Q: I'm in my 30s and in a new relationship (about two months) with a wonderful man. As you know, Valentine's Day is just around the corner and I'm stuck about what to do. The whole flowers/chocolate thing doesn't really appeal to me, so what are some nice ideas for a fun day/romantic evening without spending too much money? I want to do something with him, but I don't want to freak him out by coming on too strong. Thanks!

– L.P., North Buffalo

A: Most people associate Valentine's Day as a time to celebrate with candy, expensive flowers and cards, but really any activity that two people can enjoy together can be enjoyed on this day as well. Don't get lost in the Valentine's hype; instead, think of something creative that the two of you have never done before.

Some inexpensive ideas that don't require a lot of planning are an indoor picnic, ice skating or indoor roller skating, indoor rock climbing, seeing a movie, attending a live show or a gallery opening, and, of course, the classic romantic dinner. If you're comfortable enough in the relationship to have him at your house, show off your cooking skills and prepare a nice candle-lit dinner.

If you want to splurge a little, consider getting a couple's massage or having a massage therapist come to your home. With Niagara Falls in our backyard, take advantage of the scenery and go for a romantic walk, followed by a nice dinner. Niagara offers a lot of possibilities!

Behavior raises red flags

Q: My boyfriend won't get off my back about the littlest things. We have been living together for almost a year, and he is extremely overprotective. When I go to leave the house to run errands, he stops me and says things like, “Where do you think you're going?” When I tell him, he follows me in his car. I love him and would never want to hurt his feelings. Is he being too overprotective, or is this normal? Am I crazy?

– S.R., Buffalo

A: This is not normal, and you're not crazy. His behavior is crazy and is less about your well-being than his own issues and lack of trust in you and your relationship. It seems to me that your boyfriend may be an abuser. Abuse comes in many forms, not just physical violence. If he meets any of the following, please consider the dysfunction and act accordingly.

• Says “I love you” very early or pushes for fast-moving relationship: These people come on very strong and pressure the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

• Jealous: Excessively obsessive and possessive; calls repeatedly or visits often unannounced; prevents you from living your normal daily life because “you might meet someone else”; checks for clues about where you've been. Remember that suspicion lies in the eyes of the guilty.

• Controlling: Questions you intensely about whom you were with and where you were; keeps tabs on the money you've spent; and insists that you ask permission to do anything without him.

• Grandiose expectations: Demands that you be the perfect mate and meet his every need.

Patti Novak welcomes your relationship questions. Email her at and please include your initials and hometown.