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I’m working on my review of Flirting with Ruin, but meanwhile it’s Valentine’s Day – and there is the usual litany of complaints. It’s too commercial, there’s too much pressure, it’s not easy being single, this couple stuff offends my happy single life, my partner never gives a thoughtful gift, you should love your partner every day and not just Valentine’s Day, and so on.

As a hopeless romantic, I cannot hate Valentine’s Day, but I don’t like the excesses of sentiment or spending either. Sure, you should express affection all the time, but there’s nothing wrong with having a day set aside to celebrate affection. Christians should be observant every day, but that does not stop them from celebrating Christmas. As to how you celebrate your affection, if expectations make the day uncomfortable or unhappy, I am sorry to say that there are bigger problems in your relationship than Valentine’s Day.

The most valuable gift anyone can ever give another person is time, but too often in our relationships we are together without being together. During courtship we may not see each other that often, but when we are together we have set aside time to focus on each other and have fun. Once living together or married, it becomes easy to be together without focusing on each other. Fun is forgotten. There are chores to do and children take a huge amount of work, leaving you too tired to do much else. Sometimes we need alone time. However, for the relationship to survive, you have to set aside time to focus on each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean date nights, which can consume so much time and money they become another source of stress, but getting out of the house can help. Just go for a walk together. Talk about what you see.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, don’t go out for dinner. The restaurants are impossibly crowded, so the food and service are not at their best and the atmosphere is hardly intimate. But do something together. Whatever you normally do as a sign of affection, just do a little bit more. Have fun. One playful man I know once gave his wife a kid’s Princess themed Valentine every day in February. Each day it was in a different place. Inexpensive, fun, and very loving.

If you are single, don’t begrudge the couples their fun. If you are happy being single, Valentine’s day shouldn’t bother you. Buy chocolates after they go on sale. If you are unhappy being single, Valentine’s Day can be both incentive and opportunity. One of the older traditions of Valentine’s Day was to send an anonymous note or gift to an object of affection. Go for it. Or flirt a little – Valentine’s Day, like travel, gives you the chance to try new things.

I’ve seen many Valentine’s Days, in good relationships, bad relationships, and on my own. Some were definitely better than others, but I’ve never been disappointed by a lover’s expression of affection. This year, I happen to be on my own, but that’s okay. The heroine is on her own at the beginning of romance novels, and we all know what comes next. I’m looking forward it. Meanwhile, I am marking Valentine’s Day with a donation to a local homeless shelter. It’s small, but allows couples, transgender people, and pets. Love takes many forms.

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