If you’ve reached the third date, that’s a great sign, because most people cut bait between date one and three.  The third date should feel more relaxed than the previous two dates.  Whereas in date one and two, there is a bit of pressure going into it and concerns about making a mistake, date three is more about getting to know each other better without the need for a fancy night out.  I think date three is a good time to invite that person over, or to go over their place. 
This was the first dinner that Alena made for me.

For our third date, we spent it at my place enjoying dinner and a movie.  Alena knew the way to my heart was through my stomach, and she brought over a delicious dinner of sautéed shrimp, salad, a mix of sweet and regular baked potatoes, and some tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.  That was the first time someone that I dated cooked me dinner, and it was a sign to me that she was a keeper, because she was putting in the effort too.  The same night, she looked at my fridge, saw that I had healthy food in there, and told me months later that it got me some points, since I was walking the walk about eating healthy, not just talking the talk like other guys did.

Before the Third Date

- Keep your options open.  Before the third date, I think it is fair game to keep your options open and date other people casually if you haven’t committed to dating anyone exclusive.  It’s not about being a player – it’s about dating efficiently.  It's about giving yourself as many options as possible in case something doesn’t work out, and not making the mistake of going too fast with anyone too soon.  The first or second date can be unpredictable.  The person you’re dating may be dating someone else casually, and may be gone tomorrow.  It’s good to be dating someone else casually if possible so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket too soon, and you don’t get too head over heels for someone, which can scare them away. 

But I caution about keeping the options open too far into the distance – after three or more dates, you should have a better sense of who is a better fit, and you should respectfully narrow the dates down.

- Rejection is likely to happen.  You’ll find as you go on more dates, most of them end before date three.  It’s normal and happens to everyone, and although it can sting after a while of going through it over and over again, just move on and take whatever lessons you can draw from them.  Write the experience down in a dating journal.  Rejection sucks, but I can assure you that it’ll pass, and when you meet the right person, you’ll look back and may even feel like you dodged a bullet!

It’s the most romantic time of the year, and for many couples, it means spending their whole paycheck on an expensive dinner, a fancy bouquet of flowers, and gourmet chocolates.  While all these things are nice, it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to have a memorable and romantic Valentine’s day.   

In the end, your significant other just wants to be loved and cared for.  Below are 8 of my favorite affordable, romantic Valentine’s day ideas:

1.  Cook dinner at home.   Make a dinner that your loved one would like.  This is how Alena and I spent our first Valentine’s Day together, and she loved it.  I made Alena a baked salmon dinner, and we also enjoyed some wine and a small box of chocolates, with candles and our favorite music in the background.  For young couples with kids, get the kids involved in making or decorating a dish or dessert, and remember to save time for the next idea or two after they go to bed, or get a babysitter for the evening.

2.  Massage each other.  Get some scented, massage oil, and give each other a relaxing, sensual massage.

3.  Movie night.  Cuddle up to one of the 50 Greatest Date Movies of All Time.

4.  Take a spontaneous trip to a nearby park or beach.  With the low cost of gas these days, hop in the car with your loved one, and with your favorite music playing, drive to the nearest park or beach to watch the sunset.  Or wake up early and drive to a nearby park to watch the sunrise.  Depending on the weather and your location, go for a walk and take pictures together. 

5.  Do an act of service.  Surprise your loved one by doing a chore exactly how they would do it, before they can get to it.  It'll be much appreciated.   

6.  Write a love letter.  Write a letter to your loved one telling them 10 things that you love about them and read it to them after dinner.

7.  Exercise together.  Go running, kayaking, hiking, or biking, do yoga, etc.  It’ll bring out those feel good endorphins and help put you both in the mood.

8.  Dance.  As a former professional dancer and dance teacher, I can’t have a list without this one.  Put on your favorite dance music and dance at home, or go for latin or ballroom dance lessons.

Saving Money and the Environment While on Your Valentines Date

Lastly, if you want to go a step further and save money and the environment (which may turn on someone who is into combating climate change), check out this quirky blog I wrote few years ago while working at the Energy Department to Save Money by Saving Energy during Valentine's Day.

To the Singles

Last but not least, to the singles out there, Valentines day may feel like a bummer, especially if you're single, looking, and haven't met that person yet.  I know - I've been there time and time again.  But I also believe that this blog will help you meet the right person (I have you in mind in writing it), and when you do, all those solo Valentine's days will fade into the background.  For now, love your life, your friends, and your family, work hard and achieve your goals, follow this blog, be brave and put yourself out there, and enjoy the best things about being single.