What do we expect out of Valentine’s?

Once during school, a boy I liked a lot gave me a handmade Valentine’s card. My reaction? I was absolutely devastated. Let me explain. There on the elegantly shaped pink construction-paper heart, neatly printed in perfectly spaced handwriting, was a beautiful verse about love. Sounds good, but wait. It was a scripture verse about God’s love– not romantic verse about the boy’s devotion to me.

In my youthful way of reading between the lines with absolute confidence in my own conclusions, I decided to my horror that such a card could only mean one thing. Clearly this boy wanted me to know that he only likes me as a friend, does not return my fragile affections, and is letting me down gently by reminding me that at least God still loves me (God, not him).

I tried not to let my disappointment show. Heartbroken, I thanked him for the card and quietly, dutifully forced myself to stop paying attention to him– in painful compliance with his plainly-expressed wishes, or so I believed.

In retrospect, I may have taken that wrong. Probably I blew it with a really nice guy who risked a handmade card only to find me inexplicably ignoring him afterwards and we both drew our own conclusions. Not exactly a storybook ending.

istock_girlholdingvalentineI’ve grown up a bit since then, but I’m still aware that we attach a lot of expectations to Valentine’s Day. If things don’t turn out like we imagined, all that pink and red can give us a severe case of the blues.

What we want

What do people want out of Valentine’s Day? Well, diamonds and cell phones if you believe the ads, and of course gifts are nice. Underneath all that we want to be appreciated, to be loved. Valentine’s gives us occasion to let people know that they are loved and appreciated. That is a good thing.

A couple of years ago, Rebecca Ryskind Teti asked women readers of her blog (www.faithandfamilylive.com) about their hopes for Valentine’s Day. She said that most of them mentioned simple pleasures, “a card, a little chocolate, perhaps a single rose. Some were hoping for an opportunity to dress up a little and go out; others were hoping for a quiet evening in.”

Based on women’s responses, Teti shares some insight about what women want.

“What all the married women who responded were hoping for was concentrated time with their husbands….to break the daily routine of chores and obligations and just be able to enjoy each other’s company for awhile.”

“…[O]ne of the best things a husband can do for his wife is give a little assurance now and then that she is still beautiful in his eyes: in spite of wrinkles, stretch marks, perhaps the weight gain that can come with bearing children, cooking for them, and taking more care of others than oneself.”

“That’s the real meaning of a romantic gesture for most wives, I think: It’s a sign she is appreciated not just as cook and chauffer and governess and maid, but as wife,” writes Teti.

Feeling appreciated, loved and valued is people’s real hope on Valentine’s Day. This comes in the form of words, kind gestures, gifts, or time and attention. We can feel disappointed if it doesn’t come in the form we hoped –much as I did with that sweet handmade Valentine card that I probably took completely wrong.

We can try to moderate our expectations so that we aren’t disappointed. Or, if there’s something we have our hearts set on this Valentine’s Day, we can help it to happen. Want to go out to dinner together? Make the reservation and tell them it’s planned. Want a card, chocolates, a rose or a batch of those oatmeal cookies he bakes? Hinting is okay. Want some words of appreciation? Suggest, “Let’s plan to each say a few kind words about each other.”

 Alone on Valentine’s?

What if you are un-coupled on Valentine’s Day? A day that focuses on romantic love can heighten feelings of loneliness. However, with a little planning you can make it a day that’s still about appreciation and being valued.

  • Single women friends might plan a nice dinner out. A recent television episode featured “Gal-entines Day”-a fun dinner out with just the gals. Adding to that, why not build each other up, telling each person some things you value about them? We all want appreciation and recognition.
  • Or, think of some things you personally love and arrange to spend time doing them on Valentine’s Day. This transforms a day that might feel lonely into a day of things to look forward to. Treat yourself as well as you would want another to treat you. We don’t have to wait for someone else to do nice things for us.
  • For those who are grieving, it might seem right to do something positive to honor the memory of a lost loved one, and to plan something with others so you won’t be alone too long on a difficult day.
  • Many make it a day to remember those who may not otherwise be remembered, by taking cards or sharing a visit.
  • If Valentine’s Day brings you feelings of loneliness or loss, you may want to work through it with a caring counselor who can help you heal.

We all want to be valued and appreciated, and we each have the capacity to show our heartfelt love and esteem for others. 

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Working at the intersection of faith & everyday life, Ami Hudson, M.Div. offers sessions for individuals & couples, workshops, speaking & retreats through her office at Halifax, Va. Find her online at www.AmiHudson.com

Written for The South Boston News & Record and The Mecklenburg Sun, 2/8/12 and 2/9/12.

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