Boyfriend hates Valentine's Day
February 13, 2013 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend hates Valentine's Day and doesn't want to celebrate it. He is super loving in other ways. What should I do? Questions about your experiences inside.

My boyfriend hates Valentine's Day. I know he loves me, and shows me all the time in ways large and small -- but he hates scheduled events, hates social expectations, doesn't like romance or flowers or anything like that and is a very stubborn person in general who hates to be pushed into doing anything. We've discussed it ad nauseum. He says he is willing to go along with my plans, but keeps complaining about it.

We've been together for over a year, and this is our second Valentine's Day. The first one was a few months after we got together and it was simply awful. He told me to plan something, then he didn't like what I planned, refused to go, refused to plan anything else, needed reassurance that it was okay even if he didn't go, and we ended up having a tense dessert out after missing our dinner reservations and then went straight home. We didn't do much for our anniversary either. He's not huge on gift giving for anyone in his life, although he's very loving and there for people when they need him.

I'm not a materialistic, girly girl type in any way. I'm pretty counter-culture and nerdy and laidback. But I really like being acknowledged on special days, and I'm a huge fan of thoughtful gifts and loving gestures.


- What are your thoughts on Valentine's Day? Do you think it's a stupid commercial holiday? Do you celebrate it? How do you celebrate it?
- If you hate it and your significant other loves it, how do you compromise? Or if you love it, and they hate it, how do you celebrate? (I'd like to hear both perspectives.)
- And what should I do tomorrow? I'd like to get him a gift (I have a few in mind and I love getting things for him) but I know I won't get anything from him.
- Should I make my own plans to go out with friends? I'm totally capable of doing that, but it would feel kind of sad.
- I could just let it go, of course. Have you ever done this? Has anyone you've dated ever done this because of you? How did it go?

(In case you are wondering: He's generous and kind in many ways and my life is immeasurably better for having him in it. No DTMFA, please.)
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (75 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Your first question is chatfilter and best left alone. Regarding being with someone who hates the holiday. If I was with someone who hates it then no problem, just ignore it. However, if I was with someone who I knew would find it a slap in the face if she got nothing (and I guess I am) then I would make some effort to do something, I think this is reasonable even if I did not feel the day is that important, because not slapping my SO in the face is important to me.

If he's going to be lousy company on a night out then stay away from him.
posted by biffa at 11:48 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

You need to decide if it's important to you. And if it's important to you, then you need to make it clear to your boyfriend that it's important to you. If your boyfriend doesn't care about things that are important to you, then there is something wrong with your relationship, I don't care how many good qualities he has.

Sometimes in relationships, you need to communicate very clearly what you need.

You might want to think about how important valentines day actually is to you, and whether it's worth putting your foot down over it, though.
posted by empath at 11:52 PM on February 13, 2013 [19 favorites]

I think it's a stupid commercial holiday but I would still make a bit of a fuss - cook a nice dinner, maybe light a candle. But I would also laugh at myself because I think it's kind of cheesy and you would never find us dressed up and out at a fancy restaurant.

I would be flabbergasted if I got an expensive gift or anything other than a couple of flowers and I would probably not invest too much time in a relationship with someone who spent a lot of money or thought Valentine's Day was a big deal. It would indicate to me that we had different values. I did get the whole roses/limo/opera/restaurant/expensive gift thing once and it felt very contrived and cliche - not at all romantic.

If you want to get him a gift, get him something another day. In the context of him not being interested in Valentine's Day, giving him a gift on that day is (a) against his express request and (b) kind of aggressively petulant in pointing out that he hasn't gotten you anything. It won't make him feel good, and it might make him feel really bad. Why would you do that to someone?

Go out with friends, stay home and read a book, snuggle on the sofa with your honey.

Yes let it go. Do you know how rare it is to find someone as awesome as your guy sounds?
posted by yogalemon at 11:55 PM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

If he's kind and generous in all other ways, then please, for the love of God, let it go.

I think Valentine's Day is commercialized bunk, and I would be irritated if my SO forced me into recognizing it in any way. That said, I am more than happy to do V-Day-ish romantic gestures on OTHER days. You know, spontaneously, when I (or they) want to.

It's sure as heck not worth creating tension over in an otherwise great relationship.
posted by Salamander at 11:55 PM on February 13, 2013 [17 favorites]

I don't care about it enough to hate it, if my SO planned something, I'd go and I'd enjoy it because I like going out with him, and we would probably make fun of people who looked like they were doing Valentine's Day As An Event because we're both horrible people. I've never done anything on Valentine's day and none of the guys I have dated have ever cared about Valentine's Day: I have to admit that if they were really hung up on it, I'd think less of them. It's not a special day for anyone except florists and Hallmark. Have you even heard of St Valentine? Really, if you get hung up on Valentine's Day as a 'special day', you are probably not 'counter culture' enough to use that phrase about yourself.

All that said, he needs to grow a spine and either tell you in advance he doesn't want to do anything, or go along with your plans. Panicking and being indecisive on the day of is the sign of an immature idiot. As it sounds like you haven't made any plans for tomorrow, you should be ok.
posted by jacalata at 11:57 PM on February 13, 2013

Our thoughts on Valentine's Day don't matter - what matters are your and your boyfriends' thoughts on Valentine's Day, those are the only feelings pertinent to this question.

He's allowed to not enjoy Valentine's Day and to hold the opinion that it's a stupid commercial holiday (although that doesn't sound like the justification he's using here, since he generally doesn't like gift giving or romance - I'm not sure how hating romance and gift giving square with someone who "shows his love for you in many ways"... after all, gift giving isn't synonymous with spending money on people). It's not reasonable for him to dismiss/ignore your feelings of enjoying celebrating Valentine's Day and wanting something romantic from him on it - that's not something a good boyfriend should do. Sulking and giving you a hard time about wanting to go out to dinner or whatever is pretty immature sounding to me.

would it be so hard for him to compromise with you, given that you are Someone He Loves and this is something that is important to you? My husband isn't as big on holidays as I am, but he certainly can appreciate that some sort of romance and gift giving are part of a good romantic relationship, and he does those things for me because he knows they make me happy and they are certainly no hardship for him.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

Valentine's Day isn't important in and of itself. But if it's important to you, then it's important that he acknowledge that and respond in a way that reflects his caring for you.

If this were just about Valentine's Day, I'd say give him a wide berth and go out with your friends. But from what you said about him not liking romance or flowers or social expectations or scheduled events (!), well, he sounds like he's being a bit of a poseur about special occasions in general. Sure, you're not married, but what if he takes this approach to your wedding day? Your anniversaries? Your children's birthdays? People tell you who they are -- you can't change them, but you can believe them.

If the way he is doesn't make you unhappy, and won't in the future, do whatever makes you happy tomorrow and have no expectations about him. If making plans to go out with friends instead of with him would make you sad, as you say, then I caution you (from experience) to consider how you'd feel to keep doing that year after year.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:03 AM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

I hate gift giving events, but am super duper generous every damn day of the year - so I get the first part of your BF's issue.

The part where he is curmudgeonly about things you have planned is deal breaker - and you should find a way to discuss it with him after the holiday.

No. Really.

The princple he is standing on is hurtful towards you, someone he supposedly cares about.

If he can't see the forest for the trees on this silly silly issue.....

To answer your questions: Buy him a gift or don't. He doesn't care right now. Is there something fun to do that won't burden your grinch of a boyfriend tomorrow night that you will find fun? Go do that.


Here is what your question reminded me of.... I had a very very good friend. Her husband got her a vaccum for their anniversary or for Valentine's Day early on in their marriage. Personally, I was appalled. This guy was also good in some ways like your BF, and in other ways, he was a controlling and judgmental POS. I ceased being close to my very good friend because it was so hard to watch their relationship unfold.

I know they are still together (at least they were about 5 years ago) and have a few children. I think my friend was capable of a lot more than her life has amounted to thus far. I know that she compromised her talent, freedom, and dreams for her husband and his, ahem, attitudes about stuff.

She was very vivacious and open before him. I don't think his seriousness helped fulfill her, but she seems to still be with him, so what do I know?

Actually. Do know one thing.

Over about 8 years with this guy, I saw the light leave her eyes. I bailed on our long term friendship when that got too heartbreaking for me to bear witness to any longer.
posted by jbenben at 12:03 AM on February 14, 2013 [17 favorites]

To a certain degree, I share your boyfriend's sensibilities. It is much more important that you express your affection for each other when it is not an officially-sanctioned Hallmark moment. It's pretty incontrovertibly commercialized, and they didn't do it for your sake.

On the other hand, I typically welcome the excuse to have a pleasant night out at a special restaurant, or to cook a simple but indulgent dinner at home, because I do love my better half. (simple just because... you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking or cleaning up.)

Try not to imbue the day with heavy significance. Just do it small and comfortable and much like you might celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Just do something nice together. Your dude should chill out and stress less about it, but you should maybe examine yourself a bit. Is he just getting performance anxiety, knowing that he'll never be able to give you the shadowy-figures-exchanging-blood-diamonds while doves-fly-out-of-a-chamber-orchestra experience?

The best gift you can give is your attention. Material things get in the way.
posted by mumkin at 12:08 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is something you need to discuss together in order to determine an acceptable compromise. Something that you are both happy with. Valentine's Day is negotiable!

My girlfriend and I both dislike Valentine's Day (although it's your typical healthy dislike). However we both understand the importance of such a day… not important for our relationship, but important from a 'social expectations' and 'social significance' point of view.

We've dealt with this by arranging a 'not-so-random day of affection' (on the same day every year… but not February 14th). It's our own private Valentine's Day, and we joke by saying it's the 'globally-unsanctioned day of affection'. There's no fuss, no expectations, and no social stigma. We just ensure that we're together that day and that we do whatever we want.

Maybe you'd both be happy with something like that instead? It's my favourite day of the year and our peer group is accepting of our choice to forego Valentine's Day entirely in lieu of our own private celebration.

(That said, the description of your first Valentine's Day together sounds like a huge, waving red flag.)
posted by fakelvis at 12:23 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

- And what should I do tomorrow? I'd like to get him a gift (I have a few in mind and I love getting things for him)
He'll appreciate it more if you give it to him 2-3 weeks from now.

but I know I won't get anything from him.
Set up a romantic date a month from now instead. If you want him to do the legwork and put the energy into it, that's fine, don't bring it up tomorrow, and don't mention Valentines Day. If you want jewelry or such like, tell him "I need to be fawned over once in a while, and a bit of jewelry."

- I could just let it go, of course. Have you ever done this? Has anyone you've dated ever done this because of you? How did it go?
My wife and I are vague on what day we got married. We do well together, though.

Let me indulge in a bit of sarcastic rhetoric.

Why don't you not let it go? Make a bit deal about it at him. Sulk. Coerce him into playing along. Do you think he'll really be happy and in tune with it all?

We've discussed it ad nauseum. He says he is willing to go along with my plans, but keeps complaining about it.

Translation: I fuss about it, he tries to go along to make peace, but it sticks in his craw.

If he guilt-tripped you into celebrating Sweetest Day, and you privately thought it was the huuuuuuuuuuuugest crock of shit ever, do you think you'd be a happy camper?

Instead of Hallmark Holidays, set up romantic dates every 2 months.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

He says he is willing to go along with my plans, but keeps complaining about it....He told me to plan something, then he didn't like what I planned, refused to go, refused to plan anything else, needed reassurance that it was okay even if he didn't go, and we ended up having a tense dessert out after missing our dinner reservations and then went straight home.

I'm sorry, but this is a giant red flag to me. This is really not a mature or respectful way to treat you, the person he is supposed to love, regardless of his feelings about Valentine's Day. The day itself is a red herring. This is just plain inconsiderate, and his dislike of Valentine's Day is not an excuse.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:49 AM on February 14, 2013 [56 favorites]

If your boyfriend doesn't care about things that are important to you, then there is something wrong with your relationship, I don't care how many good qualities he has.

This isn't really a useful rubric. It's equally clear that the boyfriend has strong feelings about the holiday that 3491again doesn't want to respect. (Granted, my response is colored by the fact that I'm in the boyfriend's camp on this— fortunately, so is my girlfriend.)

And what should I do tomorrow? I'd like to get him a gift (I have a few in mind and I love getting things for him) but I know I won't get anything from him.

If it makes you happy and you think he'll receive it as an affectionate gesture rather than a backhanded criticism, then do it. Giving gifts is an enjoyable thing to do.

Can you arrange for something to do together that would feel like an intentional, intimate thing to you, and to him, but wouldn't be based on the stereotypical forms of Valentine's Day? Something you both like, perhaps something special to your relationship, but which doesn't carry the symbolic freight of chocolate hearts and romcom references and heavily marketed flower arrangements? Something which both of you — not just you — will see as an expression of your love for one another?
posted by hattifattener at 1:13 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My partner and I aren't crash hot on Valentine's ourselves. But you know what? There's tonnes of shit my partner loves that I'm not crash hot on, but I go along with it anyway, because when you love someone you inconvenience yourself for them sometimes. And vice versa: she does for me too, let the record reflect.

It doesn't matter how I feel, or how the President feels about Valentine's Day. It's about how you feel. Your real question is, "Is it unreasonable to ask, and expect, my partner to do something for me that they dislike, but does not harm them physically or psychologically?" The answer is no. The answer is no in serious relationship, on the understanding that there is no bright line and some things just will not happen and others will require compromise from everyone, but that's how it goes in mature, adult relationships.

Forgive me for projecting somewhat, OP, but your description of your BF twigs with some of the BFs in my social group. I hesitate to use the term "mummy's boy", but I do think there is a certain type of male that, for whatever god-forsaken reason, has been raised to believe that their desires are sacrosanct, and possess an utterly unattractive habit of basically throwing a tantrum/sulking when their desires are thwarted, and in doing so ruining it for everyone, embarrassing their GFs at social situations, and being unpardonably rude sometimes.

I'm not saying your boyfriend is like that, and I'm not saying that these types of boyfriends are like that all the time, or wholly bad, or don't present many other good and wonderful traits as people and partners, but I think it is A Type, OP. And my friends with this Type of boyfriend still struggle with this kind of bratty behaviour years into their relationship, and doubly so once they have kids.

So what I'm saying is push it to get some kind of Valentine's Day that will make you happy - and if it underlines a broader tendency, get on that shit now, cause it will not resolve on its own.
posted by smoke at 2:01 AM on February 14, 2013 [17 favorites]

I loathe Valentine's Day and absolutely think it's a stupid commercial holiday, and like your boyfriend I hate the social decree of "you must celebrate your love in this way at this time" of it. The whole thing gives me shudders.

But - if my husband really loved it, I'd either go along with the flower-and-chocolates circus, or I'd suggest a compromise we could both appreciate. My dislike for Valentine's Day wouldn't entitle me to a) tell him to plan it and then continually complain about his plans, b) miss dinner reservations he made, c) refuse to get him a gift even though I knew it would mean a lot to him, and d) ask him constantly to reassure me that all the above was fine. That's just bratty. There's a difference between "I dislike X, you like X, let's find a deal that works for us both" and "I dislike X, therefore I am entitled to act like a five-year-old about it."

If this was only one day a year, then maybe it wouldn't be such a thing. But you say your boyfriend "hates scheduled events, hates social expectations" and "is a very stubborn person in general who hates to be pushed into doing anything", and that you didn't really celebrate your anniversary either (despite you, I'm guessing, wanting to?). That suggests that it's less a problem with Valentine's specifically, and more that he doesn't really distinguish between "principled stand against something Society is making me do" and "unreasonable brattiness in the face of things which are meaningful to my partner."

So I agree with smoke on this, very much (and I've also seen a similar thing play out in friends' relationships). Get on it soon. He doesn't have to like Valentine's Day, but he does have to act like an adult when your preferences clash with his.
posted by Catseye at 3:17 AM on February 14, 2013 [20 favorites]

I could just let it go, of course.

Everything you've written indicates that this is important to you and that you probably can't. It'll stick in your craw and slowly drive a wedge between the both of you. Definitely talk about it and find some sort of compromise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Boyfriend hates Valentine's Day and doesn't want to celebrate it. He is super loving in other ways. know he loves me, and shows me all the time in ways large and small. What should I do?

Nothing. You're golden. Go home, have awesome sex and be happy. FWIW we do not celebrate Valentine's in this house either, and we've been together 10 years.

And for all the people giving your poor boyfriend a really hard time about last year, I would merely point out that:

We've discussed it ad nauseum. He says he is willing to go along with my plans, but keeps complaining about it. pinging as "nagged him into capitulation and then made plans that are as close to the traditional Valentine's I know he hates anyway." I'd be resentful and refuse to go also.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:34 AM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

Also, I loathe Valentines Day also, with the white hot fury of a thousand angry cannibalistic pygmies. It's just another goddamn commercial holiday which has turned into an annual orgy of either trying to one up yourself from last your and one up your SO's friend, whose SO always says or does the perfect fucking thing.

So I do something on the day before Valentines Day, to avoid all the rush and reservations and long long lines and shit. It's always under the justification that "Valentine's Day is what other people do. You are better than other people and deserve your own day for this sort of crap of thoughtful and loving tokens."

No complaints.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Forget about the Valentine's Day discussion for the moment:

he hates scheduled events, hates social expectations, doesn't like romance or flowers or anything like that and is a very stubborn person in general who hates to be pushed into doing anything

He doesn't like romance and flowers and doesn't like the idea of doing things that are going to make someone else happy because he's "stubborn" about what he believes. If you are comfortable with this state of affairs in general, great. If not, I suspect this is going to come up in a lot more situations than Valentine's Day (and probably already does). If this is something you want, keep in mind that not doing these things is probably something your boyfriend believes is a strong part of his identity, so it makes him feel good to not do them and makes it feel like he's compromising himself to do them.
posted by deanc at 4:11 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

The way he reacted to Valentine's Day last year is a relationship a red flag to me as well. Then I read your other questions. If this is the same dude, this disrespect is a pattern in a lot of ways and I pay pretty close attention to that if I were you.
posted by _Mona_ at 4:34 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree that Valentine's Day is a red herring here. The real issue is that your boyfriend seems to be inflexible and unwilling to deal with conflict well. Your description of last year... Eek. I don't do Valentine's day either, but that was the hill he chose to potentially die on?

There are many things my husband enjoys that I don't care for, and vice versa. But I would never express contempt about the things he enjoys, and enable him to pursue them even if it's not with me.

This year, have a night out with your friends. Buy each other candy and flowers if it makes you happy. But definitely address his attitude and how it makes you feel, as well as what it means for the future.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:39 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at the five love languages and gottman? What really stuck out for me was your description of him not buying gifts for anyone but that he "is there when people need him." You needed him to go to a scheduled event for two Valentine's Days (and I presume your anniversary and other scheduled events that were important to you) and he wasn't there for you. It sounds like he needs to be the one to decide the value of an activity before he will do it - which sounds the opposite of loving or "being there when people need him".

Also, you say he is loving all the rest of the time, as though that is a bonus; wouldn't you expect that as a bare minimum from your partner? I wonder if he is slowingly wearing down what you want/what you think of as normal in a healthy relationship for you to confirm with only what he wants/needs? This wouldn't necessarily be something he is doing consciously, but is is a sign of a severe lack of empathy, maturity and the importance you really play in his life. Already he has you trained to doubt yourself when you ask for your desires to be prioritised once over the course of the year when you are continuously putting the way he likes to do things first.

Gottman did a study where he found the longest last relationships were were the male partner routinely acquiesced to the female partner's requests, not to create an imbalance but to correct it - because woman constantly acquiesce to their male partner without the man even realising and that creates a build-up of anger, sadness and resentment in the woman, which is what I hear from you now.

You know he is rigid about scheduled events, does not like to be "forced" into publically showing his love for you, or forced into doing something he does not want to do, so you have compromised on the other 363 days of the year and feel that he should be able to bend a little twice a year. But he does not see you as compromising, he thinks - black and white - on this issue: he is right, you are wrong. Therefor asking him to do something on a day important to you when he does not want to makes no sense because all the other days you were not compromising on something important to you - you were acknowledging he was right.

I think discussing this one situation is confusing the larger issue between you two. His argument is that Valentine's day is stupid, hetronotmative, a hallmark holiday, etc, etc. What you should be discussing is his willingness to compromise and do something he would not otherwise chose to do - and do it willingly because it makes you happy. I don't see anywhere in your post where he has done something to make you happy unless he was also getting something equal out of it.
posted by saucysault at 4:42 AM on February 14, 2013 [30 favorites]

I have a guy like yours. It's taken me 29 years to learn to just let it go. It was not easy. Worked through all the thoughts above - "I understand your feelings about Hallmark Holidays but can't you just go along with it because it makes me happy?"
Things I tried that didn't work:
- hinting and hoping = disappointment.
- hinting and hoping more strongly = flowers or candy given grudgingly with him unable to disguise that he thought the whole thing was stupid, resulting in disappointment plus me feeling guilty for buying into the stupid holiday.
- telling him exactly what I wanted = him doing exactly what I wanted, resulting in dinner at a nice restaurant during which he couldn't hide his impatience for the whole thing to be over and me feeling like a very disappointed puppet master.

What finally worked - I have made it MY thing and learned to keep it light. His involvement is entirely optional. I don't get him anything - no card, nothing. I don't expect anything from him and I'm not disappointed. When kids were home, we sometimes had a fun family dinner with kid-oriented valentines treats. This year I am cooking a nice meal for us (MY favorite foods), buying my favorite flowers for the table, and watching a movie I want to see. For him it will be just another evening.

I think I'm finally OK with that. It really helps, though, to completely shut myself off from TV and print ads that push push push the romantic expectations of the day and what couples "should" be doing.

(I also like buying my guy gifts, but it works better if i do it on any other random day so there's no implied obligation of reciprocation.)
posted by evilmomlady at 4:48 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

If he doesn't like it but you do, then you should do something special for him. Make VD a day that you're in charge of and you make happen. Dinner, special treats, massage for him, etc. but all on you to do.

Then together make up your own holiday, an "Us Day." Choose a random date--the second Thursday after the first day the temperature rises above 75--and make it a day that you plan together, you both take off work, go rock-climbing, get sushi, feed ducks, get massages together, whatever you decide makes a special romantic day. And that becomes your personal commercial-free valentines day instead of the one on the calendar.
posted by headnsouth at 4:57 AM on February 14, 2013

Accept people for who they are, and then decide whether you want to put up with who they are. Trying to change people rarely works. His desire to not celebrate Valentine's day is just as valid as your desire to celebrate it. It could be said that he should celebrate it to make you happy, but it could also be said that you shouldn't celebrate it to make him happy.

Lets assume for the moment that he never celebrates Valentine's day ever - are you 100% OK with that? If you're not, then you're going to have this disappointment every year you're with him.

If you want to get him a gift, then do it. Just don't do it with strings attached. Don't expect anything in return, no matter how nice it would be if he did. Have zero hope that he'll reciprocate. If you can't do that, then reconsider getting him a gift. Never set yourself up to be hurt.

Do what is going to make you feel good on Valentine's day. If you want to go out with friends, then go out with friends. If doing that is going to make you sad, then perhaps don't do it. Do something else that will make you feel good.

My rule for pretty much everything is "does it work 80% of the time?". I allow for 20% of not working, because nothing is perfect. If your guy is making your life immeasurably better 80% of the time, then I'd let this one day slide. On the other hand, if Valentine's day is a Major Thing for you, then you need to factor that into the equation. Is him not celebrating going to mean that you're not getting your needs met more than 20% of the time?
posted by Solomon at 5:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

"He says he is willing to go along with my plans, but keeps complaining about it."

"The first one was a few months after we got together and it was simply awful. He told me to plan something, then he didn't like what I planned, refused to go, refused to plan anything else, needed reassurance that it was okay even if he didn't go, and we ended up having a tense dessert out after missing our dinner reservations and then went straight home."
Valentines day, its commercialism, its campyness, the expectations, and gender weirdness are all red herrings here to a pretty big central issue. While you can't expect him to like Valentines day or to get into the expectations of Valentines day, you do have every right to expect him to not be a dick about it and respect that you like it and are into it.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:05 AM on February 14, 2013 [17 favorites]

I'm this guy. It took me twenty years of cards and token gifts to my wife until I finally succeeded in weaning her away from the crassness of V-day. For the past thirty two years we have ignored the day except for our favorite Chinese restaurant and recreational bedding afterwards. Except of course for her red nightie with the stupid pink hearts. Lol.
posted by notreally at 5:41 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend doesn't give gifts, doesn't really care about celebrating holidays, and despises the jewelry/flowers/chocolates b.s. that comes along with a lot of it. He is emphatically not a romantic. We don't exchange gifts.

I couldn't care less about Valentine's Day because I worked at Hallmark for too many years, but I do like some other holidays. He's totally neutral about me putting up a Christmas tree and likes visiting my family when the occasion calls for it. For more couple-y days like birthdays, we usually make dinner reservations somewhere we haven't been yet and splurge a little. We talked about it early on and that solution satisfies us both.

Frankly, on days like today when lots of people ask what we are doing, it also makes it easier to say, "oh we are going out to dinner on Saturday" rather than "here's a long explanation for why my desk doesn't have roses on it, which thereby opens my relationship up to your critique."

I have dated incredibly romantic guys before him, and I would trade any of him in for any of that. He's totally the best, and the best for me. I really don't care that he's never given me a Christmas present. He takes care of me and my needs in so many other ways. And when I think about the quality of the last boyfriend who showered me with poetry, flowers, and gifts, I have to laugh.

If your boyfriend is straight up being weird and mean about your needs, than I think that's a problem. If your boyfriend says he will go along with a plan and then bails at the last minute, then ditto. But if you can come up with an arrangement that works for both of you, then I recommend giving it a shot.

There is really nothing magical about Feb 14. And if you need to believe me, walk into your local Hallmark gift store around noon today and see the panicked people grabbing any piece of crap in sight to avoid the inevitable argument. Celebrate the Ides of March instead.
posted by juliplease at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

The context of "Valentine's Day" isn't the issue here. The issue is that there is something that is:

1. Important to you
2. Not unreasonable
3. Easy to accomodate

Your boyfriend is behaving like a child, ruining your enjoyment of something simple because he doesn't like it.

I would recommend that you wait until a time that is far away from Valentine's Day. Say, June. Put an appointment on your calendar to remind you to write a short note explaining:

1. You understand he hates Valentine's Day.
2. You really like Valentine's Day.
3. It hurts your feelings when he doesn't acknowledge it or does it in a way that makes it obvious how much he hates it.
4. You're not asking him to like Valentine's Day. You're asking him to care about something that's important to you.

Having a conversation may result in hurt feelings and things said in the heat of the moment that may be defensive. Writing a note lets you be calm and deliberate and you can choose your words thoughtfully.

Give him the note in such a way that you know he will actually get it and then let it be. If he wants to talk about it, let him bring it up.

Then wait until next February and see how he chooses to react to your request. This will pretty much tell you what you need to know about him.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:58 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Husbunny and I are pretty relaxed about birthdays and holidays. We love each other and say it and show it in every way, everyday.

We agree to exchange cards and we'll be going to our local Chinese place for dinner tonight. That is the extent to which we're planning a Valentine's Day event.

While I understand that your Boyfriend may think that the holiday is silly, his reaction is over the top and unreasonable.

Valentine's Day exists, and it wasn't intentionally planned to mess with him. You like it and have a small expectation that he'll spend a couple of bucks on a card, and join you in a romantic evening. Frankly, I don't think it's too much to ask of someone.

His reaction and behavior is extremely childish and makes me wonder what you see in him. He knows that YOU want to celebrate the holiday, and I am uncomfortable in the extreme that he places his dislike for the holiday WAY above sucking it up and making you happy by celebrating it with you.

Let's face it, Valentine's Day is no mystery. It's very straightforward and easy enough to comply with.

1. Buy a card and write something mushy in it.

2. Plan a romantic dinner, either at home, or out at any of the EVERY restaurant doing something special for the holiday.

3. Pick up a gift. This can be anything from a cheap box of candy to jewelry. For most people it doesn't really matter.

That's it.

Seriously, I think you need to re-evaluate why you'd want to be with someone who is so hell-bent on proving a point, that he'd hurt you to do it. And for what? To be that guy who doesn't like Valentine's Day? Gee, that's a novel idea. NOBODY hates Hallmark Holidays.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on February 14, 2013 [17 favorites]

It shouldn't be about whether he thinks Hallmark owns Valentine's Day. It should be about the fact that its important to you. So what if he doesn't care about it? He's supposed to care about you. And the fact that he agreed to go with you last year, then bailed and was sulky, is a big red flag.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ugh, so the result of his big Valentine's day protest was to make you feel kind of shitty? I don't like how you feel you need to defend yourself when he's the one who acted like a brat. Sure, its kind of a silly holiday, and yes there are people out there who go over the top, including your boyfriend. But its not unreasonable to expect him to be civil when you plan a romantic outing. So I would tell him very clearly and calmly, that the only effect his complaining about the holiday is to make you feel bad. And for what reason does he want to make you feel bad?
(Honestly, I haven't seen any actual person make a fuss about valentine's day since grade school where we passed traded cards with the whole class. My husband and I celebrate by going to sushi on the 13th but we don't need an occasion for flowers.)
posted by florencetnoa at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2013

I hatehatehate Valentine's Day. I worked in the flower industry for four years, so to me Valentine's Day meant extra work, extra stress, and a hundred percent chance of an irate man whose flowers hadn't been perfect telling me that his marriage was ruined, it was my fault, and he hoped I never found love. Every Valentine's Day, I would be exhausted and grumpy and overwhelmed and want nothing more than to have a drink (or a lot of drinks) and go to bed. But my very sweet and wonderful partner would always do something a little bit more, and even if it wasn't something I wanted, it ended up being something I liked, and something that would pull me out of my anger and stress and remind me that even if the holiday itself is a silly one, it's nice to express affection, and this person had done something caring and thoughtful for me, because they liked me. And it wasn't about the day; if anything, it was about a resistance to what the day was already doing to me, and it was about our relationship.

So in a roundabout way, what I'm saying is: can you find a way to make a Valentine's Day custom or celebration that's not about Valentine's Day (which: ugh), but is about your relationship? Instead of making the kind of plans people make on Valentine's Day, make the kind of plans that the two of you make, but just make them a little bit better? It seems like he's resisting the holiday in a way he might not resist something less formalized. As others have said, it's worth telling him that it matters to you, but maybe the two of you can compromise and find a way to make it matter that doesn't raise his hackles. Which might mean that this year you get him a gift and try to enjoy his pleasure in that gift and go out with your friends. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially if he's wonderful on other days (and especially if that ends up providing him with a model for how Valentine's Day can be something other than stressful), and also makes thoughtful and romantic gestures of his own during the rest of the year.
posted by dizziest at 6:14 AM on February 14, 2013

I love the Boston Red Sox. My wife could give two shits about baseball. For Christmas this year she gave me a framed photo of Fenway Park and a bracelet engraved with a snippet of lyric from the song they play in the stadium after the Sox win a game. See what she did there? She understands what is important to me and places value in it simply because of its importance to me. Someone who can't do that is not someone I'd want to be in a relationship with for the long term.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:16 AM on February 14, 2013 [22 favorites]

It sounds like this is a small problem in an otherwise good relationship. For whatever reason this kind of thing makes him really uncomfortable. You think it would be nice to do something, but it's not a big deal.

If I were you I'd get him a silly card and then spend the evening with him but do stuff that is not stereotypically romantic. Get a pizza and then go do whatever countercultural nerdy stuff you guys normally do, break into abandoned buildings or play video games or whatever. Just have a good time. Keeping this low pressure is a way to show your love for him and it sounds like you know he will return the favor in his own way maybe later on.
posted by steinwald at 6:16 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: we have happily ignored Valentine's Day for many years. It never caused any problems.
posted by steinwald at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2013


A few months ago, in response to another question you asked, I said this:

The pattern that leaps out at me is that you tend to ask questions about how other people do things; you're convinced that your lack of experience in a healthy relationship makes you unable to gauge what a good relationship looks like, and that you should model your behaviors after whatever turns out to be the norm. You need to abandon that line of thinking, and start asking yourself: Imagine the relationship you want to be in. What does that look like?

Never mind anyone else. Never mind unhealthy relationships of the past. There is here and now, and there is what you want here and now. That's enough for you to ask for, and if you don't get it, you can negotiate or you can take your awesome self elsewhere. You need to quit second-guessing yourself because I get the impression it's causing you to put up with way more bullshit than you ever, ever should. I agree with zug - I get the strong sense that you avoid describing specifics because you already know what you'll hear if you do.

You keep saying this relationship is a good one so you won't consider leaving, but you also say that you can't communicate, that he's self-centered, he doesn't care to hear about your day, et cetera.

Look, I know this is really unlikely to get a lot of traction as an idea, but - The relationship you've described is kind of a crappy one in which he treats you disrespectfully and doesn't give you what you need. Your response to this - in keeping with the patterns of anxiety you've described - is to second-guess yourself and wonder if you just don't actually need those things, if it's actually okay for him to treat you in such a self-centered way.

You say these things aren't dealbreakers, but they've been causing you months of trouble, so maybe they should start being dealbreakers, and if he can't give you what you need, there are countless other awesome dudes out there.

Value yourself as a person who deserves happiness, love and satisfaction; as a person who deserves to be listened to. Figure out where you can be happy compromising and where you can't. Communicate that to your boyfriend. Until you break the pattern of second-guesing, until you start to trust yourself and treat yourself with love and kindness, you're going to keep going around this mulberry bush, asking Metafilter how the people you think of as normal do (whatever thing).

That is the same advice I have for you now, with one addition:

The underlying problems here are not going to be solved by asking the internet if you're normal. They will be solved by visiting a couples counselor, together.

Your options - and these are seriously your only options - are these:

1. Couples counseling
2. Continue to be with someone who's stubborn and unyielding; constantly second-guess yourself, which is exactly as fun as it sounds and you will eventually exit the relationship with more issues than you had entering it
3. Leave

If you float the idea of couples counseling to him, I have a really strong feeling he will be opposed to it and won't even want to discuss it. If that is indeed how it plays out, I'm suggesting that you ask yourself: If I knew that was going to happen, just from reading your questions, what else might I be right about, here?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:26 AM on February 14, 2013 [36 favorites]

He told me to plan something, then he didn't like what I planned, refused to go, refused to plan anything else, needed reassurance that it was okay even if he didn't go, and we ended up having a tense dessert out after missing our dinner reservations and then went straight home.

This line gave me pause. It isn't about Valentine's day at that point. It is him being childish and stubborn and a little rude. He told you to plan something, and then basically pouted and ruined everything. He totally disregarded any efforts you made in planning it, and he was pretty disrepsectuful about it. Don't tell you to plan something if you know you aren't willing to do any of it. That is really insincere and rude. My feelings would be hurt. And why doesn't what YOU care about matter? If he is SO anti-Valentine's day he could at least make some sort of agreement to do something romantic/special on some other day in the near future.

For what it is worth, I like Valentine's day. My fiance and I are quite romantic and schmoopy day to day, but this is a nice excuse to be REALLY disgusting and cutesy and not feel embarassed by it. I like it more than he does I'd say, but because it is something important to me he has made efforts to make it special. He bought me a box of chocolates, and we're going to make a nice dinner together tonight and have a bottle of wine. Small effort for him, but big meaning for me. It isn't about him buying in to the commercialism or whatever other excuse he has. It is about him recognising that it is something meaningful to me, and therefore he makes it a priority.

It is pretty parallel to the Daytona 500 for me. I have zero interest in race car driving and I frankly think the whole thing is stupid, but once a year my fiance wants to make a day of it and watch the Daytona 500 together. Well, alright then. I can do that. And rather than be a whiney asshole about it, I've been trying to read up on how NASCAR works and how the pointing system works. I've been trying to learn a bit about the history, and basically I'm just making a point of taking an interest so that I can watch it with him like he wants, and enjoy it at least a little. It matters to HIM, so it matters to me. And really, it is once a year. I can definitely put myself out a little once a year so that he can watch the race. I would be a pretty big asshole if I denied him that, or if I whined and complained about how boring it was and went on about how I thought racing was so stupid. I mean, for Christ's sake, it is ONE DAY. Surely I can watch some people drive in circles for a few hours since it makes my fiance so happy. This is the man I love and want to spend my life with. It is a day. I'll survive. LOL And who knows, I may enjoy it! He is doing what he can to make it as fun for me as he can as well. He sends me occasional blurbs about NASCAR history and what all is going on this year so that I won't be totally lost during the race, and he is going to but me some liquor and make me a special treat to munch on during the race. These aren't things I've demanded or declared he must to in order for me to agree to watch it, they are things he wants to do for me.

Part of being in a relationship is compromise and doing for the other person. Your boyfriend doesn't have to like Valentine's day to be able to see it matters to you, and because it matters to you he could at least make a bit of an effort. He isn't, though. He is actually being really selfish and immature. You aren't asking him to dress up in a big gorilla costume and hand deliver you 2 dozen roses and a box of chocolates. You're asking to go out for dinner and maybe have him say "Happy Valentine's Day". Hell, he could buy you a single rose and hand it to you and you'd probably be pleased as punch. This is not a hardship for him.

He's being a dick. Again, this is NOT about Valentine's day. This is about him making no efforts to prioritize the things that matter to you. That is a big red flag for me. If this is something that happened frequently I would start questioning whether this was a relationship I wanted.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:32 AM on February 14, 2013 [15 favorites]

He doesn't have to like Valentine's Day, but he does have to act like an adult when your preferences clash with his.

Please do not think that "act like an adult" means "snap to and conform to OP's preferences without question".

That said, what I find to be a problem is to go along with plans and then complaining. If he knows he is going to be a party pooper, it is better that he not agree to go in the first place.

I agree with PuppetMcSockerson. A relationship is about mutual self-sacrifice. You like Valentine's Day? Great! He should appear to celebrate with more joy than you. He likes Tolkien and you think elves and dragons are stupid? This is where you say "great!" and stand in line with him for the midnight premiere screening.

As another commenter has mentioned, based upon your previous relationship questions regarding this man, this is about more than Valentine's Day. If you continue in this relationship, you will be back in a few months with another question about disappointment, insecurity, or communication.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and for what it is worth, it matters to me that my fiance enjoy Valentine's day since he's making it special for me. Chocolates and flowers and stuff like that definitely aren't his thing, so for Valentine's day I bought him the special edition boxed set of all the James Bond movies on Blu-ray. He is excited as hell. So even though Valentine's day isn't a huge deal for him, I am still making it something special and fun for him.

I want to celebrate Valentine's day so I get him a kick ass gift.
He wants me to watch the Daytona 500 so he find ways to make it interesting for me and gets me some special treats.

Relationships are a give and take.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:47 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, based on your past history of questions, I'm getting a big "boyfriend is an asshole, you could do better" vibe off of the whole situation, honestly.

but he hates scheduled events, hates social expectations, doesn't like romance or flowers or anything like that and is a very stubborn person in general who hates to be pushed into doing anything.

This is the real world where events are scheduled and society has expectations that have to be met, and his behavior which he cultivates to present "edgy iconoclast" actually projects to much of the word "petulant child."

He's generous and kind in many ways and my life is immeasurably better for having him in it. No DTMFA, please.

Fair enough, no one can make that decision but you, but it isn't the impression I get from this question or your history of questions.

- What are your thoughts on Valentine's Day? Do you think it's a stupid commercial holiday? Do you celebrate it? How do you celebrate it?

It's a stupid commercial holiday that at least represents a time that might obligate a bad romantic partner to acknowledge their significant other in a romantic way when otherwise they would actually never do it. This year my wife and I celebrated it by ordering some things on Amazon prime for each other, and we'll go eat somewhere nice on an evening that is not at all this one because dining out on Valentine's is a sucker's game. There will probably be carryout sushi tonight as well.

- And what should I do tomorrow? I'd like to get him a gift (I have a few in mind and I love getting things for him) but I know I won't get anything from him.

You should get him a gift with a card that says "I got you this because I have been persuaded by our corporate cultural masters into compulsory gift giving and also because I'm totally into you and there's nothing wrong with me liking the feelings that come from that and showing it to you in a way that has been officially sanctioned by said corporate masters. Also, I will be understanding and not at all upset that you didn't fulfill your side of the gift-giving equation because another (probably corporate as well) cultural master has persuaded you into presenting your stubbornness and general social cluelessness as some sort of measure of elitist pride and that there is nothing wrong with you disliking the obligations of Valentine's day other than not-playing-along makes you kind of act like a dick sometimes, and it would be sweet if you didn't do that today and maybe tell me you love me a couple of extra times."
posted by ndfine at 6:51 AM on February 14, 2013 [15 favorites]

gah, missed the edit window. s/word/world in the third paragraph.
posted by ndfine at 7:02 AM on February 14, 2013

OK, I'm going to speak out against the Valentine's Day hate. It's the middle of fucking winter and our culture has embraced the idea of making it all about LUV. It's nice, sweet, and simple. It may be because I grew up in a house where my Mom made us all handmade valentines each year and sometimes wrote us a poem, and would do little things like make heart-shaped cookies or cakes that day. We're celebrators, it's just what we do.

My SO does not come by this sort of V-Day observance naturally. He also gives gifts and is thoughtful in many other ways, but has never been an observer of this holiday for all the reasons most people are mentioning here. But it does mean something to me to make a small observance of the day, and over the years he has understood that. Because I talked to him about how I would not like to just pretend this enormous cultural is not going on all around us - that I would like, instead, to participate. I made it clear that I'm not fishing for a gift or card and don't need a dinner out. I just would prefer the day be acknowledged. I think we have finally worked it out - this morning he posted a sweet picture of us on Facebook and wrote me a little poem. That is perfect. That is the kind of thing I most appreciate and it is enough.

There's nothing wrong with you wanting to observe a day. Christmas and the Fourth of July and Thanksgivng and birthdays as we know them are all made up and commercialized too, but that doesn't usually mean that people just pretend there's absolutely nothing special going on that day. I think it pushes people's buttons that Valentine's Day is about relationships, and that can make people uncomfortable. But if you lower your sense of what the barrier is - not diamonds and 5-star restaurants but a hug, a note, a special gesture - it is as good an opportunity as any to share a loving moment with someone, and God knows we need as many of those as we can get.

I know you've talked and talked about it. If he's not able to understand that this is one of those irrational things you do only because it means something to your partner, and can't do it in good grace, then it's up to you to decide whether it's a dealbreaker, a constant irritant that is going to start making your February even more draggy than February usually is, or something you can get over by making alternative plans, taking yourself away to a spa or a new city for a solo "me time" getaway, or the like. I'm sorry he isn't able to see that it's important to you and just meet you halfway. That's really the red flag - not how he feels about the holiday, but whether he can put those feelings aside enough to do something for you that you value.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on February 14, 2013 [19 favorites]

I think he's being kind of a melodramatic ass about it, but you making plans and buying gifts when you know he hates it is not a whole lot better than him refusing to even graciously decline your plans when he knows you like it. I think that lack of respect and understanding in both directions is a bigger issue than Valentine's Day, which is a made-up holiday that nobody should feel obligated to celebrate.

But, hard truth: if someone does not like and does not want to do something, you cannot make them like/want it, and forcing them to participate will never ever ever be a win for you, will probably make you feel bad, and kind of makes you a jerk. So, you can do what you want with yourself, but leave him out of it. It doesn't sound like he expects you to sit around and be hateful, so why don't you go out with friends you care about who don't have traditional plans, or go do something nice for someone in the world, or whatever. Just leave him out of it.

If that's just not acceptable to you, I don't know what your option is other than break up with him. You can't hypnotize, blackmail, or torture him into doing what you want, as those things are terrible for a relationship.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:48 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you celebrate it by yourself? Take yourself to dinner, get yourself flowers, take a hot bath and read a fun trashy magazine or book... love yourself. We should have a day where we pamper ourselves (or at least a day where we are only kind to ourselves) in the calendar anyhow; make your Valentines day about you. The trick will be to really embrace and enjoy it.

Something tells me that your boyfriend won't like this, either, which would be a gigantic red flag.

Also, FAMOUSMONSTER has it. Read his (?) comment over and over until at least part of it sticks.
posted by k8lin at 7:55 AM on February 14, 2013

He doesn't have to like Valentine's Day, but he does have to act like an adult when your preferences clash with his.

Please do not think that "act like an adult" means "snap to and conform to OP's preferences without question".

That's not what I said, so clarifying my point in case the OP also read it this way:

He does not have to conform to your preferences of how to celebrate Valentine's day in order to be an adult about this. He does have to accept that your preferences are not less important than his own, something he does not currently seem to be doing.

You: "Valentine's is special to me. I'd really love it if we could go out for dinner, and give each other gifts."
Him: "Oh, I really hate Valentine's! It's commercialised awfulness. How about we just stay in tonight and I'll cook you dinner, and we can go out later in the week?"
"Honey, you know how I feel about Valentine's. How would you feel about going out the week after instead, do all the flowers and schmoopiness I know you like, but just for us and not for Hallmark?"
"God I can't stand Valentine's, but I love the hell out of you. If you want to do something special, why don't we go [mountain-climbing/paintballing/out for a walk/on a Mario Kart bender] to celebrate how awesome we are instead?"
"You know what, I hate Valentine's, but if it means that much to you then let's do it. Where do you want to go?" - followed by either having a hand in the plans, or getting you to pick it and then not complaining when it's not what he'd have chosen.

You: "Valentine's is special to me. I'd really love it if we could go out for dinner, and give each other gifts."
Him: "You know what, I hate Valentine's, but if it means that much to you then let's do it. Where do you want to go?" - followed by complaining about it continually, telling you to plan it and then refusing to go along with the plans you make, etc.

The good scenarios there say: I don't love Valentine's, but I get that you do, so let's find something we'll both enjoy. The bad scenario says: I don't love Valentine's, you are imposing on me, so I'll make it miserable enough that you won't even bother bringing it up next year unless you want a repeat of the whole sorry performance.

Ask yourself this: Can you picture him posting to another hypothetical forum somewhere asking the same questions you asked - if anyone else has dealt with this, what compromises they found, whether he should just let it drop, whether he should go along 100% with your plans even though he'd be kind of miserable about doing that? Or asking his friends those questions? Not just "I don't want to do Valentine's, my girlfriend does, how do I get out of it" but specifically asking those questions with your feelings in mind, rather than his? Because if the answer's 'yes', then bingo! You can just ask each other those questions and work it out between you. But if you can't imagine him ever doing something like that, you might want to reflect on the idea of flexibility and balance within your relationship, as something to address both with him and with yourself.
posted by Catseye at 8:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

I would also suggest to you not to buy into and make a big deal about the contrived candy- and flower-selling "holiday" called Valentine's Day. It's a business gimmick, and if your boyfriend is wonderful, why in the world make an issue of his principled rejection of this "fake" holiday? In fact, maybe you could think that it's a very positive thing that he has a mind of his own and doesn't just follow the crowd. Good for him!
posted by Dansaman at 8:05 AM on February 14, 2013

He is super loving in other ways.

If he acts like this:

he didn't like what I planned, refused to go, refused to plan anything else, needed reassurance that it was okay even if he didn't go, and we ended up having a tense dessert out after missing our dinner reservations and then went straight home.

in general, then I would find your claims about his supposed lovingness to be hard to believe.

This is much less about Valentine's Day than about the whole gestalt of the relationship. We really don't have enough information to go on, because we don't know what the "good" aspects of your boyfriend's personality are when it comes to a relationship, so all we have to go on is taking your word for it. Was he traumatized by Valentine's Day as a child, so he has a specific reason to avoid that day? Possibly. Or maybe he just doesn't like going out to a nice dinner, buying someone flowers, or getting someone a gift in general, and resents Valentine's Day especially because he's expected to do all those things that he specifically doesn't like. We don't know.
posted by deanc at 8:33 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there a way to compromise? It seems you both find the Valentine's Day varying degrees of silly/dumb/pointless, but maybe there's a way for you two to still do something special that's outside the realm of what the average couple is for some reason expected to do on Valentine's Day. It doesn't have to involve a fancy, expensive dinner at a place filled with other couples who are getting a special Valentine's Day menu. It doesn't have to involve presents.

There is a certain amount of selfishness involved in the dogged refusal to even attempt to celebrate things loved ones find important. It's also easy to simultaneously think Valentine's Day is idiotic but to also feel left out if you don't do at least something to acknowledge it in your own way. Today is my first Valentine's Day with my boyfriend, and, although we both think the day is lame, we decided we wanted to have fun with it and do something we both enjoy that we don't already do all the time. If he hates even the idea of that sort of thing, well, why? What's wrong with doing something special on a specific day, if it's your own special thing? I do not think you should simply let this go. It is obviously important to you.

I'm not going to suggest that you DTMFA, but, after glancing through your previous AskMes about this relationship, it sounds like you need to focus on asserting yourself in your relationship to try to steer it in a direction that makes you happier more often, and it sounds like he needs to learn about compromise. Own your feelings; don't blow them off as being less important than his just because you like some other things about the relationship.
posted by wondermouse at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2013

In the past year or so, you've asked 10 questions about this relationship and your struggles to get your partner to acknowledge your need for affection, communication, and support. You've already given up having so many of your needs met in your relationship, Valentine's Day seems like a small sacrifice.
posted by gladly at 8:43 AM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

I like Valentine's Day, even though I'm single this year. In my opinion, it's boring and dumb and silly to hate on stuff like Valentine's Day. But I like to surround myself with positive people without issues who aren't obsessed with appearing above this or that.
posted by discopolo at 9:03 AM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your boyfriend sounds like he's being a complete brat. Last year, he set you up to fail by asking you to make plans, and then refusing to go, and wanting your reassurance that his selfish behavior was okay.

He's telling you this year is going to be different, and he will go along with your plans, but keeps complaining about it. It seems like he's doing the same thing all over again--setting you up to fail, and then expecting you to take the guilt and blame for it because you planned it.

It doesn't matter how I feel about Valentine's Day. It matter how YOU feel. If it's important to you, it's important and that's valid. Being with someone requires that you compromise, especially if it's on something stupid and really not that damaging like eating dinner on Valentine's Day. From looking at your posting history, it sounds like your communication issues are very much a factor here. It's okay if Valentine's Day is important to you even if other people think it's stupid.

My boyfriend's dad loves Groundhog's Day. It's his favorite holiday. Really. When he was a kid, his mom would bake his dad a cake and there would be cards...just like it was a real holiday. It doesn't matter that pretty much everyone else in the world thinks Groundhog's Day is a stupid holiday, it made him happy. That's pretty much the point.
posted by inertia at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is something that you'll have to decide for yourself - do all his other good qualities outweigh the fact that he disregards your feelings vis a vis something that's important to you? And the answer may well be "yes," and there's nothing at all wrong with that as long as you don't end up resenting him for it later.

My Dad, for example, never remembered or celebrated holidays....he didn't even get my Mom a card for her birthday every year or things like that. BUT he was thoughtful in his own way - when she complained about hating to do dishes 'way back when I was a kid, a few days later a Montgomery Ward delivery truck showed up at our house with a dishwasher (which Dad installed when he got home from work). He installed central air conditioning in our house in July 1964 over the course of several weeks in the evenings after he'd worked in a factory for 10 hours, simply because my Mom had fallen (temporarily) ill and the heat/humidity was making her extra-miserable. So what I'm saying is, he wasn't particularly sentimental but he was thoughtful and generous and caring in his own way. If your boyfriend shows his affection in similar ways, is respectful of you and you don't mind the no hearts-and-flowers stuff, then it should all be good.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:10 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok, I've been trying to make it through the comments without my eyes glazing over. Some of them are insightful and some, much like your boyfriend (I suspect), are just ridiculously arrogant and patronizing. Comments indicating that the commentor would be irritated, resentful, or at worst "think less of" their partner should that (presumably otherwise-good) partner happened to enjoy a particular slice of social conformity now and then... I don't even. No.

OP, my brother is your boyfriend. (Well, he could be.) I freaking adore my brother. He's bright. He's independent. He's big-hearted in lots of ways. And he is arrogant and ridiculous and stubborn as fuck. Somewhere in his teens, he got sucked into the "Yay anarchy, boo The Man, fuck social conformity, No I Won't Wear a Damn Tie to my Wedding No Matter What my Fiance Wants!" kind of mindset and never came out. And now he's in his late 20s, married, and it has caused HYUUUUUGE problems in his marriage, OP. Huge. I don't know if I'd say DTMFA, OP, but I would definitely say keep an eye on this deeper issue. Counselling is not a bad idea, at all.

I love my brother, and I love his wife, but this whiny my-anticulture-principles-are-bigger-than-your-stupid-feelings shit doesn't fly in a committed relationship. smoke and FAMOUS MONSTER and PuppetMcSockperson and miko have it here. This is an issue about respecting your partner and compromise and meeting in the middle and accepting different personal values. If this was a difference in deeper moral stuff, I can see how it becomes a problem. My brother has tried to make this argument, for years. anyone who cares about social customs is a sheep. you are a sheep, I'm not playing along with your sheeple behavior on Principle because I'm an Independent Thinker. Bull crap you are, you're just an ass. (and I tell my brother that, too, btw.) You put on pants in the morning, even if you don't usually comb your hair. You celebrate Christmas, even if you won't celebrate Valentine's day. You speak English with generally correct grammar most of the time because people understand you. You "conform" daily in ALL KINDS OF FREAKING WAYS that you don't even realize, because whatever particular benefit you get from doing so it worth the "compromise" of whatever innate counter-cultural-special-snowflakeyness you lose. We can all argue all day about how much conformity is ok and how much is perpetuating The Machine of whatever Machine we are currently talking about. But someone landing in a slightly different place from you on their answer on ONE ISSUE (Valentine's Day) and that's going to be their hill to die on? That's some immature and closed-minded bullshit right there.
posted by celtalitha at 9:52 AM on February 14, 2013 [27 favorites]

I'm a lot like you, and my husband is a lot like your boyfriend. We found a couple who was the same a few years back, and decided that we'd have a double date... separately. Us ladies would dress up and go out for a romantic dinner with one another, paid for by our fellas, and the guys would go out and have beers and shoot pool together. After dinner, we ladies would head to the bar where the fellas were, have a beer together, and go our separate ways.

It's become a yearly tradition that doesn't rankle my valentine's day hating husband, and now he looks forward to maintaining our low expectations while I look forward to the romantic dinner with someone who actually wants one!
posted by juniperesque at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

When people reach a point of acrid loathing of something and childish behavior relative to it, most of the time it says more about them than the thing...................
posted by ambient2 at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

My Largely Mythological Husband is terrible with gifts, by which I mean he doesn't get me chocolates on Valentine's Day or jewelry for my birthday or lovely cashmere sweaters at Christmas. And to be quite honest, I would like those things, both the things and the feeling of a special treat at a special time. And even more, I'd like to get him the equivalents, because I love finding and giving gifts.

So that's one of the few big compromises I've made in my marriage. He wasn't raised in a family that did gifts or made a fuss on birthdays or holidays, and it doesn't work for him.

But he is so generous all the time, and brings me little gifts when he knows I'm feeling down, or just because he saw something I might like. So really, he's wonderful with gifts in his own way. He just doesn't do it on an external schedule. And if I wanted to go out for dinner on Valentine's Day, he would go and not be an asshole about it.

See, to me, that's the real issue---that your boyfriend grudgingly agreed to do the Valentine's Day dinner and then sabotaged it with his assholery. Who does that? That's really not good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Me and my boyfriend are not into valentines day. We both get a little uncomfortable with dates and even for our aniversary we make a special point to make it a weekish thing- not a day thing- and have vowed never to flip our shit if "special days" are overlooked by accident.

But that's US and we agree on stuff like that. For a closer situation- i give you this:

My Gent love love love loves live music. he loves all kinds of live music. He especially loves pretentious arty stuff. He finds it incredibly romantic, and is moved by it.

I dislike going to live music for a lot of reasons, and while i can intelecually understand pertentious artsy stuff, I really hate having to stand still for three hours in the middle of three hundred other prople and watch a giant metronome tick while someone plays a saw.

My boyfriend does not often ask me to go with him to shows because he knows it's not really my thing, and I never ever ruin his experence at these shows because i don't want him to have a shitty time doing the thing he loves. Giving up nine or twelve hours A YEAR for someone is not a big deal.

Now- if we hadn't had the conversation and framed it like "I like you a lot and you like this, so i'll make it good for you" and "I appreciate that it's not your favorite thing so I'll only ask when it's really important to me." maybe we would have fights about it.

I would try framing it like that rather than bending over backwards to reasure him that his shitty mood justifies ruining something you enjoy. It actually kinda doesn't.

It isn't about him being "forced" (like by the man or something?) to do something schmatzy= it's about not being a dick to you because you guys have diverging interests.
posted by Blisterlips at 10:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Oh and about Valentine's Day in particular? I used to be like my brother/your boyfriend, very "bah humbug" - but that was mainly because I had so many friends like that, that I assumed any other else would be intellectually and morally inferior. Silly, but true. I made a big point that I was NOT materialistic or romantic or sappy, and I was beyond all that. And I also dated a lot of assholes who were quite happy to comply with this, probably for the wrong reasons. (Yes, I misread their un-romanticness as depth and intellect, aahhh stupid youth).

And then - somewhere in my mid-20s - I realized that woah, I actually like gifts and goofy-sweet gestures. I do. It's me. I like making a big whoopdeedoo over holidays, I like making themed treats and crappy tacky decorations and buying gifts. In fact, if you made up a holiday this minute I'd probably be thrilled to celebrate it. Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it fun for me? Yes. I don't see enough comradarie and social bonding in western culture, and public holidays are pretty much the only opportunity we get for a universal experience. May as well make the most of it.
posted by celtalitha at 10:03 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband hates valentine's day. He doesn't send flowers. He doesn't buy chocolates, or bears, or random gifts. He is not a romantic. This used to really bother me, but then I looked at all the ways he made my life better, and I decided to be OK with it. I'm the romantic one in our relationship; that is fine.

However, he was really willing to come up with things he could tolerate that I enjoyed. We have gone to a lot of Valentine's Day dinners; when I realized that what I liked was the food and the special together time, rather than the "going out to eat" experience, we switched to cooking a fancy dinner at home together. When we made plans, he gamely enjoyed the parts of them he could enjoy, and respectfully requested that we avoid the parts he hated. IOW, he was willing to compromise, and to try to have a good time. He was willing to be convinced. And when I want him to come to my performances, or watch the terrible TV show I'm addicted to, or whatever? He does, without complaint.

The problem isn't that your BF hates V-day, it's the contempt he has around the whole thing. Once he says he's willing to do something, he needs to act in a way that indicates that you can trust his words. Otherwise, you might find your trust overall is eroding.
posted by KathrynT at 10:03 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

and I never ever ruin his experence at these shows because i don't want him to have a shitty time doing the thing he loves.

by the way- not ruining it? means activly appreciating his effort and activly appreciating his enjoyment.

If he hates it so bad, why can't he offer up an alternative? does he know what it is about the whole thing that you like so darn much? If it's "i love the romance in the air." can he come up with sometihng a little less traditional that wouldn't send him into a blind rage but would get your rocks off a little?
posted by Blisterlips at 10:29 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

You say he's a swell guy but your descriptions of the way he conducts himself seem to indicate differently.

I put up with a couple of guys like this in my younger years. Guys who claimed to hate Valentine's Day, anniversaries, birthdays, anything, basically, that might require them going a tiny bit out of their way to be a little bit nice to me. And they'd make feel like a shallow conformist idiot if I expressed any attachment to such things. I think they refer to this as gaslighting?

Now, of course, I realize they were just selfish dicks but at the time I was in love and trapped in that way that bad relationships can trap the naive.

It's not a whole lotta skin of your boyfriend's nose to humor you in this regard. The fact that he's so very unwilling to do so speaks volumes about how much he really cares for you. and you can tell him I said so.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

- What are your thoughts on Valentine's Day? Do you think it's a stupid commercial holiday? Do you celebrate it? How do you celebrate it?
- If you hate it and your significant other loves it, how do you compromise? Or if you love it, and they hate it, how do you celebrate? (I'd like to hear both perspectives.)

I think it's pretty dumb, as holidays go. I'm easily stressed out and initially resented the idea of having to do anything for Valentine's Day. But my boyfriend wanted to make a thing of it and it's such a small sacrifice to make to make him happy. I took the evening off of my team sport. We don't have a ton of money, but I'm going to get some champagne and maybe go out to a trashy punk show with him. To be honest, it was not a sacrifice at all. My opinions about a random holiday really pale in comparison to being able to make him happy for an evening.

- And what should I do tomorrow? I'd like to get him a gift (I have a few in mind and I love getting things for him) but I know I won't get anything from him.
- Should I make my own plans to go out with friends? I'm totally capable of doing that, but it would feel kind of sad.
- I could just let it go, of course. Have you ever done this? Has anyone you've dated ever done this because of you? How did it go?

Isn't Valentine's Day about celebrating your love for each other? Either do something that you know you both would enjoy or treat it like any other day. Don't do anything that makes you feel worse about how he won't compromise with you on this.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:57 AM on February 14, 2013

I am on the other side of this, not with Valentines day but with Christmas. I just didn't care for it before, and was aware that strongly disliking holidays can come across as contrarian in a rather dumb and obvious way so I sucked it up. Gotta say though, it's getting harder and harder because I know my partner knows how I feel and notices that I am not enthusiastic enough. The problem with holidays is they are annual and one gets the feeling that failures are cumulative whereas relative success doesn't seem to me bankable against the times when you let them down. If you can, just give him a blanket pass on all this.
posted by BibiRose at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

gladly: In the past year or so, you've asked 10 questions about this relationship and your struggles to get your partner to acknowledge your need for affection, communication, and support. You've already given up having so many of your needs met in your relationship, Valentine's Day seems like a small sacrifice.

OP, I think this comment gets to the heart of the matter very succinctly. You asked a previous question about being uncertain as to what a healthy relationship looked like. Based on your other questions, and this one, and your descriptions of his behaviour, I must be completely blunt with you: this is not what healthy relationships look like. He bails on your plans (and plans with others) frequently; he refuses to go to any sort of event with you; when you ask him to do something--ANYTHING--with him at all, it seems as though he views it as you putting hideous pressure on him. He doesn't ask you what he can do for you when you are unwell. He seems self-centred and that is NOT healthy.

You have needs. You are entitled to have those needs. You are entitled to ask for them. Yes, the other person is entitled to say, no I cannot fulfil that need, or even "That need is unreasonable." But your boyfriend seems to, from your questions, treat every need you express as an imposition. That is not what a healthy relationship is like.

FWIW, I am pretty whatever about Valentine's Day. But my partner likes it, and likes to give me a card with a sweet message and maybe a small treat. So I reciprocate and sometimes take it on myself to plan a nice dinner. Do I think VDay is commercialized? Yes. But I do these things because I love him and he loves me and we like to acknowledge this in ways that are meaningful to each other. This is what your boyfriend would do in a healthy relationship.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

Wait, is it the guy where "things moved fast" and he pushed you to move into his field? The one that you had recurring fights that never get resolved early in your relationship with? The guy who won't take care of you when you have a cold, and who (from what it sounds) doesn't want to have kids, but you might?

I'm sorry, but your past questions are really making me think that you're in a abuse situation. I think this man is not treating you well on purpose so that he can get what he wants without giving. He wants to change you into being something you're not. Valentine's Day is a red herring, but having relationship issues like the ones you've talked about here before is not a red herring.

All of these things happened to me in my abusive relationship, down to pushing me to change my job to one where I felt way less competent and happy, not taking care of me when I was sick (don't get me started about the time I had a 102 fever and he wouldn't take me to the hospital for three days, only to be finally diagnosed with pneumonia), fighting nonstop about things that never got resolved until he chipped away at me enough that I just gave up (and that's when he started getting physical; I didn't even get a chance to give up anymore).

Bail. Please, being alone is better than being abused. I promise. This guy sounds like he's chipped away at you enough that you have no idea what is OK anymore - and from your previous questions, you didn't really know what was OK to begin with, which might have been why he was attracted to you, partially.

I'm sorry to sound so vehement, but if I could erase the last three years of my life, I would do it in a heartbeat. That man destroyed me, with simple things like "I won't carry your suitcase" and "I don't want to get you a birthday present" and, when I stopped fighting that stuff (and by "fighting" I mean "Trying to talk to him about it like a mature rational adult, seeing his side, but asking him to see mine, too"), he started in with the big guns (e.g. "I'm going to flirt with other women in front of you, and if you tell me that you feel bad about it - even in a nice way - I'm going to break things that are important to you or hit you"). Your story sounds too close to mine for comfort.
posted by sockermom at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, it's that guy.

He is super loving in other ways.

You'e not doing yourself any favors with this. It almost sounds like you are brainwashing yourself. I would be less concerned if you were saying, "My boyfriend is not very affectionate but that's just him and I have decided to accept it." But saying he is super loving? No.
posted by BibiRose at 2:24 PM on February 14, 2013

I fucking hate Valentines Day. I love my wife however, and because she likes it, I'm taking her out to dinner this evening. I got her a card and a bit of chocolate and a gift card to her favorite massage joint too, just so she knows I was thinking about her.

What I'm saying is this: it's cool if he doesn't like the holiday or want to do too much, but sometimes loving someone means that you do what they want despite how you feel about it. He might be a great guy in many other regards, but bitching about doing something he knows is important to you makes him sound pretty lame.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:26 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm generally pretty cynical about everything, but I took my sorta-girlfriend out for Valentine's Day last night 'cause hey, it's Valentine's Day, and its a good excuse to eat some nice dinner and walk around Sydney Harbour. Why not? Atheists give gifts on Christmas too.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:32 PM on February 14, 2013

it sounds like valentine's day is just the symptom of a bigger problem from looking at your posting history. does he give on other issues? like if you want to watch a particular movie will he watch it with you or do you always have to accommodate his desires? will he eat food you like or just what he likes? does he take an interest in your interests? if not, then i think you need to wake up and smell the coffee.

also, i am not sure how it is possible to be with someone who just doesn't want to plan anything ever. that would put a real crimp in things. this may be the best relationship you've been in so far but i'm not sure he's treating you very well. he sounds super passive-aggressive with all the making plans and then canceling on you. sadly, i would not "plan" on a future with this guy.
posted by wildflower at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like I said above, I don't think the Valentine's thing is a big deal. But as others have noted, you have a whole string of questions about this dude, each one highlighting an issue that on its own isn't a big deal but viewed cumulatively indicate that regardless of how you feel about him, the two of you may just not meet each others needs very well.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:07 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

make your expectations clear in advance by enough time so that you don't feel like you're telling him to do it. of course you can't tell a guy you've been dating for a week in august that if you're still together in february you expect something special, but you get the idea. if you tell him what you expect a month or two in advance that should be enough time for you to forget and feel surprised when he makes the gesture.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:36 PM on February 14, 2013

I understand the history of Valentine's Day and why it seems so crass and cynical, but geez. I really can't think of a holiday that I would make such a stink over on principle if the man that I loved wanted to celebrate it. Celebrating! Celebrations are fun. Maybe you need to date someone more fun. My boyfriend and I went to a vegan diner yesterday and had cocktails afterward, and everything was normally priced and not part of the Hallmark-industrial complex, so it is indeed possible.

If this is a new boyfriend and not the one from your past Asks, then you have a pattern of dating guys who are very bad communicators and not as generous as you make them sound. If it's the same guy, jesus, this guy sucks. Sorry. jbenben is right-- I've seen SO MANY friends and family members fall into relationships with jerks and curmudgeons from which they were too insecure and codependent to leave. Knowing how to leave someone who doesn't make you happy is a VALUABLE LIFE SKILL. It's not a weakness-- it's a strength. I know you don't want DTMFA, but I dated an (older) guy once who was very particular, very judgmental, and very opposed to me having fun (he always painted it as something immature or young or frivolous that I was doing, instead of just enjoying life), and we were happy when it was just us, but once I got out of that relationship it was like a lead weight being lifted off of me. Follow your instincts! There are a million bazillion guys out there who will enjoy the chance to show they care on Valentine's day OR when you get sick OR when you want to make plans to enjoy yourselves in public. It's NOT wrong or bad to want those things.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:50 AM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

I work for a florist, but personally I hate people spending inflated prices for rose bouquets, etc. etc.

If this man is loving 365 days of the year, that is what matters. But he can't act like a spoiled brat and spoil your fun just for his convictions on the commercial day. That ain't cool.

Being a jerk is being a jerk. And you tell him this worn out floral clerk who holds no fondness for the V-word thinks he is being a jerky mcjerkleton and he needs to cut that crap out.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:52 PM on February 15, 2013

Yeah, a little late to the game, but my two cents is that Valentine's is a supremely stupid holiday. When I was in my last relationship we spent both Valentines' days together, but for the first one we were hanging out nearly every year and by the second one we were living together. It wasn't super different from any other day except we had wine instead of beer with dinner.

Your boyfriend is well within his rights to think it's a stupid holiday, but his actions were completely unacceptable. Telling you to plan something, then acting like a baby because he didn't like what you planned (seriously, how old is he?) and ruining your dinner reservations instead of appreciating the planning you put into it? He doesn't really sound so awesome.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:10 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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