College relationships are messy! But since this is our collective year of rest and relaxation, we here at North by Northwestern are leaning into the mess and embracing all it brings. The hormones are raging, you’re away from home for the first time, you’re experimenting and the impending doom that is climate change and the fall of democracy is weighing on your shoulders. Regardless of how evolved of a human being you believe you are, college relationships are bound to be blurry, messy and just plain awkward. The holiday of Saint Valentine brings added pressure to already strange relationships. Thankfully, as your resident ‘my-love-language-is-gift-giving’ writer, I’ve got a recommendation for every stage of your relationship.

You went on three dates in the weeks before Valentine's Day…

I think your best bet is to acknowledge how awkward this entire situation is and just face it head on. They are not expecting a proposal – if they are, that is weird and you should run – but a nice card, yes I said it, would be a great gesture. Write a silly little message, perhaps referencing something funny that happened in your previous dates, and you’re solid. Don’t think too much about it.

A greeting card from a grocery store will probably run you between $5 and $10.

Will they, won’t they? But, we’re such good friends. Should we?

I hate these people. Just go on a date already! It’s never that serious. So you’ve been engaged in a mild flirtation with a good friend and everyone in your circle is talking about it behind your back. You’re wondering if they will reciprocate your feelings if you ask them out. Just do it. Not to be an early 2000s advice column but you’re starting to irritate your other friends.

For this situation, I propose you get them something that has a clear romantic subtext. I’m not talking roses or a stuffed bear because those are tacky. I recommend a nice bouquet of flowers or a nice bottle of red. And if they reject you, hey, you get to keep the wine.

For both wine and flowers, expect to spend between $25 and $40, sorry.

We’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks now but we’re not official yet …

To be honest, I would be confused about this too. Do you gift the new person you’re seeing something for the big day? Would you be coming on too strong? Are they expecting a gift, or are they planning a romantic date? Calm down! If you treat Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to get to know the person better, you’re in the clear.

I recommend getting a gift that is actually a gift for the both of you. I recommend purchasing a deck of ‘We’re Not Really Strangers.” Basic, I know! But it’s popular for a reason.

Available on their website or Target for $2

They’re not in a good place to date right now and honestly I don’t want a relationship either but they are my favorite person and I can talk about them all day and forever and ever amen …

Okay, so you’re in a situationship? How’s that working out for you? No shade. To each their own. You are part-friends, part-hookup buddies, and sometimes, all parts confusion. For this person, I recommend getting them something that shows you know them really well.

This could be something that reminds you of them, or something they mentioned in passing that they’d be interested in learning more about. I recommend taking them to an activity-based date – anything to distract from that ‘what are we’ conversation, am I right?  This could be dancing, skating or even a cooking class if they mentioned they’d like something like that.

You just became official and this is your first Valentine’s Day together. In this dating scene? Congratulations.

You’ve known each other for a while now and you’ve both beaten the situationship allegations making it official like real adults do. Good for you! Since this is your first Valentine's Day together, this could come with a serious amount of pressure. I say, be chill about it and do what makes you both happy.

This is a pretty big milestone, and I am sentimental at heart, so I also recommend commemorating the day in some way. Apart from the standard “I really like you” gift, I also suggest a fancy romantic dinner! I recommend Alla Vita in Chicago for ambience and great Italian food, Galit if you’re more of a Middle-Eastern food fan and Parachute in Avondale for homey vibes and great Korean food. You can also expect restaurants in Evanston to be giving student discounts for the big day.

A fancy dinner for two in downtown Chicago will probably run you around $100 to $150.

We’re the exception. We’ve been long distance for a bit and it’s actually working out…

Maybe it’s your partner from your hometown, or your partner moved away after graduation, or it’s short term and they’re just studying abroad but you’re making it work, you crazy kids you.

If you’re spending Valentine's Day apart, I recommend getting your significant other something that reminds them of you and your time together, but also celebrates their independence. Can one gift do all that? Actually yes, it’s called a vibrat– This is a PC publication, so I recommend getting a disposable camera and taking photos of the world around you, and get your partner to do the same. Send each other the cameras for the other to develop the photos, and get to see the world through their eyes.

A disposable camera is around $15 but the price of developing the film depends on where you go.

This isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve been dating for years…

Okay, you don’t need my help then? Didn’t think so. You guys probably know each other really well, a bit too well, some would say. To commemorate the day, I recommend getting them something they can use and will appreciate. Skincare? A good book? Jewelry? Yes and yes. For jewelry, I recommend anything from Mejuri. They’re chic for everyday wear and great quality too. (I wish I was paid to say that.)

Prices range from $25 to $1000. Don’t go crazy now.

Thumbnail image by Ashley Sanchez