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Gettyimages.com/Couple on a Valentine’s Day date

With Valentine’s Day having just passed, I got to witness how a lot of couples approach and celebrate holidays. At every store I visited—from simple pharmacies to upscale boutiques—I’d find someone picking up something for their honey. At the pharmacy, one might grab a heart-shaped balloon and generic but certainly delicious chocolate. At fancier establishments, heart-shaped diamonds were cropping up. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or other occasions where there is a lot of focus on one person. But how couples celebrate these occasions says a lot about them. A $200-per-plate fixed menu dinner doesn’t necessarily denote a successful couple, nor does a single rose suggest a flailing one. Here is how stable couples handle holidays like birthdays and Valentine’s Day.

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They’re open about what they want

They don’t expect their partners to read their minds. They don’t set up traps for their partners, making them guess what they may want as a gift, or how they’d like to spend the evening. They honestly tell each other how they want their birthday or the big day to go. They set one another up to succeed.

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They don’t flaunt it on social media

There may be a couple of posts about it, but stable couples don’t post five photos and video a day for several days about the elaborate gift from their partner. This screams of, “We’re pretty miserable every other day of the year so we make up for it by flaunting this one day.”

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Any effort is the right effort

So long as the partner puts in effort, and what is considered a good effort for them, the other person is happy. In other words, if a man doesn’t have a lot of money, then even spending a little money on his partner is a big effort and she recognizes that.

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They have one, intimate night to celebrate

Even if the couple has a big party planned for the occasion, they make sure to plan one, separate evening or meal that’s just for the two of them. They want the chance to focus on and privately cherish each other. Couples who only celebrate things like birthdays with giant, elaborate events in huge groups are often trying to avoid each other.

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Both friends are invited

Let’s say it’s a woman’s birthday party. If she’s in a stable, happy relationship, she encourages her partner to invite his friends, too. If they really are a happy couple, then she enjoys his friends, and she wants her partner to have just as much fun at her party as he will. There is no selfishness regarding the guest list.

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They consider each other’s budgets

If one person in the relationship is on a tight budget, the other won’t suggest some pricey event, and insist that their partner splurge for the occasion. They plan something that allows their partner to stay within a comfortable budget.

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There’s no anxiety leading up to it

Unhappy couples typically anticipate that their partner will drop the ball on their birthday, and somehow let them down. So there is anxiety leading up to the big day. Stable couples don’t have that; they’re just excited leading up to the holiday.

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Gifts might be humble, but very thoughtful

Gifts are specific rather than gaudy. Here’s a great example: I always complain that my feet are cold in our apartment covered with hardwood floors. My boyfriend got me special socks with soft, fuzzy insulation for Christmas.

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They really cherish the day their partner was born

If it’s a birthday, then the person whose birthday it isn’t really takes a moment to cherish the day their partner was born. They genuinely think about what a special day this was in history for them, because it produced the love of their life!

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They’re both excited about the party

Both people are excited about the party—even if it’s a birthday party for just one of them—because they’ve planned it in a way that will allow both of them to have a blast. It isn’t all about the birthday person.

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Sometimes, they just treat themselves to a trip

Many couples who have been together for a long time get tired of planning parties and buying gifts. The greatest gift they can give themselves is special time together, so they forego gift-buying and split a nice trip together.

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They might forget to take photos

Happy couples will snag some photos on the big night, but it’s often the unstable ones who take hundreds of photos any time they do something special. It’s another way to pretend everything’s going fine. But if it’s going so well, then why haven’t they put the camera down to enjoy the night together?

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Money isn’t the object

Whatever the plans are, whatever the gift is, and whatever the meal is, nobody judges the effort based on how much money was spent. Each person knows their partner wishes to spoil them, in whatever way they can. Whether that way is expensive or frugal doesn’t matter.

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They barely anticipate it, because every day is fun

They don’t anxiously await the day because it’s the only good thing they have to look forward to. But unhappy couples can do this because, well, their other days together are a bit lack-luster.

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It’s not a big deal, because every other day is great

Really stable, happy couples usually have holidays sneak up on them because every day together feels like a celebration!

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