Valentine’s Day is upon us! It’s one of those over-hyped holidays that always makes me feel excited but when it actually arrives I’m almost certain to be let down. You get yourself all worked up imagining specifically how the day will unfold but when reality doesn’t match your ideal you feel disenchanted. New Year’s Eve fits into this category as well. These are holidays of expectation and disappointment instead of extra special times to have gratitude for the nice things we do for one another. I am working to retrain my mind to not create unrealistic expectations in my relationship but I still fall into this same habit sometimes.
Every time there is a holiday where I think I should be celebrated (sorry not sorry) I am looking to be surprised and fawned over and given really thoughtful gifts like flowers or something I mentioned once in passing that Dave should have known to make note of and then spring on me at the next special time. You guys. That is bullshit. Dave and I have been together for almost 10 years and I can think of one time off the top of my head when he has really, truly come through in this fantasy way I build up in my own mind: my birthday in 2009 when we had been together for just under a month. We have had so many incredible moments since then and there have been so many wonderful surprises between us, but somehow none of them seem to match the surprise and elation I felt when we got back to his apartment after dinner the night before my birthday and at midnight he surprised me with some grocery store bought cupcakes and flowers.
It stands out only because I had not set any expectations for our relationship. We hadn’t even “officially” decided to date exclusively yet. In retrospect, he could have done anything more than nothing and it would have delighted me because I hadn’t formulated any “shoulds” yet for our relationship. To tie this up neatly, Valentine’s Day is the holiday of a mother load of unmet expectations. I’m an actual mother so I can use that measurement (as in, a mother load full of ______) with some authority.
We assign unreasonably high importance to Valentine’s Day. Restaurants roll out their standardized prix fixe menus in anticipation of the flux of sweethearts just looking to do right by each other. Hallmark cranks out specialized cards for every kind of couple and exponentially overpriced flowers are pretty much standard operating procedure.
The one simple rule to having an exceptional Valentine’s Day is to leave your expectations home alone.
What if we cut out the expectations and STILL celebrated our love but in a way that authentically reflected our relationships and what actually brought us joy to do together? For many couples, dinner out or flowers or cards or candy in heart-shaped boxes might be just the ticket. I can tell you that for Dave and I, going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day is overrated even though we LOVE going out to eat (#nodishes). But on Valentine’s Day, the crowds are too much and the food is pre-made and even the most basic dishes have a romance upcharge. I do love heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates, though. In spite of their romance upcharge.
Are you reading this Dave?
Heart shaped box. Russell Stover. Chocolates.
If you want to have the perfect Valentine’s Day look to the activities that you enjoy together and then do those things.
I am vowing to myself, to Dave, and to all of you to check my expectations at the door. I will not let a fantasy in my head dictate how much appreciation and delight I get out of the day. And if I want something specific from Dave I will tell him to give us both a chance for success.
This year I’ve done just that and I’m actually excited for it this Valentine’s Day! I plan on raiding my stash of love cards that I have previously hand selected (read: hoarded) for Dave and writing him a love note. And as much I love Russell Stover Chocolates, the way to Dave’s heart is through cookies and peanut butter cups so Harvey and I are going to make my mom’s sugar cookies. I’ve got heart and star cookie cutter shapes ready to go along with the necessary red and pink sugar crystals to go on top. Harvey wants to have a “Bouncin’ times” party so when Dave gets home we are going to have a sweet little gathering complete with a Harvey-friendly dinner of chicken nuggets and roasted broccoli to eliminate dinner time battles. After Dave gets Harvey to bed (Praise.) it’s time for a board game, one of our special cheese and charcuterie plates, and our favorite wine from our honeymoon in Italy.
What makes it most special is that it reflects happy parts of the life we have built together on the foundation of the love and friendship we share. Fancy clothes and an expensive dinner just aren’t our style but it’s ok if they are yours. My cousin and her boyfriend just went on a skydiving expedition as an early Valentine’s Day celebration while they were on vacation and I think that is about the coolest way to celebrate and perfect for them, but I still prefer our quiet night in for us. You will know when you are on the right track to the perfect plan for your own relationship when what you’re planning makes you feel excited anticipation and joy instead of nervousness about crowds or something like what to wear.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you and your sweetheart or your family have any special traditions you follow? What are you doing this year? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below!