Happy half-priced Valentine candy day! In years past, today is the day I would flock to my local Walmart to grab cheap candy and maybe a few red or pink stuffed animals (because all grown women with limited storage space need more stuffed animals).
As a child, I woke up on February 14th eagerly awaiting my Valentine from Daddy. Each year, without fail, I would find a card on the kitchen table labeled “Heather” along with some version of my favorite candy (Skittles or Starbursts). Next to my card was a bigger, better card (as it should be) and chocolate for my mom. It was simple, it showed his love for us, and it was not overly dramatic.
It was Dad and it was perfect.
As someone who prefers a good murder mystery over a gushy love story, perhaps I am biased; but, when it comes to Valentine’s Day and other romantic holidays, I believe there is too much undue pressure placed on couples (and especially men) to create an unforgettable experience as an attempt to prove his love. A man showering his woman with love on Valentine’s Day is great, but what if he does not? Does it negate that he:
- Is saving from each paycheck to purchase an engagement ring?
- Followed her home from work because it was snowing, and he wanted to make sure she got home safely?
- Stayed on the phone with her for two hours and listened to her cry about her latest fight with her mother?
- Tried to make her favorite meal from scratch on her last birthday?
- Went out in the pouring rain last month to buy her cold medicine when she was sick?
Love should be a daily occurrence. Is it wrong to have a day set aside to highlight love? No, of course not. Is it wrong to assign higher worth to the love actions which take place on the fourteenth day of February than the organic expressions which happen the other 364 days of the year? Yes, I think so.
Valentine’s Day can be a great time to celebrate what you already have; but, if it becomes a day where you must prove your love, then that is setting couples everywhere up for failure. If you show your love throughout the year, Valentine’s Day is not necessary. If you do not show your love throughout the year, Valentine’s Day will not make up for it.
Have you ever watched an immature couple struggle? Him ignoring her and her causing drama to gain some attention. Then, Valentine’s Day approaches. A big fluffy stuffed animal, candy, or jewelry shows up and she swoons, but within twenty-four hours everything is back as it was. Valentine’s Day is a nice day to commemorate what already exists between a couple, but without sacrificial love and commitment, Valentine’s affection is merely a band aid on a gaping wound.
Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks…
Whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, I remember the couple who got into an awkward argument in front of me at Olive Garden when Eric and I were still newly married. I stepped outside to get some air when the heavy restaurant doors swung open with a vengeance. She wanted to eat there… and he did not want to wait the 45 minutes for a table. She growled, “Well, let’s find you something to eat so you don’t starve!” As they walked away – her in a huff and him frustrated (and hungry) – I did not have high hopes for their evening. It just seemed like such a waste. Would she have been that determined to eat at Olive Garden if it had not been Valentine’s Day? Would chewing some gum and waiting the 45 minutes been that much of a sacrifice for him? Did she need a nice meal on February 14th to add validity to her relationship? To feel loved?
In the seventeen Februarys Eric and I have spent together, I have learned a few lessons. Trust me; in the scheme of marriage, Valentine’s Day is barely a blip on the radar. It is nice, but it can also cause unnecessary hurt. When future Valentine’s Days roll around, I would encourage you to think about this…
- How does my significant other or spouse treat me throughout the rest of the year?
- In which (perhaps less obvious) ways does he or she show me love?
- Do I acknowledge that love when it is given?
- Have I told my partner what I desire for Valentine’s Day? (e.g., a nicely planned date, flowers, takeout and a puzzle, a small acknowledgment, a large acknowledgement, no acknowledgement, etc.)
- Was he or she listening when I mentioned it?
- Did I articulate myself politely, but clearly?
- Is there a way I can make Valentine’s Day special for us next year instead of expecting it from my partner?
- Do I need my significant other to be the primary planner of Valentine’s Day, or can I take that role on for the both of us?
- Does he or she want to be the planner or co-planner?
- Does Valentine’s Day feel forced?
- Is it something we need to celebrate?
- Can we create our own special holiday instead for another day or time of year?
- Is there something in our relationship which needs to be addressed? Perhaps with a professional?
- If I express my desires, and they are repeatedly ignored, which underlying problems might we be missing or ignoring?
- Nagging each other about what we want is counterproductive.
Eric, was I born to love you?
A few years back, I found a beautiful, aqua valentine’s card which read, “I was born to love you.” I did not physically gag in the Walmart greeting card aisle, but internally I rolled my eyes. No, I do not believe, nor will I ever, that God specifically created me to love Eric. Still, I had to get this card. It sat in our house for a few years before I finally pulled it out of our card box. I read it again. “I was born to love you.” This phrase hits me somewhere between give me a break and this is hilarious. So, I simply crossed out the “love you” part of the message and replaced it (my part added in bold):
“I was born to … glorify God and enjoy him forever. (And, I love you.)”
Eric rolled over on the bed and laughed heartily – not something he does often. That silly card brought us both a lot of joy.
Mitigate “Failure” with Communication
Just as Disney princesses, romantic comedies, and romance novels have trained us ladies from a young age to expect complete perfection from the men in our lives, Valentine’s Day creates another opportunity for “failure.” Some men love strongly but do not express it through songs or gifts. Other men have limited resources and are not able to provide a Hallmark Channel hot air balloon Valentine experience. Going into the love holiday with unexpressed expectations can lead to frustration and hurt feelings.
In the years Eric and I have worked with couples, we have yet to discover a single mind reader. If you have specific expectations or desires regarding Valentine’s Day, talk about it. Discuss what matters to you about each holiday – especially those where there is societal pressure to perform well. If Valentine’s Day is a big deal to you, talk about it with your significant other, but do not expect him to lasso the moon. Look for the effort behind the action. If you are a takeout and movie on the couch kind of Valentiner, talk about that too. There is no normal. What is normal for you and your sweetheart is the only normal which matters.
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day
Since Eric has taken it upon himself to go back to school for his Ph.D., and he will be extremely busy on February 14th, we agreed to postpone our Valentine’s Day celebration to today. If I get my wish, there will be take out (with some steak), a puzzle, and a movie in my future! We party hard here. ~smile~
Keep breaking free!
Do you struggle with the pressure of what Valentine’s Day “should” be?
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