You finally got the courage to talk to that cute guy from your class, and one night at the bar, he made a move. You’re both having fun, but you decide to keep it casual without any real commitment. When your friends ask about him, you respond that you’re “hanging out” and nothing more, and you feel confident in this answer… until February rolls around. That’s when you realize that fun and flirty has the potential to get really awkward.
Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and friendship, but it’s more commonly known as the Hallmark holiday to get romantic with your SO or drink wine with your best friends. It can be fun whether you’re single or taken, but can be tricky for those of us whose relationship statuses aren’t so clearly defined. If you’re casually seeing someone, Valentine’s Day can get awkward. Here’s HC’s guide for how to handle your casual hook-up on February 14.
You’re not official, so you don’t have to do anything special
The biggest source of your anxiety probably comes from wondering if you have to do something special with your casual hook-up on Valentine’s Day. There’s definitely pressure to be romantic on February 14, but if you’re not official, the experts say celebrating Valentine’s Day together isn’t required.
“A gift would be nice, but definitely not necessary if you’re not in a defined relationship,” says Dr. Ish Major, psychiatrist and dating expert. “You’re not obligated to see each other, get together, go out or even hook up on that day. It’s not a ‘relationship,’ so it’s likely not exclusive.”
If you want to keep things strictly casual with your hook-up, consider doing something else on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s a chick-flick marathon with your girls or pampering yourself with a pedicure. You might be involved with someone, but you’re technically single, so show yourself some love instead!
Small gifts are okay to give
On some level you probably care about your casual hook-up, so if you want to get him or her something small, make sure it’s more funny than romantic.
“If you are not in an official relationship, but see something that reminds you of the person, it is a lovely gesture to give it to him or her,” says Jodi RR Smith, etiquette consultant and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “However, if you want to keep it casual, keep the gift on the light and funny side and under $20. When in doubt, a card is a great way to do something without it being too much.”
Dr. Ish encourages erring on the side of caution so you don’t send the wrong message. “Be careful [with gifts],” he says. “You don’t want to send the wrong message that could change the dynamics of what you have. It’s a balancing act.”
For example, instead of getting your casual hook-up a teddy bear holding a heart that says, “I love you,” give your hook-up some of his or her favorite candy or a funny card. You want to send the message that says, “I care about you” versus, “I’m madly in love with you.” A good rule of thumb: If you would feel uncomfortable getting the gift from your casual hook-up, don’t give it to him or her.
Giving gifts can get potentially awkward, especially if one person doesn’t reciprocate. If you decide to get your casual hook-up a small gift and you don’t receive one in return, don’t take it personally. “Remember the phrase: ‘Nice but not necessary,’” Dr. Ish says. “[The person] you’re hooking up with might be shy about giving gifts for Valentine’s Day because they don’t want to send a too strong of a message. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care about you or think less of you; it just means they’re unsure of what, if anything, to do.”
On the flip side, if your casual hook-up gets you something for Valentine’s Day and you’re caught empty-handed, don’t freak out. Instead, stay calm and thank him or her sincerely. “Look him or her in the eye and say, ‘Thank you so much for thinking of me!’” Smith says. “Remember: A gift is not given with the expectation of getting.”
Don’t be afraid to talk about Valentine’s Day plans
The best way to avoid awkwardness on Valentine’s Day is to just have a conversation about it. You might feel uncomfortable bringing it up depending on how long you’ve been hooking up or how casual the relationship is, but if you don’t want to keep guessing, bring it up casually without adding any pressure.
“You can say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t planning or expecting anything but I just wanted to double-check. Are we doing anything for Valentine’s Day?’” Dr. Ish suggests. “Keep it casual; keep it light. But do ask. [There are always] expectations or lack thereof, so it’s better to talk about them early than letting the day come and having it turn into something awkward.”
Want something a little subtler? Instead of flat-out asking, make a joke about how over-the-top convenience stores get with the holiday or ask what he or she’s doing that weekend in general (Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this year, so it won’t be super obvious what you’re getting at). It would get the conversation started so you can gauge how your hook-up feels about the holiday, and then you can decide to make plans or not!
Whether you want to do something for Valentine’s Day or not, talking to your casual hook-up can be a lot easier than trying to guess what will happen on February 14. As long as you’re clear about how you feel and your expectations for Valentine’s Day, you can avoid the awkwardness!
If you find yourself somewhere between “just friends” and “in a relationship” with someone, Valentine’s Day can be a tricky situation. Before you rush to define your casual relationship or end it, keep these tips in mind so you can successfully avoid any awkward encounters on February 14!