This morning, I got up early to trek down to my local NBC station (WTHR) and do a live interview on avoiding the Valentine’s Day blues. Here are the main points that I hope will help you make the most of what can be a great holiday, but which many of us have avoided or complained about for years. I’ve expanded here, since TV clearly has tighter time constraints.
Q 1: Sometimes holidays like Valentine’s Day result in unmet expectations or disappointment. Why does a holiday that is intended to enhance love cause conflict with many couples?
We all have different visions of what Valentine’s Day should be, and we often have very different memories of the holiday growing up. If your parents made a big deal about Valentine’s Day, and your spouse ignores the holiday, you may feel disappointed. There’s a wide variety of expectations. Some people hope to be pampered, others will be thrilled with a card. Communicate about your expectations and what your partner’s expectations are.
Because the media in movies and advertising portrays Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers, there is pressure to get it right to show how special our love is. The pressure is often on men, which may cause them to want to avoid the day entirely. Talk about the pressure you feel ahead of time.
If you find your expectations are far out of line (i.e. she wants a new car or a diamond ring, and you budgeted for a box of chocolates) share with her your perceptions that gift giving isn’t a true indicator of your love for her. You might find a healthy dose of romance will win her over and you explain to her any gift would pale in comparison to her beauty! But seriously, we should aim to be satisfied and happy in our current circumstances and to appreciate the love we have in our lives. More than that is just gravy.
Q2: Many people consider this a “Hallmark holiday” created to fuel consumerism. Should couples just opt out?
The holiday has been popular since the 17th century and its roots go back much further. It was not made up by modern corporations, but today all holidays are used as a way to generate business. For certain people who have had very negative experiences on Valentine’s Day, it may be better to celebrate your relationship on a different day. (I have a friend who was robbed at gunpoint on Valentine’s Day many years ago; she wants no mention of the day.) For most of us, though, I would encourage you to embrace the holiday as providing another reason to tell your spouse or partner how much you love them. My husband and I have come around on this and instead of avoiding the Hallmark holiday try to show love to each other and to our kids.
However, you don’t have to buy into the consumerism aspect. You can write a beautiful note or bake them a homemade pie. Choose something that your partner would find meaningful and special. We may not remember to give an act of love every day, so let Valentine’s Day be a reminder to add a little romance to your life on a daily basis. Don’t make it just a one-day effort.
Q3: How can couples convey their expectations and increase the odds of having a happy Valentine’s Day and maintaining a strong bond after the big day?
Women in particular think their partner should “just know” inherently what to do to please them, but men can’t read minds. It’s not cheating if we tell them what makes us happy. Again, partners need to communicate their expectations. You likely have very different hopes for the day than your spouse, and it’s best to get them into the open. Ask your spouse what is the one thing you could do for them to make them feel special, and try to deliver on that.
Beyond Valentine’s Day, find small ways to be generous and loving to your partner. Bring them their favorite beverage each morning or offer to massage their aching back. Compliment them once a day. These daily habits show they are important to you and can have a much greater impact than buying a dozen roses once a year on Valentine’s Day.
You can review the attached graphic for Valentine’s Day trends. U.S. shoppers spend an average of $126 on their sweethearts and loved ones this year. See if you can push your creativity and instead of spending a lot, show through your words and actions how special your loved ones are to you.
If you have frequently ignored the holiday, let this be the year that paper hearts and hand-written notes fill your house and get tucked under pillows. Even if you’re single, tell those you love how much they mean to you.
Graphic courtesy of OnlineMBA.com.