Here’s an exchange you’ll hear almost every year in our house around the first week of February:
Sabrina: “Valentine’s Day!”
Eric: “Is it coming again?”
Yes, it’s already that time of year again. And we understand: Some people really look forward to Valentine’s Day. Others do not.
Personally, I (Sabrina) love making cookies with my grandkids. And when my own kids were little, I’d host a tea party with all of them, pulling out all the china and crystal. The day is full of sweet memories for me.
And for a lot of us, it can be a fun day to honor your relationships — all of them, not just the one you share with your partner.
Granted, much of the pomp and circumstance surrounding Valentine’s Day is drilled into us from grade school — and Hallmark. A lot of people ask, “Why treat just one day as special? This should be something we do all the time!”
But I also think there is an importance to doing something and making a gesture that shows your person/people that they are really important to you. I love every opportunity to do that.
Eric, on the other hand, can empathize with those who have a trickier relationship with the holiday. He admits that, “Sometimes, the pressure of getting out of your routine, figuring out what to get for a gift, deciding where to go for your spouse — it can feel a bit daunting. I love doing it, but many times, I don’t plan ahead far enough or feel financially equipped to pull it off like I’d like to (and it’s particularly hard when I have the desire to but don’t feel like I have the means).”
Celebrating holidays (and other special occasions) can be a ritual of connection which is one of the ways we create shared meaning. But often, we don’t actually discuss with our partner the way in which we want to share the holiday.
Just a few weeks ago, Eric and I missed an opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and it led to me feeling really lonely. Eric felt bad about it. After the fact, we realized we hadn’t discussed making plans ahead of time. We each had unspoken, unmet expectations. It led to some great disappointment and, if I’m honest, some chill in our relationship for a few days — until we came out and discussed it.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve was a potential ritual of connection that we hadn’t discussed in 40 years. Because we assume. I take care of Christmas; New Year’s Eve is always an afterthought, and we didn’t do anything. Eric didn’t know that I wanted to do something this year. It was a miscommunication and a missed opportunity.
Let that be a gentle little lesson for you: though it may seem trivial, Valentine’s Day needs to be a discussion. What are your expectations? Who will do what? Or is it a holiday you’ll both let pass by because it doesn’t hold much meaning for either of you? Whatever the case, you and your partner owe it to one another to be on the same page about it.
So Happy Valentine’s Day! Or not! Wherever you land on the holiday, consider creating some shared meaning with a ritual of connection, whatever that looks like for you.