Yes, Valentine’s Day is cheesy and blown out of proportion, and your love should be expressed every day of the year—but if you don’t plan a proper date on February 14, you will most certainly be in the doghouse, no matter how many times she says it’s not a big deal. So get over how ridiculous the day is and listen up: Any guy can make a reservation at a nice restaurant. V-Day is not just about love, but about your specific love (or like, if you’re not quite there with your S.O.).
“Valentine’s Day is a huge opportunity to show the special woman in your life that she is in fact special to you,” says DeAnna Lorraine, a San Diego-based dating and relationship coach for men. “Like it or not, women measure the level of effort and thoughtfulness you put into this day.”
That means you need to tailor the date to what is right for your relationship—both the unique experiences you’ve had together as well as how committed you are to one another. There is most certainly a difference between “I like you but we just met” dates and “I will love you forever” dates.
Sweating bullets yet? Chill—we’ve polled an arsenal of dating and relationship experts to give you over two dozen creative date ideas. Whether she’s more a grand gesture gal or low-key love, there’s something to turn even the most clueless of guys into Don Juan this Valentine’s Day.