The Valentine’s Day Dilemma

Let the caring counselors at the OC Relationship Center help you keep your hearts connected.

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. ~ Judy Garland

Valentine’s Day: Love it or hate it, you can’t avoid it. It seems the moment stores put away their Christmas merchandise, it’s replaced by aisles of Valentine cards, chocolate and heart-festooned teddy bears. Your email stuffed with reminders from your local florist urging you to get your order in early. Even kids are expected to pick up one of those ubiquitous boxes of cheap Valentines to exchange with their classmates while munching on pink-frosted cookies. The indoctrination begins early!

Maybe It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Of course, crass commercialization is a common complaint about all the holidays we observe. The sense that we need to buy something in order to properly celebrate always seems to overtake the original spirit of the holiday. Valentine’s Day is a perfect example.

It’s problematic on a few other levels, as well. For one, it’s hugely annoying—if not downright offensive—to single people, who are likely to feel left out in the cold when they stop by the market on February 14 for a few groceries and find themselves confronted by dozens of procrastinators queued up in the check-out aisle clutching last-minute rose bouquets.  Moreover, is it really any more exciting for those bouquet-bearing men (and women)? When you’re buying or receiving a gift that seems mostly to serve as fulfilling an obligation that is advertised in every store window, it’s just not as special as an affectionate gesture that comes when least expected.

It’s the Thought That Counts

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with following what can be, after all, a fun tradition of presenting a romantic gift to your partner on February 14. However, for sheer spontaneity and reminding your partner how much they mean to you, remember that Valentine’s Day comes but once a year, while thoughtful gifts, gestures and words have nothing to do with a date on the calendar.

In fact, no matter how many gifts we give to commemorate holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, I still think the “just because” gestures are by far the best. They never have to be grand or expensive—just thoughtful.

For instance:

  • ŸMake a mental note when your partner mentions a book they’re dying to read, and surprising them with it the next day.
  • ŸIf there’s something they enjoy collecting, make a point of looking for something to add to the collection whenever you’re out of town.
  • ŸWhen their favorite team wins a big game, surprise them with a commemorative t-shirt.
  • ŸBe creative. I knew a wife whose husband never stopped rooting for his college teams in spite of the fact that they were perennial losers in almost every sport they played. Yet if you asked him what his favorite gift from his wife has been, he’ll tell you that it was the team flag she gave him one year as a show of solidarity.

These gestures not only show that you’re always thinking of your partner but that you know them better than almost anyone. It shows that whatever small effort you made, you made it without any prompting at all.

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