How to have a sweet Valentine's Day without chocolate

February 14 |
Valentine's Day
Photo by Wolfiewolf. Used by Creative Commons license.

I have a shocking revelation: I don't like chocolate. At all.

Oh sure, I eat candy, but I have a strict chocolate to other flavor ratio requirement (preferrably peanut butter or carmel). For example, peanut butter M&Ms are a-OK, but regular M&Ms are gross.

Perhaps my dislike of chocolate has contributed to my barf-reflex when it comes to the whole lovey-dovey, box-of-chocolates, hearts, and flowers thing. I've just always felt really uncomfortable with grandiose getures of affection.

So instead of all that chocolate and flower hoopla for Valentines' Day, Adam and I … talk. Specifically, we talk through The Commitment Conversation.

This didn't start as a purposeful tradition as much as good timing. My last semester of college/grad school, I was taking a class on female sexuality and one of our assignments was to read and think through The Commitment Conversation. Adam and I were about to both move in and move across the country together. It was a big transition, and since we were moving for my job, I wanted to make sure he wouldn't feel stuck in our relationship.

In a world where we spend so much time researching and making agreements with everyone from the phone company to the bank, we are still often entering the most important commitment of our lives, marriage or long-term partnerships, without defining that relationship and building a strong foundation for the future.
– from the introduction to the Commitment Conversation

Over the years, our attempts to do The Commitment Conversation regularly have evolved into a Valentine's Day tradition.

The Commitment Conversation is essentially a guided counseling session. Because, really, when do you have the time or energy or space to bring up finances or your sex life or how you can help each other reach your goals or who should do the dishes. And by bring up, I don't mean "get pissed that your partner bought something that you don't feel you can afford and yell at them." I mean sit down and say "What's up with our financial situation?"

It's recommended that you set aside a specific place and time to have the conversation. For me, a key part of this is discussing these tricky topics without a trigger.

The Conversation is divided into six sections: Goals, Lifestyle, Finance, Children, Health and Wellness, and Legality, which includes getting legally married and pre-nups, as well as a section on special circumstances (second marriages, etc) and a financial worksheet. It ends with a contract you both sign. Full disclosure: we've never technically signed the contract.

Even though I think that Adam and I communicate well, going through the Commitment Conversation always brings up unexpected issues from cleaning to expectations for whose family we visit for holidays. It gets emotional and intense, even after five years.

I think of it as "spring cleaning" for our relationship: we get into those nooks and crannies so that nothing builds up and overwhelms us.

I think that says "I love you" way better than a box of chocolates. How about you? What are your offbeat Valentine's Day traditions?

  1. Tonight we will be doing what we love to do together and that is playing video games. Nothing says I love you like shooting some zombies together!!!

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    • "Nothing says I love you like shooting some zombies together!" <- BEST LINE EVAR!

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      • i bought Peter a Wii game for Valentine's day. I was worried that it wasn't "romantic" enough, but he said "are you kidding?! I'm a guy. This is the most romantic present EVER."

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    • Last year, my V-Day gift to my boyfriend (now my husband) was a DVD of the movie 'Zombieland' with a note stating that if I ever had to do battle with zombies, he's the one I want next to me, welding the shotgun. He was touched, and returned the sentiment. =)

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  2. Our only tradition is celebrating the weekend after Valentine's Day as opposed to the weekend of. It started when three years ago, my grandmother died on Valentine's day and I didn't feel like celebrating… and then we kept doing it because it's a great way to avoid the capitalism trap of paying twice the amount you would normally pay for chocolate and/or cute underwear. :)
    Oh, and Godiva truffles… sorry, Becca!
    I will definitely be checking out The Commitment Conversation – it sounds like a great way to talk about things without the talk starting with an argument. Thanks for the heads up!

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  3. Great post, and thanks for posting the link to The Commitment Conversation. I've been searching for months for a free pre-marriage discussion guide and this one looks great.

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  4. Given that my boyfriend and I are both card-carrying members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, our Valentine's Days have previously been spent out in the desert in Arizona, wearing medieval clothing and drinking too much at the annual event they hold out in Florence.

    This year we couldn't make it, which is good, because I have a crazy bad cold. We're being slightly more on-beat in the "He's bringing me food in bed" kind of way. :) We also went out to a nice dinner last Thursday night, because restaurants are always more expensive on Valentine's Day.

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    • My husband and I are SCAers as well, but I always have school, so he goes out to Arizona without me, and we usually celebrated V-day the weekend after by just going out to dinner and spending some time together.

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  5. I'm not feeling well & I have a test tomorrow and all I want is a Sprite, so after word he picked me up one and surprised me with it!

    We went for Thai on Saturday which was nice too ;)

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  6. No hubby for me (I'm just an OBB groupie), but props to you, Becca, for being anti-chocolate! I thought I was the only one.

    "For example, peanut butter M&Ms are a-OK, but regular M&Ms are gross." Agree 1000%. *fist bump*

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    • Don't worry – there are a few of us out there! Anti-chocolate solidarity! :)

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  7. For the past 2 Valentine's, we've done something grand to celebrate, but this year we both agreed that forcing ourselves to be super-romatic for no reason other than "it's what people do" was dumb. So we went and watched Black Swan (for the 3rd time) and we're making spaghetti. Though, there's nothing wrong with an excuse to binge on chocolate-covered strawberries.

    On a more serious note, even though I feel as if we've talked non-stop for the past 2.5 years about each topic in The Commitment Conversation, reading about it kinda scared the both of us. Dunno why; maybe it's because the thought of making a big thing about it once a year makes it seem like a daunting task, when in reality, those are the contents of most of our car rides when we're not talking about our roles in a zombie apocalypse (no joke).

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    • It's a bit intimidating at first, but once you do it, it doesn't seem so scary. It's not a test! :) I bet that you'll just refer to those previous car rides when you talk through the questions.

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  8. Rock on. I got a couple of peppermint patties, but my husband always gets me some when he picks up beer. Anyway, on to important stuff. We converse about these kinds of things once in awhile, but having a guide is definitely helpful.

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  9. We did an "end of year review" of our relationship instead of personal new year resolutions in January .. which was so fun! Despite the worky sounding title :).

    We discussed the main things that caused us to argue in 2010, the things we hadn't done enough of that we want to make an effort to do, and the things we really must try not to do this year.

    I think it is sooo much better for couples to reassess where they are, learn from past mistakes and have a good productive time doing it than it is for us to try to outdo the mushy ott sometimes sickly-sweet gestures of love we've done before. What better day to have such talks as Valentines Day? :)

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  10. That IS a shocking revelation! Especially for a girl who has more than 140 different types of chocolate in her home xD
    But I think your Valentine's Day sounds very nice. It just seems so much more rewarding and romantic, actually, to have a that conversation with your honey, rather than buying them chocolate and sexy underwear.
    I don't really celebrate Valentine's (I come from Norway), but I did give my boyfriend chocolate yesterday ^^

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  11. I'm a restaurant server and the FH worked as one for years, so Valentine's Day has always been a sucky working holiday for us. I just told him to get the wine ready to go when I came home at midnight, followed by a nice long shower! ;-) Tonight we'll go out for a beer and I'll do some maintenance on his dreadlocks. Couldn't be nicer.

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  12. Thanks so much for posting this! My fiance and I went through basically the whole thing last night, which was exhausting, but I feel so happy and renewed and close to him today. We had talked about most all of this stuff already, but having a "third party" (even if it was just a piece of paper) was really helpful for talking about the really tough stuff like death and divorce, which were the conversations we'd been putting off. Good stuff, thanks again!

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    • Glad you did it and it went well! Yay!

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  13. We didn't do much and never do. BUT FH remembered BY HIMSELF to bring something home from work he's meant to for a while AND cleaned the car….best present EVER!
    O and once the kiddos were asleep we watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for the 100th time :)

    Love the shooting zombies idea tho…if we still had a 'box I'm sure we'd be doing that too ;)

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  14. Hooray for the Commitment Conversation!

    We went through 90% of it on a weekend away together, and were pleased to find that many of the topics we had already discussed. And then we got engaged the next day, and never did finish the last page!

    I like the idea of doing it annually, though.

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  15. My fiance & I went to a rock climbing gym & out for sushi for Valentine's Day. He climbs, I'm afraid of heights… so he spent much of the time teaching me, quite literally, the ropes and assuring me "I've got you" while belaying. Can you say Trust Building Exercise?? We've been trying to go climbing together since our first date and always ended up doing something else.. so it was nice that 2 and a half years, a son, and an engagement later, we actually got our "first date." Then we went out for sushi (he's a sushi chef but it's a shared obsession) and stuffed ourselves silly with rice, fish, and laughter. Our presents consisted of an Affliction hoodie for him and an external hard drive for me. *nerd alert* which we exchanged at midnight the night before at home bc he's so damn impatient <3 and to avoid people staring at him like he gave me a muffler, considering most people wouldn't understand buying your fiance computer parts for Valentine's Day.

    The waitress did give us chocolates with our check, but that's where tradition began and ended! :)

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  16. Three words: Maple Candied Bacon.

    I never turn down chocolate, however.

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  17. I bought my boyfriend the Mythbusters hoodie that says "I reject your reality and substitute my own".

    We're both big fans of the show, and our reality has changed drastically in the past couple of years.

    He works a lot of evenings, and we're both very tactile, so I explained in the card that I wanted "Something that would make you laugh every time you saw it. Something that would cuddle you when I can't be there." (My only sappy moment…)

    Great to hear other people's creative ideas though.

    Happy Cheap Chocolate and Roses Day! (the day AFTER Valentine's…)

    Oh and I'll definitely be checking out the book. We're both kind of in the early stages of things, and he knows I have no filter, but having an actual methodology for discussing the "awkward" stuff sounds like a great long-term relationship plan!

    It would mean that the most anything would – could – possibly fester is a year.

    And the process of creating safe space to talk would help prevent that feeling of (to paraphrase) "I'd rather rip my heart right out of my ribcage with my bare hands and then throw it on the floor and stomp on it 'till I die…" (Weird Al Yankovic, "One More Minute") that comes up every time I have to face something that might cause conflict.

    Great post! (Even if I am in the chocolate-aholic side of the discussion.)

    [And if you're wondering why I keep editing, I keep finding typos. Sheesh!]

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  18. Thanks for posting this! That is a much better way of saying I love you!

    Me and my guy always try to bring up stuff as it comes up. I hate bottling things up until they one day explode out of us resulting in a huge fight, just because a simple chore wasn't done (or whatever) Valentines is not a day we celebrate. This year was the first of 6 that anything was purchased. I bought him 3 balloons from the dollar store, we've had a tough few weeks and thought a cute ridiculous surprise would be nice. It was and now I have balloons! Haha! I love making a good solid conversation the base for a special night together, sure it could get emotional but in the end you are closer for it.
    Plus silly romantic gestures can be done any day of the year. Nothing is sweeter than my man bringing home my favourite soda or treat for no reason other than "I was thinking of you"

    Anyway I'll stop rambling now, love the post!

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  19. I love this commitment conversation! Definitely a throwback from the gender and sexuality classes I love. Another idea for v-day, abeit more racy, is for couples to attack this behemoth 200+ sexual preference checklist. ( http://www.cepemo.com/checklist.html ) Yes, it's insanely long, but the questions are so specific, plus the grading system allows for shades of grey, so I found the whole thing VERY intriguing. It opened up a ton of doors for the partner and I, and made it easy to broach some difficult subjects. Added bonus: you'll probably go through a bottle of wine while asking all the questions, and then be so revved up by the end, it will roll right into v-day lovin'!! Meowwww!

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  20. This year for V-Day, quite by accident, the other half and I will be doing a boxing class together. No he won't be allowed to punch me, or I him ;) We usually wouldn't do anything, he's not really a spontaneous grand gesture kind of guy, and if I told him what I wanted it wouldn't be fun (mainly because I don't really want anything!)
    So maybe a fitness class will become our bonding tradition instead – choc free, healthy, shared fun! It's hopefully not the only way we'll get sweaty that day, too…!!

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  21. I hate chocolate too, can't even tolerate it mixed with other stuff. We had a "traditional" Valentines day; fancy dinner and a movie. I treated him. :) He was gushing the whole night like a schoolgirl with a crush. It was seriously adorable.

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