Valentine's Day is looming. For many, that's a night of Netflix and a ready-meal for one, much like any other evening. For others, it's the highest-pressure evening of the year, bringing expectations of engagement rings, crates of roses and starry-eyed declarations.
Admittedly, most of us will make do with a card and a Dine In For Two deal, but it's fair to say, the day is rife with potential for romantic disaster. So here's our handy guide on what not to do this V-Day.
1 Don't buy underwear
Choosing lingerie for a partner is always fraught with danger. A size too small, it suggests you'd like them to lose weight. Too big, maybe you think they're a bit on the hefty side? If it's overtly sexy, it seems the gift is more for you than her - not sexy enough, it suggests you view your partner as a useful flatmate who needs warm knickers.
Red and lacy is sleazy, black and silky is high expectations, and white and virginal is a bit creepy. The whole gift also suggests you're expecting it to be worn, pronto. Avoid.
Instead: Ask her what she'd like - and buy it together.
2 Don't buy garage flowers
As Chandler Bing might say, could you BE any lazier? A snatched bunch of blooms from the garage or supermarket is the equivalent of taking her to a Wetherspoons on your first date.
It's easy, it's cheap, and it requires very little effort on your part. The same goes for 12 standard, scentless, red roses, astronomically pricy though they might be. It's also deeply obvious, remarkably unimaginative, and for all she knows, you've also sent a bunch to the last five women in your 'recent calls' list.
Instead: Go to a florist and pick a curated bunch of flowers that remind you of her.
3 Don't stage a surprise engagement
Nobody likes a big surprise, whatever they might suggest. And asking someone to marry you without any warning - worst of all in a public place - is often what's known as 'a bad surprise.' Of course, it could be a yes, and end in the entire restaurant rising to their feet to applaud as you embrace - or it might fall apart like a withered rose, as your partner looks at the ring box and horror dawns.
Instead: Give them a hint you're thinking of asking. And unless they're very theatrical, ask in private. Just in case it's a no.
Watch: 72% of parents say they still get butterflies when they see their partner
4 Don't start home cooking
It's lovely to cook for your partner - but if you're not an experienced cook, this is why God invented Deliveroo.
Struggling for eight hours to produce bacterial fish pate on hot bread, spaghetti with sauce from a jar and a cheesecake that tastes like cheese triangles and lime-scented loo cleaner is not worth the mammoth effort.
Your partner will thank you for the lovely takeaway, trust us.
Instead: Only cook if you know what you're doing. Otherwise, order in.
5 Don't forget to book a restaurant
"Well, McDonalds could be romantic, if we sit at the back and share some nuggets..." That's what you'll be reduced to if you don't book the restaurant well in advance.
You'll be wandering the streets, refused everywhere you go, as sneering Mâitre D's murmur 'do you have a booking with us?' and indicate the packed room behind them. Returning home by 9pm numb with cold, with a bag of chips and sore feet is not romantic.
Instead: Book in advance. It's not that hard.
6 Don't expect sex
Valentine's day does come with certain hopes and expectations. But if spectacular sex is one of them, you may not get as lucky as you hope.
In the aftermath of a three course meal and a bottle of wine, few over 40s really want to get naked and wild. They'd possibly rather read another chapter and go to sleep. If you want to mark the occasion with a sensual experience, then, try to avoid stuffing yourselves first.
Instead: Have a light snack,. a glass of champagne and head for bed early.
7 Don't start a deep relationship chat
The trouble with romance is, it often encourages deep conversation. And deep conversation leads to "the thing is.." and "it's just that we never talk about.." and suddenly, you're sitting in a restaurant tricked out with flowers and fairylights, crying about the domestic bin rota.
Tonight is not the night for a 'cards on the tables, lets discuss our problems' conversation. Save that for the weekend.
Instead: Keep it light- and if that's unlikely, go and see a film together.
8 Don't do a double date
Come on. Valentines day may be commercialised nonsense, but that's no reason to start inviting all and sundry along on your date. Having a dinner party, going out with another couple, inviting your single friend along... it may be fun, but it doesn't say romance.
In fact, it says, "I don't really want to spend time with you one to one."
Instead: Keep it just the two of you, eh? Just this one night.
9 Don't pick a romantic movie
Going to the cinema is always fun, and can be romantic with the right film. Choosing one on Netflix or Prime, not so much. Because you'll be there for an hour, furiously debating which one to watch.
"I love The Proposal!" "We've seen it nine times, let's watch something new. What about an action film?" "It's Valentines' Day!" and you'll end up watching one episode of Dogs Behaving Very Badly in a sulk.
Instead: Agree well in advance, or book a night at the movies.
10 Don't send a "funny" card or gift
Buying your partner a gift that gently mocks something cute about themlseves could just about be OK. Buying one that's a brutal brick of criticism wrapped in the old sock of "a joke", is not.
Valentine's Day is not the time for humorous reminders of their shortcomings, and a gift of washing up gloves "because you never wash up" or a screwdriver "to remind you those shelves need putting up" is not a gift.
Instead: Buy something romantic to show you appreciate them. It's not difficult.
Watch: Nearly half of Americans have ended a relationship because someone was bad in the kitchen.