According to Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day “ is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius
Wait a Moment: Is This a Test? This is the unspoken question spinning inside the cerebrum of many American males once February blows in. What is my track record to date? Can we just do pass or fail without grades. Can the grades be on a curve? How about an average grade over the last decade? Will I be martyred or finally reach sainthood? Some men are so “traumatized” by past VD failures that they have a shopping phobia.
The Woman’s Version of the Test: Am I sexy enough, desirable enough, interesting enough, to pass the Valentine’s Day gift test? Weight, youth, intelligence will all be measured by the size, cost, or content of the gift I am about to receive. If I were different, would this gift be what I secretly was hoping he would give me? Should I even be with this guy?
Anxiety Over Chocolates and Roses: Valentine’s Day raises a lot of fears in the hearts and minds of couples. The typical couple, a man and a woman, have culturally assigned roles to play in this ritual celebration. The man is the courtier, the suitor. The woman, the sought after, to be wooed. He needs to come up with something wonderful to woo with, and she has to be wonderfully deserving of wooing. A lot of pressure.
One Day Can Sink the Coupledom Vessel: Everyone knows that birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day are fraught with tension for many couples. Whatever the underlying strains may be, they tend to reach a “climax” of sorts (pun optional), during these events. The anticipated or dreaded day allows all the unspoken hurts, insults, and insecurities to come crashing down over whether the partner read the other’s mind in time to do just the right thing. Way too much weight placed on 12 hours in a year.
Why The High Stakes? Frequently a partner may see this holiday as an opportunity to be reassured of their partner’s love. Even trickier is the need for reassurance of one’s self worth, self esteem and self image struggles. ” If they really cared” is a refrain I have heard over and over. “If he/she really took the time to know me, they would have bought me this instead of that.” This is explosive material, handle carefully.
Here is Another Option: What if Valentine’s Day were a day to learn instead of test? To ask your partner how he/she would feel loved rather than measure how much they love you? Frankly, we really don’t know what love looks like or feels like to our partners and often to ourselves. We know what society has manufactured on this day to measure love and desire. But we fail to question ourselves or our “lovers” as to what truly feels loving.
A Worthwhile Valentine’s Day Test: What if tomorrow you and your partner decided to take and give a different sort of test? The test of listening and the test of hearing and the gift of being heard. As awkward as this suggestion may sound, take turns describing what feels loving to you and then listen to what feels loving to your partner. DO NOT BE WORRIED BY DIFFERENCE! Each person’s response is influenced by their background and their wiring. DO NOT TRIVIALIZE YOUR PARTNER’S ANSWERS. There will probably be quite a lot of difference and that is why you are having this conversation. To Learn How To Love And Feel Loved by Your Partner. Not To Change Them.
Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day to The Coupledom, that domicile in which your love for each other resides.
Postscript: I would be interested in hearing from same sex couples if their experience is similar or if the Hallmark Card cultural pressures are less, different or not at all.
©jill edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W