]? Wanna do something?" Problem solved for both of you.

Unless, again, this isn't about Valentine's Day at all.
posted by katillathehun at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2011

It makes me sad that you threw out the chocolates. :( You should have at least eaten them yourself! But seriously, if you are really in love with the guy, you're allowed to take the initiative and be gushy! You don't need to say "I love you," but you are allowed to say, "I am so happy that we're together that I feel like celebrating Valentine's Day tomorrow! I'm going to make you dinner." Or whatever.

My last girlfriend's neurotic obsession with patently commercial holidays like Valentine's Day is one of the contributors to my breaking up with her. Granted, it was only one of a long list of reasons why we weren't good for each other, but it didn't help.

It's a false dichotomy that you must either resolutely reject "patently commercial holidays" or embrace them psychotically. It's perfectly ok to say on Feb 13, "I feel schmoopy and I'm gonna get you some roses and you should take me to dinner, yay!"
posted by yarly at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

If I'm dating someone and Our First Valentine's Day (blarg) comes up, I will usually toss out a nonchalant comment in the weeks or days leading up to it to the effect that I am not a Valentine's Day person. We can hang out and stuff, but I don't expect flowers, trinkets, or any of that and probably don't have any super-secret romantic gestures planned in kind*.

I find that guys who are in my boat tend to just not bring it up at all. Frankly, I've never been with a dude who actually cared about or set any stock in Valentine's Day.

Personally I kind of hate the fact that this particular holiday looms so large as to invite these kinds of mind games.

*The only time I have given anyone a Valentine's Day gift was when I forgot to give them a component of their Christmas present and Valentine's Day was the next vaguely gift giving ish occasion.
posted by Sara C. at 1:04 PM on February 15, 2011

Just TALK. Please. 95% of relational "what did that nonverbal gesture mean?" questions can be solved by simply speaking with the other person. Avoid the heartache and second-guessing by being communicative with your special someone. It might be hard if you're not in the habit of doing it, but it gets easier with practice and it's a really good habit to develop. Unless you're telepathic you can't go through life jumping to conclusions about what other people feel.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2011 [7 favorites]

Amen to Sassyfras, throw your expectations out on the table. "When is your birthday?" "What do you want to do on your birthday?" "What holidays do you celebrate?" "Does your family have festive traditions that really matter to you?" And then provide plenty of back channel feedback, "I don't want extravagant presents for my birthday, I just want to go to our favorite restaurant and have a nice meal." And the week before, "What is the best day for my birthday dinner, can you make it on Weds?"

None of this passive-aggressive sulking ambivalence. Life is too short.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

Not talking about feelings after 3 monthsOf dating + ignoring an obvious opportunity to say, "Hey! Glad you're my girlfriend!" could = someone who will always keep you on the outside guessing just a little too much.

It's possible this is true, but it's not something you'd know unless you talk to him about it. You also need to analyze the rest of his behavior before you decided to do something as drastic as break up over this, when you haven't even discussed at all how you feel about each other!

You know what, you could even cry and tell him you're sad you missed Valentine's Day. You don't need to by hyper-rational and controlled about it. For some people, this would be evidence of borderline personality disorder and manipulation. But I get the picture that for you, getting your emotions out would be a good thing. (And emotions aren't rational anyway, remember, so it doesn't really matter if you're being ridiculous. As long as you're not being unfair to him, or course. In other words, you're telling him how you feel, but not assuming anything about his motivations or his essential character or how he feels about you.)
posted by yarly at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2011

Yeah, relax. This isn't a sign of doom. Like others have noted, he may not like Valentine's Day. He may not have remembered it was Valentine's Day. It's also entirely possible he was overthinking it himself, and opted against getting you a card/gift or otherwise observing the day because he didn't know if a) you liked Valentine's Day b) would be freaked out if he made a thing out of it.

Valentine's Day is weirdly polarizing for any number of reasons, as you can see from some of the vehement reactions to it here, but there's nothing inherently wrong if you think it's nice and want to celebrate it. If you want to do something for future Valentine's Days, I'd bring it up casually and mention that in future years you wouldn't mind celebrating the day in order to break up the doldrums of February, or whatever, and what does he think about it? Acknowledge that the day is fraught and feel free to laugh about it. It doesn't have to be a loaded or tense conversation and I think you'll walk away feeling reassured.
posted by superfluousm at 1:11 PM on February 15, 2011

Sounds like he's just not that into Valentine's Day, but he might have been perfectly happy to celebrate it with you if you had brought it up.

Next time there's a holiday or relationship milestone coming up, you might try mentioning it in advance: "Hey Boyfriend, I was wondering if you'd like to do something for [holiday] this year. I know it's kind of silly, but I've always enjoyed celebrating [holiday] and I was thinking maybe we could go on a picnic, or make dinner together. What do you think?"

That said, I think Valentine's Day might not be the real issue here. It sounds like you're really afraid that you would look/feel foolish if you gave your boyfriend a gift and it wasn't reciprocated, or told him that you've fallen for him when he might not feel the same way. I used to feel this way in my relationship -- like if I said "I love you" first, or expressed affection and it wasn't 100% reciprocated, it would humiliate me and expose me as inferior to my partner. I got over it by coming up with a little mantra of sorts:

My ability to express love is NOT a weakness. I tell people I love them because I want them to feel cared for, not because I need to hear them say it back.

When in doubt, go with the course of action that lets people know you care about them. If you had gone ahead and given your boyfriend the chocolates and the card you purchased for him, he probably would have appreciated the gesture (or at least, I highly doubt he would have gone "OH HAHA MY GIRLFRIEND GOT ME A GIFT, WHAT A LOSER, HOW HUMILIATING FOR HER). Throwing the gift away just made you feel like crap, while robbing your boyfriend of the chance to pleasantly surprise you with his reaction.
posted by arianell at 1:13 PM on February 15, 2011 [11 favorites]

Did you talk with him at all about Valentine's Day? Did you talk about it leading up to it? About whether he celebrated? Any of that?

My boyfriend and I spoke about Valentine's Day a week or so ago, he claimed it was crap, I acknowledged it was a "fake" holiday but in a "Wouldn't it be nice . . . *NUDGE NUDGE*" sort of way said at the same time, I celebrated it and thought it was a nice time to do something with one's sweetie and do something thoughtful.

As Valentine's approached I realized if I wanted him to do something, I was going to have to directly spell out that it was important to me. I did, he understood, and we ended up doing something.

If I didn't have either conversation come Valentine's Day I would probably be confused and hurt, like you. It's important to keep lines of communication open about expectations and needs--explain to him you were hurt, why you were hurt, and that it was a holiday you celebrated.
posted by schroedinger at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're planning to respond at all, I'd be curious about emotions in your relationship. What does "never talk about stuff like this" mean? Ie, do you express affection informally ("I missed you!") but not seriously ("I want to tell you that this relationship means a lot to me") or do you mean that you don't verbalize any feelings about the relationship?

I was once in a relationship in which we literally did not talk about about any kind of feelings or any aspects of the relationship, not even whether Other Person was actively looking for another girlfriend or not. This really, really messed me up. If you have a relationship in which he does not want to talk about these things and you want to but are afraid, then yes, your relationship probably won't last--or will do you harm if it does. If this is the case, you should probably try talking about some feelings. If he won't tolerate that and starts to treat you coldly, that's your cue to split.

What did you think he would do if you produced chocolates and he didn't want them? Would he be mad? Would he think you were weak or clingy? Or is that just what you're afraid of? How realistic is this fear? Do you really, truly think that he will punish you for being emotional? If you really think that, you need to re-evaluate the relationship, no matter how smitten you are. And you need to ask yourself why you're drawn to someone who would respond cruelly to an innocent gesture.

Maybe take him out to dinner and in passing ask about the Valentine's thing, just so you know.

But really, figure out why you can't talk about feelings.
posted by Frowner at 1:22 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

You say his previous actions imply his seriousness about your relationship, but how do YOU feel about this relationship excluding the Valentine's thing? Do you find it worthwhile to continue or something you'd rather break off? Although you say you love him, the lack of commentary about your feelings while placing the burden on him is telling.

Remaining a passive partner in the relationship doesn't give him a good idea of what you're thinking. Our SO's are not designed to read minds. Perhaps three months of suppressing any discussion on how you guys feel has hit the breaking point. Valentine's was just a proxy for what's really going on. You guys need to start talking about your feelings, awkward pauses and all.

To address V Day and to start that discussion of feelings, go and get that half-priced box of chocolates. Then give it to him today and say, "You know, I wanted to give this to you yesterday. Even though we didn't talk about it, celebrating Valentine's is meaningful to me. I was a little hurt you didn't acknowledge it, because I really like you and I want to celebrate this our relationship though this holiday..." and segue into what each of you value into a relationship. Then schedule a datey-date in the near future to make up for Valentine's.
posted by mlo at 1:27 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I made dinner plans with an old flame (now friend) on Valentines day, we'd had the plans since last Thursday and I only got an email cancelling on Sunday, when we both realized that it was St Valentines's day and we both had standing plans with our current SO's. people forget days like that, that aren't bank holidays...I routinely am the only one who remembers my parents wedding anniversary. they've been married 30+ years and though totally in love, are generally too wrapped up in living their lives to remember until my annual phone call wishing them well and reminding them to go to dinner.

i guarantee you, he just plum forgot.
posted by custard heart at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2011

You realize that you're acting in exactly the same manner as your boyfriend (not saying "I love you" or indeed discussing your feelings at all, saying nothing about and doing nothing (visible) in observance of valentines day)?

At 3 months, being reticent about diving into discussion of personal emotions, or electing to keep the (apparently mutually agreed upon?) silence about a holiday with significant baggage in the "let's define our relationship" department just don't seem that revealing of anything. You need to work on what the real source of this mistrust is and come to terms with it.
posted by nanojath at 1:43 PM on February 15, 2011

(...) I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances (...)

Is there a reason for you to be so much anxious as to withhold a carefully picked gift of care? Is he in any way (presumably, subconsciously) providing the reason?

You need o look at a wider context to answer your question. Meeting family/friends, spending time together are not relationship landmarks (needless to say, neither is celebrating Valentine's day). If you in general perceive his behavior as somewhat and consistently avoidant, "failure" to acknowledge Valentine's day might have raised your subconscious alarm system. In that case, pay attention.
posted by Jurate at 1:45 PM on February 15, 2011

Frankly, I’m not that into it either, but I figured, hey, it’s our first one together.

You're lying. You think Valentine's Day extremely important, so much so that you feel humiliated over it and are second guessing you're relationship with an otherwise great person. You're not "that into it," only enough to break up, right?
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Stop focusing on Valentine's Day. That's not the issue. It brought UP the issue, but it isn't the issue.

In a healthy relationship, when one partner forgets Valentine's Day, the other partner might get mad (if she is into Valentine's Day), but she won't wonder if this means her partner doesn't care about her.

In a healthy relationship, you KNOW if your partner cares about you, and there's no single thing he or she can do to prove he or she cares or doesn't care.

I'm trying to think of the worst-case scenario. What if my wife cheated on me? I'd be REALLY angry. I'd might even leave her. But I'd still know she cares about me. I'd know because she shows me she cares in dozens of ways every day. There's no single "I care" (or "I don't care") event. It's about how you generally are together as a couple.

I know I keep using the world "healthy." I don't mean to imply that you have a sick or terrible relationship. You may have a wonderful relationship. But, to me, the fact that a Valentine's-Day lapse actually makes you wonder if your boyfriend cares suggests there's a problem you need to work on.

Maybe the problem is that you two don't communicate enough. Or it's some sort of low-self-esteem issue which makes you doubt people care about you even when they do. Or it's a mixture of the two.
posted by grumblebee at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree that you should have given him the chocolates...not to make you feel bad but just to give him the gift, let him know that you were thinking about him and that you want to mark valentine's day in someway (as a precedent for the future). Some people celebrate Halloween, some people don't, just like Valentine's day. I'm sure if he knew it meant so much to you, he would be willing to mark it in some way, even a small one, and you would feel better. (and I guess if he wouldn't, it might be worth it to know that too). Why not just go out for dinner this weekend and tell him you are going to consider it a delayed valentine's day dinner since the restaurants will be less crowded or something. Why not just tell him how you feel about him? (I'm bad at that stuff too but I agree with the person above who said it gets easier w practice). And I really like the comment that says just do it because you want to- express your affection for your own benefit. That's a nice way to think about it.
posted by bquarters at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2011

I know there could be exceptions to this observation of mine, but in 25 years of marriage, I haven't encountered one: It's better not to assume or to interpret. I came from a family of hint-droppers, egg-shell walkers, second-guessers, and confrontation-avoiders. Expecting someone close to you to do what you prefer, or assuming you know what they're thinking -- those habits are really harmful to closeness and trust. If you find yourself thinking, "How could he not know that!?" you need to back up and tell him. And when you do, speak to him in a way that you'd like to be spoken to.

I used to think that if I had to tell my man that I'd like for him to do something sweet on Valentine's Day, then anything he did wouldn't really count. But it definitely counts, because when you say it out loud, it gives him an opportunity to do something that he knows you'll like.

It actually felt quite wrong to me for quite a while. My husband would tell me specific things he'd like to receive as gifts, but I didn't give them because they wouldn't be a surprise. He finally blurted out that when he gave gift suggestions, he would love to receive any of those things, and he didn't understand why, if he asked for something, it was guaranteed that he wouldn't receive it from me.

So how do you tell him? "I know I'm a day late with this... I love the idea of Valentines' day, being a little romantic and doing something special." He might tense up, expecting you to be hurt or angry, so keep it positive. See what he says. If he talks trash about artificial holidays and whatnot, that's fine. Explain that you like little things like candy or a card, a cup of coffee brought to you in bed, a statement such as, "I'm glad we found each other," or just the two of you going for a walk. Tell him you'd like to have "romantic gesture day" on a particular day in the near future. Instead of giving him candy and a card, ask him: what kind of candy is his favorite? What dinner or dessert would he enjoy? Would he like to go on a date with you? Should you just throw your arms around him and tell him he's great? Tell him you're going to do something, so he might as well give you the go-ahead on some things or else you'll buy him something embarrassing like silk boxers with hearts on them.

It'll probably feel weird this time, but it'll get easier over time. When the time rolls around, talk about birthday, anniversary, holiday observances. Give each other chances to do what will make each of you feel appreciated. )I probably shouldn't be assuming that you'd prefer a gift or gesture that you described ahead of time, instead of a surprise that you didn't like. I apologize if you feel the opposite way.)
posted by wryly at 2:00 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Should I just get out while I’m still relatively intact?

Look, maybe he is in fact not that into you, or maybe he's in love with you too. But if you're in love with him, as you say, then it's kind of crazy to consider getting out of the relationship before at least attempting to have a conversation about your feelings.

When you say I did get him a card and some nice chocolates but I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances, it makes me think that you're really really scared of expressing your feelings and finding out they're not reciprocated. I get that-- I have those kinds of tendencies myself. But you have to decide whether your feelings for this guy and the potential for your future relationship is worth facing those fears.

And if you decide not to, if rather than having the scary conversation you decide to bail because "the evidence suggests" that he doesn't actually like you based on what happened on Valentine's Day, then at least be honest with yourself about what you're doing. Be honest that your desire to be with him is not as strong as your fear of him saying he doesn't care about you as much as you care about him. (In which case either you don't really love him that much or you have a serious mental health issue around anxiety that you should work on addressing, or some combination of the two. Real love involves letting yourself be vulnerable-- and running the risk of not coming out "relatively intact.")

Am I being ridiculous for thinking that he’s probably just not that into me?

Maybe yes, maybe no. But you are kinda being ridiculous for trying to guess how he feels about you and then act accordingly-- because if he doesn't care about you then why put yourself through the humiliation of actually talking to him about it and being so vulnerable, right? (Because it's good practice, that's why. Because you need to learn how to take risks. Because you need to learn that even if he does say the absolute worst thing you can imagine-- even if he says "you're disgusting and I hate you and get out of my life"-- you'll learn that you can deal with it and it will be okay, because you're stronger than you think. Let alone all that you'll gain if it turns out he actually does like you a lot and your relationship has a future...)

I know I'm not really answering the question of whether what he did means he doesn't like you. That's because it's the wrong question. It's a distraction. You're doing yourself a disservice when you let yourself obsess over trying to figure out how he feels about you before being willing to be vulnerable and genuinely communicate about your feelings for eachother. The question you have to ask, and you're the only one who can answer it, is "Do I care enough about him and this relationship to be willing to face my fears?" And if the answer is yes, then stop trying to guess how he feels about you, and start the conversation.

I say all of this with kindness and empathy, I really identify with these kinds of feelings, how awful and humiliating you may feel to imagine him knowing you're in love with him and telling you he doesn't care about you much at all. (Or, if you have the same neuroses as me, worrying that he will tell you to your face that he cares about you but inside actually dislike and resent you-- more humiliating still! Also extremely unlikely, and something you would be able to figure out even if it were to be true.) That's why I want to urge you to be honest with yourself about what's going on here, and to try as hard as you can to be brave and take risks and push yourself. It's worth it. I'm not all the way down the road myself, but I'm getting there and growing, and I promise, it's worth it.

Unless I read you totally wrong and am just projecting. In which case, sorry!
posted by EmilyClimbs at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Dear gawd, I could have written this myself. I completely feel for you and what you're going through and how you feel. I'm in the exact same boat with my SO of 6+ months and it sucks.

The only advice I can give you is anecdotal (because I'm going through the same thing) - just say something. I'm at the point now where I'm going to just say something the next time I see him. Sure, I'd love to make a big show of telling him that I love him, but having come from a crappy relationship, I'm terrified of getting burned. I think a showy display would be appreciated by him, but I'm also concerned that the more showy I get, the more burned I might get if he says he's not in the same place. *sigh*. Just do it. We can do it together even and trade horror stories if you'd like. Feel free to MeMail.

I probably would have thrown out the chocolates too, but it makes me sad to read this. :(

posted by floweredfish at 2:22 PM on February 15, 2011

I think Valentines Day can be really fraught with expectations - even though I don't like to make a big deal about it, having someone not acknowledge it can seem like a huge statement, even though this guy probably didn't mean to send any kind of message at all.

But I wonder if the bigger issue is the state of general not-knowing you're in. You know you're in love with him, but you don't know if he feels the same way. That can be very anxiety provoking, and lead you to trying to read into his actions to see if he feels the same way, instead of just asking. Maybe you're not ready to make any gigantic declarations of love or have a serious sit-down discussion of the state of the relationship, but maybe it would help to allow yourself to be more direct with him, and not let your fear of being vulnerable get in the way.

I can really relate to your feelings, by the way - I have often felt like showing emotion for someone that might not be reciprocated was humiliating, and I never wanted to be vulnerable to that. But I have been forcing myself to be more open about my feelings even if it makes me anxious, and it's been really useful and gets easier with practice. For example, I've been dating someone for the past four months and when I realized Valentine's Day was coming up, I recognized that I wanted to spend it with him, and instead of hinting or hoping without saying anything, I simply invited him to have dinner with me that night. I was really nervous to extend the invitation, and felt incredibly vulnerable to being so obvious about being so interested, but he wound up being really touched and flattered, and we had a great Valentines Day together. But it really required taking the risk of being honest about my interest and intention.

And I know it's hard - what if you were to be obvious about how much you care about him, and he wasn't appreciative or reciprocal? It can feel really awful to put yourself out there if it's not returned, so I get why you were scared. But in the long run, it's all useful information. All you can really do is be yourself and not be ashamed of your feelings, and if he ultimately doesn't feel the same way you do, then at least you'll know that.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 2:23 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think your relationship has a problem, I just don't think it's got anything to do with Valentine's Day.

The problem is that you can't, won't and don't feel comfortable talking about your feelings, despite feeling love. Life is not a sitcom where you have to guess when it's appropriate to say I love you, and if you say it to soon, he's going to freak out and go back and psychoanalyze it with his friends at the gym and then get scared away and dump you. And if he is the guy who is going to do that in real life, then you're well rid of him.

It's big and scary to put yourself out there, and risk getting rejected. But one of you is going to have to do it eventually, since as you've seen, not doing it isn't working either.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:25 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's okay to just say you want Valentine's acknowledged and it hurts your feelings if it's not. I laid that on the line for Mr. Llama, a Valentine's agnostic, years ago. He goes through the motions because I asked him to, and in return I pretend I don't know that. ;)

It's okay to just say how you feel. Lots of people think Valentine's is stupid. I think it's stupid, too. But I still irrationally would feel a little hurt if Mr. Llama didn't go through his slightly robotic motions.

In short, no you're not being too sensitive but yes you are drawing too many conclusions from it and you guys should probably take a few more chances being emotionally vulnerable with each other and then.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:38 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

i'm curious, how do you forget it's valentine's day? it's on the tv, on the radio, on the news, it's everywhere. i'm not into valentine's nor is mr. jeezy, but it's not like we could miss it.
posted by elle.jeezy at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is not about Valentine's Day. Well, it IS, but it's about not having some combination of experience/practice and comfort with expressing yourself and your feelings and what's important to you with your partner.

On the one hand, individuals have different levels of comfort and different levels and forms of expression when it comes to emotion. I certainly don’t consider it imperative that I express exactly what I’m feeling at all times. I don’t need to have heart-to-heart revealing conversations with everyone around me, and those conversations don’t make up the majority of the conversations with the people closest to me, either.

On the other hand, I’ve stopped perceiving emotions as naturally inferior and believing that vulnerability is dangerous/weak/somehow inherently humiliating. You see, in contrast with what you've written about weakness and potential humiliation, the ability to put your emotions and concerns out there in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) can be an expression of personal strength.

When you come from the mindset of vulnerability=humiliation, you miss the fact that (healthy) people who can be open with others are purposely expressing vulnerability and trusting other people in situations where they cannot manage the response with 100% certainty. True, they might not always be thrilled about the reply, but do you see the huge shift from only expressing yourself and taking risks when you’re as certain as possible that nothing hurtful could happen? (Which is what you—and possibly your new SO—are doing here.) When you choose to put your emotions and concerns out there, you’re saying ‘I'm willing to trust you. I am able to risk being hurt: I can handle the outcome, whatever it is.’ When you don't take risks, and you hedge end up with situations like this.

I promise you that the former is less exhausting from a mental-chatter standpoint; moreover, it’s a far more resilient mindset than the super-protective fronting. I say this as someone who used to have trouble expressing my concerns and emotions in therapy, because what if my therapist turns on me, judges me harshly, and humiliates me with what I’ve said? We are talking about someone whose job is specifically not to do that to me.

And it turns out that the more you put yourself out there, the more you learn that you can live after having felt vulnerable and exposed, even when the conversations or the outcomes aren’t exactly perfect. Even if they are perfect (because that's scary, too, sometimes), and even if they go very poorly. Even if you (or he, or anyone) make mistakes. You build up the emotional resilience you fear you lack. Much of the time, people will surprise you positively, especially the people who care about you. Sometimes you'll be disappointed, and you can't know for certain until you try. Even then, you'll live. Because you're human, and we are a resilient and resourceful bunch. You've probably survived far worse than honest, risky conversation in your life. This might feel huge and frightening, but I bet you can handle this just as much as you've handled any other challenges in your life. It's simply another difficult thing that you can learn to do.

Beyond that, if you express yourself honestly, there's a smaller chance that you'll end up throwing out good chocolate. Nooooo!!!!!
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 2:45 PM on February 15, 2011 [10 favorites]

I did get him a card and some nice chocolates but I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances; I ended up just throwing them out when I got home.

Maybe he was in the same position. He bought things, got nothing from you and thought he wouldn't give you his gift.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2011

Life is not a sitcom where you have to guess when it's appropriate to say I love you, and if you say it to soon, he's going to freak out and go back and psychoanalyze it with his friends at the gym and then get scared away and dump you.

Quoted for truth. If you can't confidently say "I love you", then I don't think you're really in love. It sounds more like you THINK you should be in love because of some arbitrary length of time you've been dating.

The throwing out the chocolates thing is really strange to me. I think you need to reevaluate what your feelings are, and learn to communicate with your partner before you decide that it is "love".
posted by modernnomad at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personally, as I like to treat my SO to random presents, flowers, dinner, holidays etc. I tend to resent the enforced romanticism of Valentine's Day. So my question to you is: How has this guy treated you the 89 other days you have been together?

Oftentimes, at least in my experience, couples that put an exceptional emphasis on "what they get" for Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's day etc. are trying to make up for more fundamental problems that surface in the 360 or so other days of the year.
posted by smithsmith at 3:35 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I will chime in as part of the minority. I do see red flags, or at least things that bring me pause.

First, just to clear it up, your "boyfriend" did NOT forget it was Valentine's Day. As someone else said, yes it's absolutely the stupidest commercialized holiday ever, but it's EVERYWHERE. Right after Christmas, stores start decorating for V-Day (pun -intended), so he did not forget. Don't even allow yourself to run with that excuse.

Most importantly though, I don't get how you hang out all throughout the week, he calls you his "girlfriend," etc. and you all haven't spoken about your feelings? That's bizarre. Either he is emotionally-stunted and really scared and uncomfortable opening up or he is genuinely hesitant about going to the next level. I will generalize here, but oh well. Most guys who are really into a lady look for ways to express that, and would not dare let an opportunity like V-Day go by without at least acknowledging it, especially in a new relationship in which they're trying to woo the lady. But let's say he's the exception to this.

If he is the exception, if he is one of these rebelllious, "f this society and their stupid customs" types, then it's time to have THE TALK. The one in which you say, "Babe, can we have a hear-to-heart?" It's time to have this talk now, before more doubt arises, before you start looking for more red flags and reasons you all can't work out. Imo, if he is not receptive to your heart-to-heart, I would fall back a little. Good luck.

P.S. I do not think you were ridiculous for not giving him the V-day gifts. I think that was the normal reaction that maybe 90% of women would have had. V-Day is mostly a day for the ladies. It would not be easy for most ladies to give their beau something first. Sexist as that might be, it's just the truth.
posted by GeniPalm at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

If Valentine's Day is important to you, then you let your sweetie know that, with enough time for a response. "Snooks, Valentine's Day is Monday, want breakfast in bed? " is a good hint that you want to celebrate.

I think you sound uneasy about the status of the relationship. So ask. "Hey gorgeous, I like you an awful lot. What are your intentions?" You need to phrase it so it sounds like you, but asking about the status of the relationship is fair. If it ends the relationship, better it should end that way than you feeling secretly bad. It sounds like he likes you an awful lot.

Valentine's Day is kind of a minefield. Don't let it take you down.
posted by theora55 at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

You threw the chocolates out!?!? WHA?!!

Right, this makes me so sad I could almost cry! Why didn't you just give them to him? Love doesn't have to be completely symmetrical every day of the year.

Personally I love V's Day, silly as it is. But this year I didn't do a damn thing for my husband. He, on the other hand, bought me a lovely huge fat blue bubble glass pitcher while we were shopping at an antique store on 2/13. Sometimes it just works out that way.

If your guy ignores your birthday, that might be something to complain about. Valentines' Day is kinda optional, IMO, but a perfectly wonderful time maybe to surprise your SO with an expression of your love, and in some ways, it's all the better if he or she is unprepared to reciprocate, because then it's just all you being sacrificially lovey! Next year, don't waste the opportunity.
posted by torticat at 4:00 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

V-Day is mostly a day for the ladies. It would not be easy for most ladies to give their beau something first. Sexist as that might be, it's just the truth.

Oh and (if my previous post didn't make this clear) I 100% completely disagree with this. Guys can definitely be one-way recipients of Valentines' gifts, with happiness resulting all around.
posted by torticat at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My gut tells me that he wants people to know you're his girlfriend, but he doesn't want you to have any romantic expectations, which is immature and juvenile. It's weird that you guys didn't talk about it beforehand (whether or not he's into it), and you should have just given him the card and chocolates anyway, because you wanted to celebrate it and that's okay (even if a lot of Mefites think it's uncool). Unless he didn't go outside, to work (we had heart shaped cookies at work), to the grocery store, or get on the internet yesterday, chances are slim he didn't know it was Valentine's Day. He, unlike you, didn't even wonder if you wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day. It's sort of inconsiderate and weird that he didn't care enough to even ask.

He seems not to be all that swept away by you to care enough how you feel. Either that or he's testing you, which is dumb. I guess it's either you go with him setting the mood for holidays (however commercial), or you say something and he can either be easygoing or overly philosophical about going out of his way not to celebrate what most can agree is a silly holiday, but a chance to have fun. People have a huge problem with Valentine's Day, but have no problem with Halloween (which is so fun).
posted by anniecat at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Okay, OP, first things first: anyone who tells you it's flat-out impossible that your boyfriend actually FORGOT Valentine's Day? They're wrong. I know this, because I plum forgot yesterday was a holiday of any kind until I got to work and saw a big ol' bouquet of roses on our receptionist's desk. Up until that point I was blissfully unaware. If I can forget, it's completely within the realm of possibility that your BF forgot. Hell, mine forgot too (despite being in an office environment -- y'all, it IS possible to not know it's V-Day despite seeing heart shaped cookies in the office, it's easy to do when you're busy as hell and mildly oblivous to the passing of time anyway), and we've been together for over a year. It's just not a holiday that's important to everyone. It's thoroughly unimportant to a very, very large number of people. It may be that your BF is one of those people. The best way to find out his feelings on V-Day? ASK HIM.

As for whether it means he doesn't care about you -- you know what? You need to ASK HIM. It seems like the biggest problem in your relationship with this guy is that you do not communicate with each other. You mentioned that you haven't told this guy about your feelings for him because "we just don't talk about things like that". Why? Is it that you're actually not sure of your feelings yet? Is it because you're afraid of being hurt? Being unsure is a great reason to keep it to yourself for now, but if you're afraid? Girl, screw your courage to the sticking place and get it off your chest. You'll either find out he feels the same way, which is great, or you'll find out that he doesn't, which is less great, but gives you the opportunity to get out now without wasting your time on someone who doesn't feel the same way as you. Either way, you'll know. And wouldn't that be better than this limbo-world you live in now?

Also -- one very important thing I have learned from my previous relationships, and that I am putting into practice in my current relationship, is that you have to ask for what you want. No one is a mind-reader. I had a crappy birthday last year, but it wasn't my boyfriend's fault for not reading my secret heart and knowing that I wanted him to do certain things. It was my fault for not letting him know my expectations in the first place. Next time my birthday rolls around, I'll know to tell him, "Darling heart, please order me a cake that says 'hello during a random dessert' [Community shoutout!], and bring me some flowers as well." I'll get what I want, and he'll feel good because he won't have to guess at what I want and then feel awful when he guesses wrong and I'm disappointed. It's a win-win.

tl;dr version: Communicate, yo. It's the only way to make relationships work.
posted by palomar at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your first step should probably be to have that conversation about feelings you're dying to have.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

So you say to him the next time you see him, "I did the craziest thing on Monday. I got you a nice card and some chocolates for Valentines Day. But then when we were together, you didn't say anything about it being Valentines, so I got all insecure about how you felt about me and about us. So when I got home, I threw them out. Now I don't know what I think about it all. What do you think about it?"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:11 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him...Should I just get out while I’m still relatively intact?

Wow. No offense, but you are tripping. Having someone not return your feelings is not the same as being humiliated or destroyed.

Your distorted thinking on this point risks creating problems where none exist.

Quoted for truth: None of this passive-aggressive sulking ambivalence. Life is too short.
posted by salvia at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2011

Agreeing that this isn't about Valentine's Day. How was he supposed to know it was important to you (even if only *mildly* important) if you, as you admit, have never expressed your feelings?

I'm married and my husband is an engineer, which means I have to be a bit blunter with him than what "politeness" normally dictates and I sat him down last week and said "Look. It's Valentine's Day on Monday. I'm 36 weeks pregnant with your son. You need to give me SOMETHING." And he did. He was totally happy to do so and he gave me a very nice small gift and I did indeed feel appreciated and everyone was happy. Sometimes, you really do need to establish your needs upfront even if your need is "Look, I know it's dumb, but it matters to me and I'd really like a Valentine's card."

It's really the only way to go (though most people can make their point a little more gently than I do - but that's just because my husband really prefers total directness) unless you're dating a mind-reader, and honestly, I'd hate to date a mind-reader because most of my thoughts are much better off left in my own head.

Going forward from here, if I were in your shoes, I'd just start a casual conversation about "Hey, it sucks we didn't do anything for Valentine's Day because I really like you." and take it from there.
posted by sonika at 6:32 PM on February 15, 2011

I haven’t told him anything about my feelings for him; we don’t talk about that sort of thing, at all.

Here's why I stopped reading your question immediately after this sentence*: you don't know. You can't know. Stop asking us. Ask him

*I actually did read the rest, but it wasn't necessary for the above reasons.
posted by Ndwright at 9:45 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did get him a card and some nice chocolates but I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by giving them to him under the circumstances; I ended up just throwing them out when I got home.

What is the worst that can happen? Suppose if you do get humiliated; isn't it good to find out earlier than later what kind of person he is?

Re: Chocolates. Really? Throw them out? I hope this is just hyperbole. That's such a waste of energy - think of the energy used to create, and transport them to you! In addition, I hope you didn't really "throw out" the card but recycled it.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:37 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

People can say "oh Valentine's day is so commercial and we always ignore it," but they are saying it. Not saying anything at all makes a very big statement.

So far, both you and he have jointly made the same big statement.

I would stop and ask yourself why you think you will be "humiliated" if you express your feelings to him. What in your previous interactions has led you to anticipate this?

Or is this a position you take generally in every relationship? I actually think it's clunky to have a Big Talk About Your Feelings. But relationships can't be sustained for any length of time on sidelong glances and dropped hints. There are ways to indicate these things briefly, in few words, without having to hire a therapist and conduct a day-long Feelings Workshop with talking-sticks and facilitated crying.

I don't think there's really any way around talking about this just a little, though. You can say "actions speak louder than words" but more than once have I heard about titles, parent-meeting, and other indications of LTR status, only to have them end in "oh but I never said this was anything other than casual, she just got the wrong end of the stick". I guess if you do end up being told something like this, or getting humiliated, now would be a good time.

Ultimately, if neither of you is willing to make yourselves vulnerable, you can't love, so you can either give up on the relationship entirely or stick together and stop seeing it as a loving relationship.

...or you could just hand over the chocolate.
posted by tel3path at 5:32 AM on February 16, 2011

A few years ago, my work had a little party before Valentines Day where the social committee running the party had supplies for creating handmade Valentine's Day cards, including little cutouts with Shakespearean sonnets and other appropriate poetry, etc. It was the first Valentine's day with my boyfriend, and I said what the hell and created one for him with one of the sonnets. When I saw him, I explained about the party and said "Here you go" and handed it to him. He looked at it, read it, handed it back to me, and said "Cool," and went back to the TV.

Yes, even though I hadn't put his name in it, it didn't occur to him that perhaps a VALENTINE'S DAY CARD given to him ON VALENTINE'S DAY by his GIRLFRIEND was FOR HIM. We're still together, five or so years later, but I've learned that I have to be rather direct about some things because they just won't occur to him. (Like, for example, telling him multiple times that I like flowers, and I like it when people give me flowers doesn't result in him actually giving me flowers. I have to say, specifically, "I would like it if you gave me flowers on this day.")

At any rate, we don't actually celebrate Valentine's Day much. What we celebrate is National Cheap Candy Day on February 15th.
posted by telophase at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2011

Er, and what I forgot to add before clicking Post Answer was that perhaps you just have a guy like mine, who is remarkably obtuse in some areas, but who makes up for it quite a lot in others. I'd establish whether this is the case before freaking out too much over it.
posted by telophase at 9:48 AM on February 16, 2011

« Older The Canadian Arctic   |   What do students want from a freshman composition... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.