The Pressure of Valentine’s Day

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

The Pressure of Valentine's DayIt started as soon as the Christmas decorations came down. Valentines and those heart-shaped boxes of chocolates appeared in stores, and ads for jewelry began running on TV.

The pressure is on. If you are partnered, you’re supposed to make a big deal of February 14. If you’re happily (or unhappily) single, you’re not off the hook. There are cards to send to your parents and siblings and best friend and even your dog. There’s no way around it. It’s in the atmosphere. If you don’t buy something red and heart-shaped for someone, you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings and contribute to the fall of the economy. You’d best get busy buying.

Make no mistake — Valentine’s Day is big business. According to CNN, Valentine’s Day sales will reach $18.6 billion this year. People will spend an average of $130.97 per person. (Remember: That’s an average. Some people will spend much more; others much less.) 145 million Valentine cards will be sold. $4.4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold and silver. That’s a lot of peer pressure.

Yes. It’s wonderful to have one day a year set aside to celebrate love, to do something special for those we most cherish and to feel cherished by someone who cares enough to send the very best. But what’s good for the cash registers in card, candy and gift stores isn’t necessarily good for a relationship. Expectations for the day, and pressure to be more in love, more romantic or further along in a relationship than they are can derail a couple’s relationship, not enhance it. How can you and your sweetheart get through February 14 with your wallet and your relationship intact?

1. Make sure you are on the same page about what you expect.

We are as happy or as disappointed as our reality matches our expectations. If she expects jewelry and he turns up with a box of chocolates, she’ll feel let down. Ditto if he expects she’ll make a fancy dinner and she suggests takeout.

Furthermore, surprises aren’t always as successful as we’d like them to be. They can be overwhelming or out of step with the other person’s idea of the stage of the relationship. If he shows up with diamonds when she thinks they are only at the card stage, both will be embarrassed and uncomfortable. It’s equally true if she puts on a fancy dinner and he shows up in sweatpants and without having shaved. To prevent the heartbreak of disappointment or a serious misstep on what is supposed to be the day of love, have a clear conversation ahead of time about what you would both feel is appropriate to honor the day.

2. Match your expectations to the stage of the relationship.

The card companies and the jewelry stores would like us all to do the day up big. But a relationship that has just begun is different than a relationship that is in full bloom, and that is different than longtime married love. Please go back to no. 1. Do you both have the same idea of how the stage of your relationship should be celebrated?

3. Match your expectations to your budget.

Love isn’t measured in dollars. It’s measured in thoughtfulness, tenderness, and a bit of romance. One special flower can mean as much as two dozen long-stemmed roses. One perfect chocolate from the chocolate store can be just as special as a heart-shaped box. If you both want a big, expensive night on the town and can afford it, well, why not? But if either one of you would find that embarrassing, wasteful, or overwhelming, maybe you should rethink the idea.

4. Don’t expect your partner to be different just because it is Valentine’s Day.

Shows like The Bachelor and store displays seem to imply that everyone believes that romance means hearts and flowers and mushy romance on February 14. Some people simply aren’t romantic that way. Some people even manage to forget, despite all the store displays, that February 14 is Valentine’s Day.

If you’re with someone who just doesn’t get it – and especially if you do – it’s not necessarily personal. It may be that your guy or gal is preoccupied, has bad memories associated with the day, or doesn’t philosophically go along with a holiday that was made big by the card companies. To prevent hard feelings or a fight, please take care of yourself and go back to no. 1. (P.S.: If “forgetting” the day is personal, do take care of yourself and rethink the relationship.)

5. Don’t, don’t, don’t propose on Valentine’s Day unless you are absolutely sure of a “yes.”

If you get a “no,” or even an “I’ll think about it,” every Valentine’s Day for the rest of your life will be clouded by the memory of hurt and disappointment. (Have I mentioned that you should go back to no. 1?)

6. Focus on the love, not the “shoulds” that are in the cultural atmosphere.

There are lots of ways that people show their love. Some people are creative and capable of flamboyant surprises. Others are quieter and express their affection in simpler ways. There’s no right way to observe Valentine’s Day. There’s no right way to show love. Back to no. 1.

What matters on February 14, and indeed every day of your relationship, is that you feel loved, respected, cherished and cared about by someone whom you love, respect, cherish and care about. So talk it over with your beloved. Make something happen – together – that is as personal and loving as your relationship.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2014). The Pressure of Valentine’s Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-pressure-of-valentines-day/00018834
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Feb 2014
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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