For Valentine’s Day, we asked guest columnist Dr. Beth Ribarsky of the UIS Department of Communication to offer her expert relationship advice to lovelorn students.



Dear Dr. Beth,

I’m a very lovey-dovey type of girl, but my boyfriend? Not so much. He doesn’t wanna do anything on Valentine’s Day except play video games! I know he cares about me, but he doesn’t like to make a big show out of it. How can we meet in the middle so we’re both happy?

Dear To Game or Not to Game….

Although there might be several issues of compatibility at play here, the one that seems most apparent is the issue of love languages. Gary Chapman (1992) famously described the five love languages: words of affirmation (e.g. verbally telling the other they are liked, loved, respected), acts of service (e.g. doing something your partner will appreciate – cleaning their car, making them dinner, etc.), gifts (e.g. something they will value or lets them know you were thinking of them), quality time (e.g. giving your partner undivided attention and encouraging conversation and engagement) and physical touch (e.g. holding hands, kissing, massage, sex). Everyone has a love language that tends to make them feel most respected and cared for. However, your partner may not necessarily share the same love language as you.

Your partner might think saying he cares once in a while suffices or that playing video games together is quality time (FYI – it’s NOT undivided attention so it’s NOT quality time). However, these acts may not be fulfilling your needs. It is vitally important to communicate with your partner about how to make each other feel most loved. Too often, we just assume our partner likes what we like, but that may not be true – simply talk about what you need/want from your partner and encourage him to do the same.

However, if you’re wanting to go do something and all he wants to do is play videogames, the bigger issue might be compatibility in general. Of course, romantic partners can have different interests! But the old cliché “birds of a feather flock together” remains a strong predictor of relational success. You might want to think a bit more about if you are truly a good match.

Dear Dr. Beth,

All my friends have dates for Valentine’s Day parties and events. I feel left out, but it would feel forced if I just randomly picked out a date I don’t click with just so I won’t be alone. How do I have a good time when I’m lonely?

Dear Lonely but Lovely,

You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT need a date for Valentine’s Day! First of all, it’s a holiday developed by companies to sell more cards, candies and flowers – it’s really just another day on the calendar. However, it is hard not to get caught up in all the hype. So, there are a few things you can do to make the most of this superficial holiday:

– Treat yo’self! Buy yourself some flowers, candies or a splurge meal. You should not depend on anyone else to make you happy, and self-care is SO important.

– Host a singles’ party! There are plenty of others out there in the same boat as you. Maybe you’re the one that helps others find their matches, and you might just find your partner in the midst of it.

– Make it a friends’ day! I doubt ALL of your friends have dates. And there’s nothing wrong with spending Valentine’s Day with friends. In fact, that’s my plan for the day – three of my girlfriends and I are getting all dressed up and going out for a fancy dinner.

– Ramp up your dating profile! There are a few times of the year when dating sites/ apps have a significant increase in traffic – the busiest time of year being Dec. 26th – Feb. 14th. Take advantage of this influx of possible new partners/matches by starting a dating profile (if you don’t already have one). If you already have one, update your profile with a new, flattering picture (which will make people who might have previously swiped left reevaluate you).

Again, it can be easy to feel lonely around this fake holiday, so don’t beat yourself up over getting caught up in the hype. Remember, it’s just another day on the calendar, but you can still make the most of it!

Dear Dr. Beth,

Every time I ask out a girl I get mixed signals and end up frustrated. I don’t understand why dating has to be so complicated!! Help?

Dear Frustrated Friend,

Dating is absolutely complicated! Emotions! Expectations! Everything is confusing! But, the easiest thing to do to make this less complicated…BETTER COMMUNICATION!

You might be getting mixed signals because you’re not being clear in how you are asking them out. “We should hang out sometime” can be incredibly ambiguous. Do you mean as friends? With other people? And when? “I’d like to buy you a coffee and get to know you better after class on Wednesday” makes it much clearer what your intentions are, while also giving a specific day/time that eliminates the ambiguity of “sometime.” Therefore, you’re more likely to get a clearer response! If she’s interested in you but is busy during your suggested time, she’ll likely give you an alternative time to meet up.

If you’re using this more direct method of asking out and still getting a lot of mixed signals, she might just be attempting to spare your feelings. Things like “Yeah, maybe” or “We’ll see” are softer forms of rejection. It’s hard to tell someone who had the courage to ask you out a flat-out, “No.”

But that’s the important lesson here. You had the courage to ask her out! And, the process of finding a date is a lot like sales – you’re going to get a lot of “No”s before you get a “Yes,” and that “Yes” might be well worth the time, effort, and frustration of all the “No”s. Don’t give up just yet, but be sure to reevaluate exactly how you’re wording your initiation attempts.