Oy Vey, it’s Valentine’s Day.
This week I came home to find red tinsel decorating our front door with an 'I love you' heart in the middle. My heart sank. I opened the door and there stood hunky hubby, all grins. My heart sank some more.
I love a good Rom-Com but I am not big on Valentine’s Day or any day, that by its very construct, creates massive expectations leaving room for massive failure. Like Mother’s Day, my birthday or the first day in a 3-day weekend without the kids (we are finally alone — WHY ARE WE FIGHTING?!?).
A sweet friend of mine has the same issue on the other side of the coin, her guy is reliably romantic and she feels obligated to match his thoughtfulness (told you she was sweet), creating an internal pressure and discomfort that has her dread the upcoming event.
A should is a should no matter how you slice it.
If January is about fixing yourself, then February is about fixing your relationship. Or fixating on it (or fixating on the fact that you’re not in relationship. Which can send you right back into January -- please don’t let it.)
Valentine’s Day can be a beautiful opportunity to reconnect and take some time out of the busy-ness of our lives to celebrate a treasured relationship. Often, however, it becomes a time to measure your partner’s ability to give you a great answer to ‘sooo, what did you do for Valentine's Day?’ A chance to check how much they love you. (This depicted by fits of ‘if you loved me, you would know by now that all I need is a card!’ Or dinner. Or diamonds. Whatever follows your ‘all I need is...’)
In essence, a holiday that is represented by flowers, chocolates and teddy bears, becomes a cover for an annual evaluation. A standardized test with impossibly high standards (given that the results are measured against made-up movies).
As any New York City public school fourth grader will tell you — standardized testing sucks.
Not because of the test itself, but because of what’s on the line: a good middle school, good high school, college, job, life!! Sound crazy? It is. But so is the pressure we put on V-day (and anniversaries and Date Night). Ordering up intimacy as if it’s something we can control and then using it to assess a whole and complex relationship.
It’s one thing to manage your own shoulds - to forgo resolutions or shush your inner critic. Quite another when you’re in relationship, which means there’s another person involved, with their own list of expectations (or lack thereof: Who cares about Valentine’s Day?! It’s a commercially-driven holiday that may or may not be based on some Roman saint. That’s what we’re fighting about?!?)
The best you can do is realize that you are bringing shoulds to the table. And that your shoulds are just that - expectations. They aren’t real, they aren’t what’s true of you, they aren’t a determining factor of your future together. They’re just thoughts and opinions that you have about a particular way that a particular day should be celebrated. They’re no more or less true or right than the thoughts your partner has about them. Like anything else, you can discuss your wishes and negotiate some happy medium (well before or after the actual day - timing is everything). And if your thought is ‘my partner should know me well enough to come up with a romantic gesture on his own without any prompting — that’s the whole point of a romantic gesture!’ then you might want to look at other romantic gestures that your partner does all year long. Like bringing you coffee the way you like it or texting to see how your day is going or complimenting you in front of your friends or waking up early so you can sleep in or managing the budget so you don’t feel the stress or catching your eye with a secret smile reserved just for you. (This is a curation from couples I know, not an all-inclusive list. Or’s not And’s.) (And if you can’t think of one nice thing your partner does for you, then Valentine’s Day is not your issue. Call me.)
Or decorating your front door with wastefully manufactured and unrecyclable sparkly tinsel just to put a smile on your face, which it does. Which makes his smile grow even more, which makes my heart soar. In eight days, he may show up empty-handed and I might launch into my version of ‘you don’t love me!’ but in this moment, I know that nothing could be further from the truth.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Reader. I adore you. XoxoK