What is the difference between a wonderful and frightful Valentine’s Day? Expectations.
So, expectations might not be the single factor involved in creating the best or worst celebration, but it certainly plays a large role. What we expect of our boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or spouse evaluates if he or she “got it right” or “got it wrong.”
- He brought me roses to work and took me out to lunch. Just like I wanted. What a good man I have.
- He sent me an I love you text with a hundred hearts but no card? What kind of lazy, unromantic man does not get his girlfriend a Valentine’s Day card?
- She is showing me off to all her friends today. She seems so happy to be out with me. I have the best girl in the world.
- She wants us to go out on a night like tonight? It will be impossible to get in a restaurant anywhere. We love take-out and movie night. Why does she have to spoil our favorite plans just because it is a “special day”?
Expectations can make or break many occasions, especially when the expectations are uncommunicated or even unrealized. It is not that we automatically assume we should have everything we want (that, of course, is unrealistic), but there is a part of us which holds some disappointment when our expectations are not met. So, instead of waiting for the day to come and hoping it turns out well, get in touch with your expectations now:
- Do I have memories of unhappy (or even hurtful) Valentine’s Days? If so, what made them feel that way?
- Do I have an especially meaningful Valentine memory? What happened that year to make the day so memorable?
- What are three activities I would like included in our celebration? (e.g., a nice meal, an adventure, a heartfelt letter, a movie, a visit to a special landmark, an abundance of quality time, etc.) Write down several thoughts which come to mind. Even if your brain tells you “that is weird” or “you do not deserve that,” write it down anyway. You can cross out lesser ideas later. Just brainstorm.
- What do I need to do for my partner for Valentine’s Day to feel complete? Is there a tradition or specific way I want to acknowledge my significant other on Valentine’s Day?
- Do I truly want nothing? It is possible you cannot pinpoint your expectations because you simply do not want anything for Valentine’s Day. While that certainly might be the case, do some soul searching before you really land on “I do not care.”
- Do I want Valentine’s Day to be about something other than my partner and me? Again, it is possible, but work through the other questions before landing here. If you do want Valentine’s Day to be about something other than your love story, write down how you want to incorporate others into the day – and why you prefer it this way.
- If I could have the perfect Valentine’s Day, what would it look like? Imagine the most ideal celebration you can and write it down. Will it feel strange? Probably! But it is a worthwhile exercise.
So, now that I better understand my expectations, do I communicate them to my partner? Well, that depends. Unfortunately, there is not one perfect answer for all couples. Eric sometimes gets annoyed with me when he is planning something because, sometimes, I ask too many questions (and he enjoys planning surprises). It is not my intention to spoil surprises; but, apparently, I sometimes do!
If your significant other asks you about your Valentine’s Day preferences, then go for it. Let him or her know what you love about Valentine’s Day, how you like to celebrate it, what you specifically do not like about the day, and what activities you try to avoid. But, if he or she does not ask you, I recommend not bringing it up. Not yet.
Now that you are aware of your expectations (i.e., preferences) you can look over them and ask yourself what is and is not realistic. You can prepare yourself for whatever may come. If he or she provides you the experience for which you so deeply hoped, wonderful. Let your partner know how much you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day with him or her.
And, if he or she does not hit the nail on the head, enjoy the day in whatever way it happens. Then later – like two or three months later – bring up Valentine’s Day, and perhaps other celebrations, and talk about them. Start by asking what he or she loves about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps ask some of the questions above to stoke good conversation. Once you are on the topic, you can mention your preferences without mentioning anything about the previous Valentine’s Day.
- You know, when I was a little girl, I always woke up on Valentine’s Day to my favorite candy and a card from my dad. That meant so much to me.
- What I look forward to most about Valentine’s Day is knowing I get to have you all to myself – no friends, no phones, no work – just us hanging out together.
- I know it is cliché but dressing up and going out to a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day (or birthday, anniversary, etc.) is something I look forward to for a month beforehand.
- Maybe this sounds weird, but I do not really like Valentine’s Day that much. At least not the way society plays it up. I would rather celebrate our own random holiday in our own way. I prefer eating mac-n-cheese on the couch and watching The Office to going out in the crowd.
Some have trouble admitting they need anything. I should not care if I get a gift. It should not matter if we do something special. Remember that It is okay to have desires and preferences; and it is okay to admit them. Ignoring your expectations does not make them go away, it just keeps others from being able to meet them.
So, check those expectations. Discern what matters to you. Be willing to admit what you want to yourself. Extend grace when you do not receive your desires. And later… talk with your partner about what you want.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14, ESV)
What do you have in mind for your partner this Valentine’s Day?
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