This time of year I’ll hear people say, “I don’t want flowers or candy on Valentine's Day. I just want someone to show me they love me every single day.”
Well, I am not one of those people. Of course I want to be shown love every day of the year, we all do. However. When it comes to Valentine's Day, I. Want. It. All. All of it. The flowers, the chocolate, the ridiculously cheesy teddy bear holding a red heart, all of it. I want a giant heart balloon tied to a unicorn. All. Of. It. Does that make me a spoiled brat? Yes. It certainly does. On Valentine's Day it does. I’ll own that title alllll day long.
This is because my parents made a big deal out of Valentine's Day. They showed my brothers and I love every day of the year, I was very lucky to have that. We didn't have much money. So on holidays, they wanted us to feel celebrated and special in ways they couldn’t show us every day. On Valentine's Day, they really just went for it. We’d wake up to a pretty pink and red table set with a box of chocolates, sometimes a little gift, and something extra special for breakfast, like pancakes as opposed to our normal cereal or toast. We’d get flowers. There would be pink and purple hearts. We always got coffee on Valentine's Day too. It was all so fancy and special and wonderful. We felt so incredibly loved and adored.
Needless to say, this created an expectation in me. I honestly assumed everyone did this sort of thing for Valentine's Day. So of course, these expectations were then projected on my husband.
As a dating couple, he and I would usually go out for a Valentine's Date. He would typically get me a gift, like a necklace. It wasn’t much compared to what my parents did, but I never complained because at home my house was brimming with Valentine's excess.
Fast forward to the first Valentine's Day as a married couple. I was a student, and he an apprentice. We didn't have money to spare. Still, with all of my Valentine's expectations brewing, I woke up, expecting a beautiful display of red and pink to be awaiting me in the kitchen of our very tiny little student apartment.
What did I come out to? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Disappointed, I told myself, “Well, he must have some sort of surprised prepared for me later.” We parted for the day to do our normal work and activities. When I came home, a red envelope was sitting on the table. “Oh boy,” I thought, “Here it is!” I opened the envelope to find a regular Hallmark card and a small, handwritten message: “Happy Valentine's Day…I love you”.
Um. Excuse me? A card? That’s IT? I was shocked. How on EARTH was this Valentine's Day? This wasn’t supposed to happen! Where were the flowers, the chocolates, the pretty necklaces? Where was the SPECIAL?
As you would expect, I got the typical response. “I love you every day so why do I have to have some holiday to show it?”
Well, lets just say a good old fashioned argument ensued.
Here was the problem though. It wasn’t his fault. I had never communicated to him that this day was something very, very special to me. I had never described to him the expectations that I had unfairly placed on him in my imagination. And let’s be honest, they were very high out of the ordinary expectations! He didn’t realize that this day was SO special to me, because, like many other people, it wasn’t a big deal to him. How would he know I expected a table of hearts awaiting me in the morning? I had never told him about it. He had not purposely tried to hurt my feelings, he just didn’t know.
We do this often in our relationships. We come to each other with expectations and assumptions. But if we do not communicate, if we don’t share these things, all we end up with is disappointment. We must come to one another, first of all, with realistic expectations. We must communicate them. And we must, if needed, adjust.
I have a beloved, hard working, amazing husband who is not a natural romantic. He shows his love to me in different ways than my parents did. And he does so beautifully. Knowing now how important this day was to me growing up, he has stepped up the Valentine's game. He isn’t as good at it as my parents were, but guess what? I don’t expect him to be! Why? Because he communicated to me that he is not very good at this sort of thing. And I am ok with that! We met in the middle. I take time to put out the pizazz for our family on Valentine's Day, like my parents did, and he makes sure to get me flowers and all the ridiculous things nobody should ever have to buy a grown woman.
This Valentine's Day, communicate your expectations with your partner. Let them know why your traditions are important to you. Learn to let go of some things. Learn to start new traditions.
There is no greater gift you can give one another than the gift of clear and open communication. But, of course, if your partner is like me, don’t forget to get flowers, too!
Healthy Relationships Iowa has free workshops to help you grow in your communications skills with your partner. You’ll get tools to help you. Check out what we have coming up and register today!