Couples Counseling Part 2: Valentine’s Day…Observed
Happy Valentine’s Day?
Ah Valentine’s Day. The much maligned holiday. Or loved? Divisive at the very least. I don’t want to be all grinchy, because I admit that I don’t have an issue with Valentine’s Day this particular year of my life, but I can say that there have been years I could have easily done without the avalanche of hearts, flowers, candies and jewelry advertisements. I am at the stage of life when Valentine’s Day has become, once again, about those tiny little paper cards that kids hand out in school, an abundance of candy, family celebrations, cookie making, and whatnot. A good bottle of wine at home makes me a happy wife these days (although I would never turn down a nice bouquet of flowers…thanks, sweetie). All that to say, Valentine’s Day is something different to me now than it was when I was dating or even newly married. So I don’t feel as strongly about it on my own behalf – but for others, especially for many of the couples that I work with, I find it frustrating.
Keeping up with the Jones’ is running rampant these days, what with social media and the infinite times a day you can compare your life to someone else’s and reflect on how dramatically you are falling short. Valentine’s Day had that market cornered even before social medial came along. It’s like the godfather of comparative holidays! What did YOU do to express your love and affection to your special someone today? Was it big enough, original enough? Dramatic enough? Sincere enough? Publicized enough? It’s certainly hard enough, even when you are feeling happy and lovey-dovey in your relationship, to get this day right. Then, enter stage left, the couple that is not quite so happy right now. Things are on the rocks, life is stressful, you don’t have the time, energy, or even (if you’re being honest with yourself) the desire to express your affection to your “loved one” in a way that will illicit inspired oooos and aaahhhhs from anyone who hears about it. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. It’s failure waiting to happen.
I say throw in the towel.
There is no magic that makes Valentine’s Day the day to express your love to one another. Despite the insistence of marketing campaigns everywhere and store fronts from CVS to Whole Foods (I mean, even Google is in on the game with their insect love graphic this year…who knew earthworms were romantic??), there is no monopoly on expression of love on February 14th. So if today is not the right day…for whatever reason…reschedule. I hereby grant you 1 coupon for a Valentine’s Day Observed. The public school system does this all the time, by the way. Why celebrate on a day that’s inconvenient – instead, let’s reschedule it to a day that works for all of us! Brilliant. Take that pressure off of you and your relationship immediately. Make a handshake deal – “I love you (ahem, mostly), and am going to find another day to celebrate our love when it can be authentic instead of forced.” And then…agree with one another to stay off social media until the avalanche of hearts and sappy expressions of love has passed, dammit.
Any time we put pressure on a certain day or event to be just right, I think we set ourselves up for the possibility of failure or disappointment. We are bombarded constantly by well-edited versions of sanitized love and relationships. Or the really dramatic failures, if you’re looking in that direction. But the truth is that most of us live somewhere in the middle. We have good days, bad days, love-filled days and “I’m so angry I could literally set fire to his entire collection of (fill in the blank)” days. So if Valentine’s Day (or your anniversary or birthday or other special event) falls on one of those “I’m ready to hop in the car and not look back” days, then just reschedule it. It’s a lot easier to acknowledge you’ve thrown in the towel than to fake it and suffer the consequences.
“Honey, I think we need to celebrate an observed birthday/V-day/anniversary/etc. this year – we can discuss the new date on which we will celebrate when I like you/you like me again.”
I encourage you to adopt this attitude about life and your relationship – don’t celebrate things because you should, because Facebook or Instagram is showing you all the amazing, over the top displays of love that others have orchestrated. Celebrate because it’s authentic. Delay that dinner until the prix fixe menus are gone, buy those roses when they’re priced normally, surprise your loved one with affection on a day when they will actually be surprised, and when they will know it comes from the heart. Instead of from Hallmark.
PS – I would definitely suggest you talk with your partner before adopting this approach!! Otherwise you could end up on a whole heap of trouble. Just a thought.