I’m not one to buy into the hype of Valentine’s Day, if only because I believe romance should be spontaneous (but well-orchestrated), sincere (not fake-it-until-you-make-it) and frequent (as in often, like more than once a week).

If someone who is sincerely in love needs prompting to perform a romantic gesture on one calendar day a year, thus expecting a gold star for participation, they should probably remain single and get a lot of cats. (Note: I have two cats. My collection has started.)

I am a hopeless romantic, and by hopeless, I mean I’ve been married a long time. Oh, come now, you know I’m kidding. I’m half realist and half dreamer, so while I’d like to portray my relationship as one of passionate affection 365 days a year, the truth is the Carpenter and I are not that. I think we were once. Hold on. Nope. No, we were not. I temporarily confused my reality with a movie script.

Keeping a marriage alive takes work and separate televisions. It requires frequent communication punctuated with silences of both a comfortable and uncomfortable nature. It’s about knowing the difference between two people sitting together reading the newspaper silently to themselves, but in the same room, versus the so-cold-you-can-see-your-breath mist of air that hovers in the room after an exchange that begins and ends with the words,“Is that it too much to ask?”

Equally important is knowing (a) when to break the silence, and (b) how to break that silence. Here’s some clues: If they won’t make eye contact and seem to slam cupboard doors with the force of an angry bear, the answer to (a) is “not yet.” For (b), refrain from using phrases like “are you over it yet?” because that makes the situation explode like the gas tank on a Ford Pinto.

Therefore, I believe the phrase “choose your words carefully” should be added to wedding vows. If I were to write mine again, I would also add “love means never having to share your chip dip,” because the whole silence situation above could have been a moot point for many awkward moments in my marriage had that rule been made abundantly clear from the get-go. Also worth noting, purchasing your wife chip dip with the ripple chips constitutes a romantic gesture. Do it. Now.

While I can’t speak for anyone else’s relationship, I would say for the Carpenter and I Valentine’s Day has never been a priority. First off, we’ve never had the financial cache to cash in. Secondly, we both tend to rebel against such traditions because we’ve always been more spur-of-the-moment types. We are the priority. Us. This thing we started. Besides, who put Valentine’s Day in the middle of flu season?

Maybe I’m a cheap date or just easily amused, but I’d settle for take-out dinner and a TV all to myself, and maybe a hot bath where nobody knocks on the door to tell me they need to use the toilet (because yes, we still only have one bathroom). In return, the Carpenter will settle for zombie shows and his own potato chips, safe in the knowledge there will be no awkward silence when he doesn’t buy me a card and roses.

And if he does? Ha, right. As if.