By Nikki Metzgar for HowAboutWe 
Just like mom always gets upset on Christmas Day because she's anxious about cooking a feast for 10, Valentine's Day can be a pressure cooker for couples -- especially when expectations are not managed. He's feeling crushed by the burden of having to plan the most romantic date ever; she secretly doesn't like surprises. Here are four strategies for making sure everyone is happy, feeling loved and in the mood. 

1. Plan the date together. Anticipating something fun is often the best part, so if you're both part of the planning process then you can look forward to the date equally. No one will feel single-handedly responsible for making things happen, there will be no unpleasant surprises and you can be completely honest about preferring Chinese takeout and some time in the hot tub over making reservations and dressing up for a fancy dinner. Or if the fancy dinner is your thing, you can get excited looking at online menus together for some added bonding time.

2. Double date. Whether you're going to the trendiest new restaurant or just making spaghetti at home, including friends increases the celebration factor. Opening a bottle of wine with old friends downgrades the event from "a big deal" to just a fun night. Make sure you're on the same page with your date before inviting extras though -- your boyfriend might really be looking forward to some alone time but not saying so. 

3. Set a low price ceiling on gifts. Even if you're being totally honest about not wanting to exchange gifts for Valentine's Day, doubt can start to sneak in about whether your partner is being completely honest. If you start to suspect that your cutie does want a gift -- or is getting you one and you want to reciprocate -- just declare a gift exchange and get it over with. Turn it into a game by setting a $5 or $10 limit and see who can find the weirdest or tastiest or biggest gift at the store. Or decide that you're going to find something you can do together -- buy a magazine and do the quizzes together, pick a board game or badminton set or buy a gift certificate to a favorite coffeeshop.

4. Stay in the comfort zone. Okay, so your date definitely wants a nice dinner and some out-of-the-ordinary romance. There are still ways to meet high expectations without freaking out, which is the number one way to ruin a nice date. If you can't read a French menu without panicking, don't go near it. Even though ice skating at the park sounds really adorable, a broken arm and your disappointed competitive side isn't. Above all, remember that if you're in a good mood, your date will be in a good mood, so don't spend more money than you're comfortable with and don't let lost reservations ruin the evening

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