February 14, 2012
by Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT
Founding Director LifeSTAR of St. George, UT
I don’t know if there is another holiday in our calendar year that creates the types of polarized responses I see during the week leading up to Valentines Day. Comments range from “It’s fun to celebrate love and relationships” to “It forces men to either be romantic or look like jerks.” Valentine’s Day is a loaded holiday, to say the least.
Truth be told, I’ve had my own mixed reactions about this holiday. There were years where I resisted celebrating Valentine’s Day for a variety of reasons. However, over the last few years I’ve made peace with February 14th and resolved that I’m not going to turn down any chance to celebrate my relationship with my wife.
I think the cultural expectation to do something over-the-top romantic often creates so much pressure for couples that they end up shrugging off Valentine’s Day. While I certainly wouldn’t set limits on how far a couple can go to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I will encourage you to at least do something in your own personal way to acknowledge the important relationships in your life.
Most individuals in long-term relationships can remember when romance came naturally, especially in the early years. Living in a committed long-term relationship isn’t easy and romance is usually one of the first things to go. However, I don’t believe that Hollywood’s version of romance needs to be the only marker of a good relationship. I bet there are plenty of little indicators in your relationship that show how much you both care for each other.
Nancy Shulins, in her book “Every Day I Love You More”, shared a great example of the transition from early romance to long-term romance. She talked about how her husband’s love notes from their dating years in 1985 are some of her most treasured possessions.
She continues: “There are three letters in all, enough to last me a lifetime—a good thing, considering he hasn’t written one since. In all fairness, though, that’s not entirely true. It’s not that husbands stop writing love letters, it’s that they tend to look somewhat different from the kind that boyfriends write.
Take one I found on the table last week: ‘Hon: Please be very careful driving to the barn. The roads could be slippery. Me.’
Or how about this one, penned in green on the back of a Chinese menu left by the phone: ‘Started the laundry and took videos back. Here’s some $$$. Don’t worry about dinner. I’ll pick something up.’
They don’t have quite the same ring as ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…’
On the other hand, when you come right down to it, aren’t they basically saying the same thing?”
While there is nothing wrong with pulling out the stops by showering your partner with roses, fancy food, and gifts on Valentine’s Day, there is also great power in affirming the ways in which you are there for your partner. When we let our partner know that we hear them, we see them, and reassure them that we’re committed to them (and we back it up with our actions, of course), it creates a deep security that outlasts any other gift.
You can write these thoughts in a note, block out time for your partner and offer to do something they love, or share your feelings for them face to face over dinner. When it really comes down to it, it’s just the two of you reaffirming your commitment and love to one another. No large-scale production needed.
Robert Karen said it best: “In love, you don’t need to be rich, or smart, or talented. You just have to be there.”