Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is not only here to stay, but just around the corner. While some couples see it as a chance to celebrate their love, others feel more cynical about it. There’s no right or wrong way to feel, but what’s important perhaps is that couples talk about it.
Having the Conversation (preferably before Valentine’s Day!)
This can be difficult if you have trouble speaking up for yourself or you’re a people pleaser. Wanting to make your partner happy can be an endearing quality but it can sometimes build resentments. Being clear about your wants and needs for Valentine’s Day can build intimacy between couples.
It can be tricky to navigate a conversation if one half of a love couple doesn’t want to celebrate and the other does, but listening to your partner and speaking from a feeling place, rather than a right or wrong place, can help this process.
What if you’re only just getting to know someone? Do you celebrate or don’t you? How do you know what the other is thinking? What will it mean if you do? Or don’t? This can feel like a lot of pressure and perhaps, raising the subject in a light way might help ‘So, what do you think, would you want to have dinner on Saturday?’. It’s not always easy and everyone’s expectations will be different.
Putting things into perspective
I’m not an expert on Valentine’s Day, but one thing’s for certain, regardless of what you do or don’t do on Valentine’s Day, and how things turn out, it is not a test of how much someone loves you. It may reflect some long term issues if they exist, but one celebration cannot determine the status of your relationship.
If you are a couple that decides to celebrate the day, then managing expectations might be useful. Some people are simply not good at, or aren’t comfortable with, picking presents or organising things. They might be anxious or material things might not matter that much to them, or perhaps they think they’ve organised the best day for you, and it falls short of what you were hoping for. A lot of the commercialism around Valentine’s Day appears to put the burden on men to get things right. This can put a lot of pressure on them. Male or female, ask yourself, does it matter if it’s not a surprise, or if you get a gift you don’t really like, or if the restaurant’s mediocre. Remember to practice gratitude with your partner. Valentine’s Day provides you with an opportunity to reconnect with your partner, not be critical (spoken or unspoken).
Remember, think ‘we’ not ‘me’
If, as a couple you do decide to celebrate Valentines Day, perhaps try using the day to build intimacy with your partner. Intimacy is built in small steps. For example, you might decide to chat during dinner instead of watching television, or you might send your partner a loving text or voice message letting them know you’re thinking about them. Try making a point of letting them know when you appreciate something they’ve done for you. For something different, you could try writing down and sharing what you like about each other, or put it in a card. Some people don’t find these things easy, so it will be important to talk to each other about what works and what doesn’t.
Single? Don’t Despair!
If being single on Valentine’s Day gets you down, organise to catch up with a few friends or treat yourself to something nice, like a massage or good movie, or buy yourself something, like flowers or the latest x-box game. Try not to spend too much time thinking about why you’re single or what it means. If you’re keen on someone, perhaps you can risk sending them a card, or making it anonymous. Or send one simply to make someone feel good.
Valentine’s Day can be filled with love or angst, and sometimes both. St Valentine apparently died for the sake of love on this day. Regardless of how you decide to spend it, make love a part of it.
If you are having problems navigating your relationship or building intimacy, talking to a psychologist can help.
Maria Scoda is a psychologist in Sydney CBD.
This post is an opinion piece and is for informational purposes only. It does not address people’s individual circumstances or needs and it is not a substitute for professional help. Please see a health care professional if you are struggling. External links have been provided for convenience. They are created and maintained by other organisations and I cannot control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information.