My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost nine months and we’re about to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day together. The one problem: we’re long distance and have been for most of our relationship. Neither of us can take the time off school to visit each other, but I still want to celebrate in some capacity. He’s not very romantic and has said on multiple occasions that Valentine’s Day is just another day. How do I show him I still want to celebrate without making a big deal about it? And how do we celebrate when we’re long distance?
Damsel in Distress
Dear Damsel in Distress,
Welcome to my world—the unique, magical, and difficult world of long-distance!
I think what you’d like for me to say to ease your mind is “Oh Damsel, it’s okay he doesn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Men don’t like to be romantic! I’m sure he loves you just the same!”
But the truth is, that’s quite literally the worst thing I could say—and you know it too.
In a long-distance relationship we’re limited by the ways we can show our love. Between phone calls, good morning texts, and the occasional meet-up, we have fewer opportunities at our disposal to feel and show appreciation. While we can’t always control our class schedules or the funds available to visit each other, we can control the effort we put in to make up for our unfortunate circumstances.
Truly, a long-distance relationship is, for the most part, an enjoyable game of micro-declarations of love in various forms until we can see each other again. Celebrating Valentine’s Day, despite the distance, is one of the moves in this game.
I’ll note there is a stark difference between not being lovey-dovey and outwardly romantic, and neglecting the needs of your partner. It’s not fair to you not to equate his nonchalant “cool boy” persona that rejects the thrill of the occasional romantic act with a lack of effort. The difference is in the effort, after all.
While men not being “romantic” is a myth, men being lazy because they get away by saying “Oh, I’m not a romantic dude” is a fact. Being romantic doesn’t mean dancing in a flash mob and hiring a mariachi band while getting down on one knee, it means meeting your partner’s needs in the smallest of ways.
So, Damsel, I think it’s time you have a conversation about effort. The best question to ask is “Are you willing to put in the effort so we can celebrate each other and our relationship?” The answer to that question will lead you to one of two doors, and I really hope it’s the one with a happy ending.
As for celebrating at a distance, start off by being grateful this isn’t 1912 and you don’t have to send a telegram and wait three weeks for a reply.
Set up a time when you’ll celebrate each other, whether it’s every Thursday at 5 p.m. or February 14 at 7 p.m. Treat it like a scheduled date. Then, pick an activity—what’s worked in my relationship is watching a show together, playing an online escape room, and solving The New York Times daily games—which has become an almost daily tradition.
We also love making a bucket list of all the dates and activities we want to go on and do when we see each other in person—it’s important to always have something to look forward to. And don’t forget to treat each other, whether it be ordering takeout to their door or getting that thing on Amazon they’ve been meaning to buy.
It doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day, nor does it have to be every day, but to make the hard days easier and the easy days more memorable, a little extra effort is all you need.
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