For as long as I can remember, Valentine’s Day has evoked some sort of emotion for me. As a child, I loved red and pink decorations everywhere (and still love it now), handing out and receiving Valentine cards at school, and especially the Valentine’s Day party complete with so many sugary treats.
As a teenager, my feelings towards this holiday hinged completely on whether I had someone special in my life. I still have a picture of my fourteen-year-old boyfriend holding an accordion card I gave him which opened three feet long displaying large XOXOs. A few years later, I walked into the local courthouse to file some paperwork for my boss and I bristled when the cute girl behind the counter wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day since I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time; the beautiful bouquets of flowers on her desk did not warm my heart either.
Once college arrived, I found Valentine’s Day to be a mixture of fun, fear, and a little sadness. Fun because my dormmates and I threw our own single ladies parties; fearful because… What if I never have another Valentine? …; and slightly sad because I missed being someone else’s special person.
Then, marriage! And now I have a Valentine for life! All is great… right?
Not quite. It did not take long at all to realize marriage was nothing like dating. Marriage came with more security than dating, but it also came with so much more work. When we were dating, I moved heaven and earth to be able to talk to him, spend time with him, and daydream about the future with him. In marriage, there were dirty dishes, socks on the floor (often mine, to be fair), and not nearly the amount of personal, romantic attention I dreamed of.
What the romantic comedies and teenage shows I devoured do not show us is… the epilogue. They meet, they fall in love, they fight, they make up, and then they kiss at the end. But, then what? I assumed the very best. And, as every married person in the world discovers, my assumptions were incorrect.
Note, I am not down on marriage. I think marriage is ordained by God and is a wonderful part of His design. But it is not an institution created solely for our happiness and for this fact, I was unprepared. Each person who gets married marries a sinner – and that sinner also marries a sinner – and this negatively impacts Valentine’s Day. ~smile~
Why Am I Sad When I Have a Valentine?
During various seasons of our almost two-decade marriage, Valentine’s Day was not the light, fun, sweet day I had envisioned it to be for couples. We had so much to learn about ourselves and each other. Like most couples, over the years we have asked the question, “What were we thinking? Why did we get married?” Sometimes, we did not want to celebrate February 14 because we felt so weighed down by the hurt and disappointment which we caused each other. However, thankfully, there have been plenty of Valentine’s Days we laughed; watched a movie; enjoyed some downtime; and, of course, ordered takeout. Such is the Valentine’s Day playbook of introverted, tired champions!
Because we live in a fallen world – which is shows the ongoing effects of sin more with each passing year – it is easy to become disillusioned with the relationship you thought would solve your problems, bring you consistent comfort, and fill the void in your heart. Marriage can be an amazing experience, but we all discover marriage is not what meets our every need; only God can do that.
As we look forward to a year filled with restoration, we want to challenge and encourage everyone to take some time this Valentine’s Day (or later in the week, if you would rather keep the day fun and responsibility-free) to work towards restoring something in your relationship. Couples who have been together for more than a year, and in some cases more than a few months, likely have something to restore.
Maybe your girlfriend violated your trust when she talked about a sensitive area of your relationship with her friends. Maybe your boyfriend hurt your feelings and you have been nervous to bring it up because you did not want to be that girl. Maybe you are both extremely busy and you feel the close bond you previously formed loosening its grip. Unless you just started dating, there is probably something in your relationship to restore. If you are married, there might be a closet crammed with years of “stuff” which needs working through… one at a time.
As you celebrate this year of restoration, consider the following questions:
- Is there anything in our relationship for which I need to apologize?
- Is there a subtle, minor “bump” in our relationship which needs some attention?
- Is there an issue one or both of us is avoiding which needs to be addressed?
- Is there something specific I need from my partner for which I am uncomfortable asking?
- Have I been emotionally welcoming to my significant other and provided a safe place for him or her to communicate needs?
- Am I holding on to hurts from our relationship to shield my heart from being hurt again? Am I willing to humble myself and forgive my partner as Christ forgives?
- Is our relationship honoring God? For what do we need to repent? What needs to change for us to be in right standing with Him?
Restorative Work is Tough but Worth It; You Will Be Glad You Did Not Wait to Address Problems.
For the past seventeen years, Eric and I have rarely used a room in our home that previous owners built onto the house. It is a larger room and the perfect size for fitting large families and playing games with friends. It has amazing natural light and a view of our backyard trees. There is also a door leading out to our deck and a sliding door conveniently connected to our kitchen. So why has this room, perhaps one of the best in the house, been closed off and used for recycling and clutter? Because it is not insulated. In the summer the room is stifling; in the winter, the room is freezing. And we generally leave the doors closed so our electric bill does not explode (as the room is not connected to our central air conditioning).
Recently, however, we had a church friend who works in construction pop over to take a look. Is there any way we can insulate this room so we can use it for hospitality rather than a dumping ground for stuff? After reviewing for a few minutes, he suggested we install a small heating/cooling system which we can use when we need to use the room, and then turn off when we are not using it.
Seriously?! It was that simple? Years ago, we had a few people come look at the room and tell us the room was not built well and insulating it was not possible. Therefore, we gave up and let one of the most beautiful rooms in our home just sit there gathering dust and junk. To discover a solution was possible, would not cause us a serious financial hardship, and could be implemented relatively quickly felt surreal. My emotions are a mix of excitement for what is to come and strong regret that we waited so many years to restore this area of our home for use.
Lesson to be learned: do not go with the first no. If you cannot find restoration in your first attempt, look for a different path.
Daydreaming as I often do, sometimes I allow myself to dwell on hurts and regrets from my marriage. Then I remember verses such as Philippians 4:8 and I am encouraged to set my mind on true and lovely things. When I let my imagination run free without setting my focus back where it belongs (cf. Romans 12:2), I find ample reasons to be angry and discontent; but then I remember the scores of couples who found restoration after going through unspeakable pain together.
Our first attempts to fix problem(s) may not work; but regret always comes from walking towards the bitterness. That bitterness will eat us alive if we set up camp in its clutches. Instead, we need to keep standing on God’s promises, praying for His guidance, and trying until we find a solution. We serve a God who heals (cf. Mark 5:34), restores (cf. Joel 2:25-26), and makes all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5).
We hope you and your special someone have a sweet and joyful Valentine’s Day filled with your favorite treats, some good conversation, and hopefully some needed healing and restoration as well.
Much love from us at PreEngaged!
Which aspects of your relationship can you work on restoring this Valentine’s Day/week?