Valentine’s Day and The Coupledom: Is This a Test?

According to Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day “ is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.[1][4] 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

7 Responses to “Valentine’s Day and The Coupledom: Is This a Test?”

  1. Walter Donway

    I identify with what Jill writes, here. In my early days of courting my wife, Robin, every holiday presented its test. Fortunately, I worked right next door to Tiffany’s, on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, so the test could be met by spending money. The same with Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. Now, in retirement, I face two new complications to Valentine’s Day. First, I have less money and feel less able to buy my way out of the Valentine’s Day test. Second, as Robin and I get older, there is less intensity of romance in the sense of seduction, wooing, winning. Almost by implicit mutual consent, Robin and I started downplaying holiday gift giving: I won’t show you mine, and you don’t show me yours. But that doesn’t work, for me, because my romantic feelings are there, my erotic urges are there, and I remember the Christmas that my father gave my mother a new vacuum cleaner and she seemed so pleased. Enough to make an old atheist cross himself. In one sense, the “test” seems less urgent; Robin’s expectations seem lower. I can’t accept that. Each year, she has done more, and meant more, to me, not less. At any rate, this little account has no climax and denouncement. Let me end by saying that, yesterday, I told Robin I wanted to treat her to a massage for Valentine’s Day. She tweaked this offer, saying: “Why not a facial? And, at the same time, you an get a massage, at the same place.” And she said: “You pay for my facial, I pay for your massage.” We seem very contented with this arrangement. Of course, I am taking her out to dinner in Bridgehampton on Valentine’s eve. “And you can pay for that,” she said. I’m still the man.

    I think that Jill’s analysis of the way couples set up a test, and, even more dangerous, tie the test to self-esteem, is right on. The irony is that this pressing and threatening test isn’t even testing anything of importance. It challenges the lover to “prove” his love, his caring. The genuine challenge, and the test, is to understand what “love” means to your lover–and to accept that this is not what love means to you. “Truth is a jewel of many facets.” Happy Valentine’s Day.

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Robin and Walter,

      The true caring comes through in the “arrangements” to meet both your needs with pragmatics, economics and a dip into sensuality as well. True love! Happy Valentine’s Day to two of my dearest friends in all the universe.

  2. Mickey Harpaz

    My Dearest friend:

    One more option as a genuine “test”.
    How about celebrating Valentine’s Day throughout the year with no stress of time or a specific date on the calander.. Try that for the next year and find your love and relationship flourishing..
    “Happy Valentine’s Year”

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Dr. Mickey,

      Yes, every day offers the opporunity to listen and be heard, the true giflt of love.

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your Love.



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