I'm not going to avoid the subject of love, but I'm not a Valentine's Day fan. I've never been good at being told what to do. And to be told I have to tell someone that I love them, in mass-produced manner, is like being interrupted to be told to do the job I'm already doing.
Any opportunity to give and receive love is worth taking, but if there are cracks in a relationship they'll show on the day card, flower and chocolate sales soar. A Valentine's Day which goes as flat as a pre-Lenten pancake can be a signal that the relationship is heading for the rocks.
My close friend found her 10-year relationship ended on February 15: "He didn't come home until very late on Valentine's night. No matter how schmaltzy you find the day, you don't ignore it entirely unless it's by mutual consent. We mutually avoided it and he left the next day."
And I can't avoid thinking of those lonely hearts on February 14 who have to get through another opportunity to see restaurants and pubs full of the loved up.
There's only one thing smugger than someone who's found their first Valentine and that's someone who's found their lifetime Valentine. My relative works in a jewellry shop and, according to her, this is the week when there's a run on the big rocks. If you get a little velvet box with a big, shiny ring inside, fantastic. Just remember: when you marry them, their whole family is going to get into bed beside you.
It always amazes me that people in love never look up or around, they're just gazing at the one they got. No one is truly single, even the most single of people come with attachments. By this I mean family.
You need what all successful farmers have -- well-planted fence posts. Okay, it would be foolish to go down on one knee and say: "Will you marry me, and still let me keep your mother at arm's length." Or, "I will marry you, once we don't have to see your family any more than we do."
Things to talk about when he pulls out the ring: You know you love each other, now you're engaged, but are your families engaged in this reciprocal arrangement? Do you still have to devise a way of communicating with your in-laws that doesn't mean you tear the head off him on the way home from a visit, or vice versa? If you do, how will marriage change this? How much does he need his mother, are you being signed up to replace her? Does she want to be replaced? If she's a Daddy's girl, is her father going to flatten you before you get a chance to book the church?
If the answers to these questions are 'sorted', then congratulations. You're with your true Valentine. You need to be, because if the question is popped on February 14, then you're facing, on average, upwards of 40 festive seasons with your fiance/e's blood relatives, and at least 50 other special occasions where you will be required to mix and mingle with people whose house you didn't grow up in, but are now as close to you as your own birth family.
Valentine's Day is for champagne and great sex, so all negotiations should be after midnight on February 14. Like any summit, you have to have a nice meal first before getting down to talks.