When you hear the exclamation, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” or even simply the phrase, “Valentine’s Day,” what is your first emotion? Excitement? Dread? Nothingness? My feelings on Valentine’s Day have changed over time. As a child, I loved it! It meant waking up to my favorite candy and a card from my Daddy. Then, there was always a Valentine’s party at school, complete with sweets galore and a Valentine card exchange.
After discovering boys, Valentine’s Day changed from year to year. If I was dating someone, I highly anticipated “Love” Day. When I was twelve, I recall getting a card in the shape of an XO from my boyfriend; and, when I opened it, it stood several feet long. (I think I still have it somewhere.) On Valentine’s Days when I was not in a “relationship,” I felt bitter and discouraged. The phrase, “Happy Valentine’s Day” incited a riot in my inner parts!
Now, years later, after celebrating many Valentine’s Days, my feelings on the event have settled into a mixture of frustration and indifference. Feeling a bit disturbed by the fact that I, a relationship coach, am not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, I did a little soul searching, and I think I have uncovered some of the reason for my lack of enthusiasm.
The hype surrounding Valentine’s Day can engender unrealistic expectations and create a storm of hurt feelings.
Reactions to Valentine’s Day
About ten Valentine’s Days ago, I witnessed a highly emotional woman storm out of Olive Garden followed by her hungry and aggravated date who loudly exclaimed, “But I don’t want to wait an hour!” She hatefully responded, “Well, let’s go somewhere else so you don’t pass out from starvation!” Though the scene was somewhat amusing, it was mostly sad. Outside of making greeting card companies mega bucks, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a time of connection and an opportunity to show appreciation for the ones you love – especially your main squeeze. However, movies and society at large have placed such demands on this holiday that few people can deliver the magic which so many expect.
My dad gave Mom and me candy and a card, and I thought it was the greatest day ever (other than Christmas, of course)! But, some enter relationships expecting to have the moon handed to them every February 14th and when their significant other does not come through with a major production, hearts break and seeds of bitterness fall into fertile soil.
“He does not love me. If he did, he would have put more thought into this day.”
“She does not appreciate the time and money I put into this night. She is never satisfied!”
“He used to show me more affection when he was trying to win my heart; but, now that he has me, he is lazy and does not care about dating me anymore!”
“Why should I bother even trying to make her happy? I’m just going to fail again and again.”
When these lies take root, they grow into bitterness. It is much harder to pull weeds of bitterness than to prevent them from growing. One way to inhibit these dangerous lies from forming a wedge between you and your sweetheart is to open up and have honest dialogue with each other.
Is Valentine’s Day Important to Me?
Valentine’s Day can be a special day for you and your sweetheart, or you may mutually decide not to celebrate it at all – and that is just fine. Whether you choose to make it a yearly spectacular or just another day, it is important to search yourself, uncover your expectations, and then talk about them with your sweetie.
- Is celebrating Valentine’s Day important to me?
- What do I expect on Valentine’s Day?
- Why do I have these expectations?
- Are these expectations realistic?
- Will I be angry if my significant other does not meet my expectations?
Once you are aware of your Valentine desires and have crossed out the ones you know to be unrealistic, discuss them with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse (long before or long after Valentine’s Day). If his experience with Valentine’s Day includes Applebee’s and a movie and yours includes a day-long production complete with long stemmed roses, a five-star restaurant experience, a shimmering new dress, and a limo ride, there is going to be some disappointment – and maybe even a news-worthy fight. ~smile~
Your Valentine’s Days can be great, but that may require some preparation on your part. If you honestly work through your expectations now, your future Valentine’s Days can be warm and enjoyable without the fear of disappointment and conflict.
As you prepare for tomorrow, glance through these tips and make use of whatever you find helpful!
- Even if Valentine’s Day is no big deal to you, it is probably a big deal to her. Even though I am not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, as a woman there is still a part of me that wants to be acknowledged – even if just with a card or words of appreciation. I do not need as much fuss and feathers as I did when our relationship was younger, but as long as I live, I will always want him to remember.
- What happens tonight could be locked in her memory for a lifetime, so a little planning is worth the trouble. Perhaps the most disappointing way to spend a romantic holiday is as an afterthought. Eric plans out each of my birthdays and I appreciate it so much. Some are bigger and more elaborate than others; but, every year, without fail, I know he is planning something. How to spend our anniversaries is typically a mutual decision, but Eric almost never approaches the day as no big deal. Even when the celebration is low key and inexpensive, I can tell when he has thought about it and that makes all the difference. I would rather have a planned evening at home with my favorite movie and a puzzle than an amazing but obligatory dining experience he threw together at the last minute – which leads me to my next point…
- It does not always take a grand gesture to show your woman how much you love her. Proving you have been paying attention by providing an evening tailored especially for her is the way to go – even if that only includes take out, Netflix, and Skittles.
- Be sure to make the days before and after Valentine’s Day sweet as well. Women love gentleness and overall sweetness, but we do not take your Valentine’s Day gestures to heart if you treat us poorly or disregarded us the other 364 days of the year. We want you to go from 60 mph to 80 mph on special holidays – not from 0 mph to 100 mph (and then back down to 0 mph).
- Take care of details in advance. Move meetings, turn off your phone, make reservations, decorate your apartment, etc. Show your lady this night has been on your mind for a long time.
- Give a creative gift. Incorporate your girlfriend or wife’s favorites into a Valentine’s Day theme. Create bouquets of her favorite candy. Purchase a movie she is dying to see and wrap it in a golden chocolates box (be sure to give her actual chocolate as well to ensure your safety! ~smile~). Hide tickets for an adventure inside a heart-shaped piñata.
- To the married men: Do not push your lady for sex. But, if the night leads you there, be sure to tell her how beautiful she is, how much she means to you, and do not rush. Celebrate the journey and not the destination.
- Do your best to enter the evening without expectations. One of the best ways to keep yourself from having dashed expectations is to make a list of your desires and then cross off any you think might be unrealistic or unreasonable. The fewer expectations you have, the less likely you are to be disappointed if his idea for a romantic evening does not match yours.
- Show grace if he does not meet your expectations. Appreciate his efforts and thank him. Men and women are different and have different needs. You and your future spouse will be learning about each other forever and you are at the beginning of your journey. Kindergarteners stumble when they are learning to read. Mastering new skills takes time. If you have expectations or desires for future Valentine’s Days, wait a while (maybe even summer or fall) to discuss your thoughts. If you broach the topic on February 15th, it will communicate, “You failed,” no matter how you frame it or how gently you share your feelings.
- Show delight. It was not Valentine’s Day, but I recall Eric giving me a ring on our third anniversary. We were at the beach and he knelt down as if he was proposing and put the ring on my finger. There were people close by and I was embarrassed, so I reacted stoically and without appreciation. I just wanted him to get back in his chair so people would not look at us. After a while, he said, “Anytime a man gives a woman a ring, it is a big deal. You should act excited.” I hurt him a bit that day and I regret it. Did it really matter if people were looking? What is the worst that might have happened? Even if your man embarrasses you a tad this Valentine’s Day, light up and show gratitude for the message he is trying to send you – “You are important to me.”
- Be completely present with him. Keep your phone out of reach and concentrate your attention on him. Show him he is important to you by making him your only priority. If you give him nothing physical for Valentine’s Day but massive doses of respect and admiration, you will likely still melt him!
- Plan something special for him. Though the task of creating a special experience tends to fall on the man, you can also go about creating a special gift or experience for him. I would not plan something so elaborate that it overshadows what he has planned for you, but something that shows how much you respect him and how much you appreciate him should do the trick.
- Take small steps to surprise and please him. Do you have a certain dress or outfit he loves? Is there a particular perfume he enjoys? Do you own any of his favorite albums? If so, can you incorporate them into the evening? Does he enjoy hearing you sing? Think of a handful of meaningful ways you can dote on your man.
- To married women: If your husband is eager to take your evening in a sexual direction, do not assume all of his efforts were simply to get you into bed. Realize that sharing his sexuality with you is one of the main ways he expresses his love for you and his desire to connect with you. There are more women than you would expect who would love for their husbands to want them sexually.
We wish you a terrific Valentine’s Day free from the hype of commercialism. What do you want to convey tomorrow? When the evening is over, what do you want your Valentine pondering while drifting off to sleep? Focus on delivering that message – whether your celebration includes an amazing night on the town or a starlit picnic with your dogs.
Are your Valentine expectations realistic?