Let’s be honest.
When was the last time you had a great Valentine’s Day? Think about it. Right. The reality is that February 14th has morphed into a day where a dominant partner’s (often the man) value for the significant other is quantified by how much disposable income or accessible credit, he/she is willing to use to fulfill some rom-com, “perfect date” scenario.
Thanks to strategically placed ads, countless movies and chart-topping music lyrics, many folks have bought into the notion that Valentine’s Day requires one-sided doting—even though in real life it’s not a winning formula. After V-day, one partner often feels financially ravaged, the other underwhelmed, and both are wondering, “how can this really be love?” It isn’t.
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The reality is that both partners will experience increased satisfaction if romantic love (flowers, sexy clothes, back rubs), healthy relationship rituals (talking, texting, eating meals together, weekly/monthly date nights, sex, etc.) and healthy relationship habits (shared chores, effective communication, honesty) were meted out consistently. That way neither party feels the need to overcompensate, or over request, to make things “feel right” on Valentine’s Day, aka the great equalizer.
Love does cost a thing. It requires loyalty. It requires selflessness. It requires vulnerability. You can’t order any of that stuff online. More important, even if you do purchase all of the right items it doesn’t always result in a person feeling loved. The way our society celebrates Valentine’s Day is bubbled wrapped in patriarchy. We all know the script: Men, who may do very little to show their affection, consideration, or simply dote on their partners all year long are expected to execute a romantic feat largely absent from their day-to-day, week-to-week relationship maintenance rituals. Women, who aren’t encouraged to advocate to consistently receive romantic nurturing, then wait anxiously and expectantly to be wooed—but only on this day. How can we make it better?
A much healthier approach is to look at V-Day as 24-hours of joint celebration of love—but this only feels good if the relationship is, well actually good and Valentine worthy. Let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean that a partner who feels undervalued should take charge of the day and add it to a list of ways they are nurturing their mate. This does mean that love, and being loving, can be more effective when communication is involved, biases are minimized and there is some level of parity. Discussing the day together and removing the weight of a big reveal allows both partners to have a more fulfilling experience and meet each other’s fantasies. It also shifts the energy towards creating a great relationship, not just a day—and isn’t that the true win?
Tired of V-Days that come up short? Re-evaluate your relationship rituals and then consider being a full partner in your love life.
Here are some reasons and ways to effectively co-plan Valentine’s Day with a solid partner.
Re-Think The Wait
Partners shouldn’t be given a pass to wait until a holiday or special occasion to dote on a loved one. If you like flowers, express and expect that; if you like happy hour dates on Fridays, make it part of the routine. Healthy relationships include rituals that ensure both partners feel loved and appreciated regularly.
Take Control of Your Fantasies
It’s unfair to expect your partner to anticipate and deliver on your desires—it’s also a surefire way to be disappointed. Communicating your wishes to your significant other and listening to their desires, allows an exchange of ideas, understanding of wants and needs, and the creation of an action plan that leads to more fulfilling results.
Sharing is Caring
The best way to ensure your partner shows up and out for you on holidays—and all days— is to divide and conquer the responsibility. Whether it’s taking turns holding the reins (ex. one year you plan, then switch), splitting the day with surprises for both parties, or completely planning together, the goal is to make it clear that this is a way to show you love and appreciate each other. It takes the weight off of one party trying to please or impress the other, and shifts the energy to having fun giving and receiving love.
S. Tia Brown is a journalist and licensed therapist. Follow her on IG @tiabrowntalks.