Oh boy, it’s only a month and some days into the new year and I’m already stirring it up. Before you begin a social media campaign to cancel me for saying something so controversial, hear me out. I think I can present a clear and vigorous case as to why I have every right to hate Valentine’s Day and maybe even convince you to hate it as well!
It’s not that I hate love, romance, or even super cute-sy couples. I actually LOVE all of those things (okay, sometimes the cutesy couples are annoying…) But I am a happily married woman who landed the dream guy that I believe God hand-picked for me.
So why all the hate?
What I hate is a day that seems to undermine real love by propping up a confectionary, counterfeit imitation of it. To offer a comparison, the Valentine’s Day commercialized version of love… is to true love as… Hot Pockets are to food. I don’t know about you, but I outgrew the allure of Hot Pockets with the passing of adolescence. I may snarf one down in a pinch, but it’s no gourmet meal that I look forward to. It’s hardly satisfying.
The card companies, and any other companies that can earn a buck, are hocking everything in sight to incentivize boyfriends and husbands to spend, spend, spend on Valentine’s Day. In fact, it’s almost considered obligatory. You can’t go into a grocery store without tripping on displays of bedazzled heart cakes, giant balloon bouquets, and over-sized candy bars. The men in our lives buy anything and everything wrapped in red cellophane, rush home and hand it to us, because well... that’s what they’re supposed to do. And we are conditioned to expect it. Nothing says love like red cellophane! Yet, it’s all so… underwhelming.
When I was in college, a young man tried to convince me to go on a date with him. He bought me a little teddy bear and a red carnation and left them outside my door. I was horrified. I hadn’t touched a stuffed animal in a decade. If he had cared to take the time to know me, he may have sensed that about me pretty quickly. Needless to say, I was flattered by his gifts, but the date never happened. When I think back on my 15 years of marriage, it certainly consists of romantic get-aways, dates, and treasured time curled up on the couch together. While it may have included some pink tissue paper, or heart-shaped candles from time to time, I don’t really remember any of that. I remember the time he loved me through my father’s death. How he felt that shock of pain right along with me. His little daily action of bringing me coffee in the mornings before I can even open my eyes—that, I treasure. The times he walked with a crying infant in the middle of the night because he wanted me to get rest—that is love, folks! The material memories lasted as long as the tissue paper they were surrounded in. But the acts of true love are seared into my heart.
I object to the consumeristic idea of love that dictates how a spouse is supposed to express his/her affection. According to commercials and ads, it’s about the grand gesture—a dozen roses sent to someone’s work, reservations at an expensive restaurant, champagne and exotic chocolate, or dazzling earrings. There is nothing wrong with any of those things on their own, but it all seems so contrived and lacking in spontaneity. Romantic moments are important, but what really makes romance and stirs love?
For me it’s not the forced grand gestures that our society deems romantic. Those may shimmer and shine and be as accessible as the nearest jewelry store, but they don’t really represent all that love is. Instead, I think love is best expressed by the little daily choices and spontaneous actions we make as couples who have dedicated our lives to one another.
It’s listening to a loved one when you don’t have a moment to spare.
It’s encouraging your spouse when you’re mad or disgruntled about something else. “He left the milk out again?!”
It’s anticipating a need and helping when it’s not convenient. It’s choosing to forgive when we’re dead set against it.
And it’s seeking out time on a hectic day to be together—ALONE.
Before kids, the hubs and I had plenty of time alone to express our affection and love, but since expanding our family, those times are harder to find. What I’ve come to realize though is it’s in the little day-to-day acts of love that touch my heart most profoundly. Forget the flowers, I love my husband because he does the dishes without being asked. I most appreciate the little actions and gestures which signal to me that I’m his special person. Those don’t come from mass-produced cards or gifts. I’m grateful that my kids are learning from the two of us that love isn’t about confetti and candy. It’s about a shared inside joke, dirty diapers & dirty dishes, when he places his hand on mine on a family car trip, seeing the best in one another, and choosing (and not always succeeding) to place the other above all other worldly distractions.
This is certainly not meant to shame those of you who absolutely love the roses and champagne. Those are beautiful things, for sure, and I am happy to accept those when they’re in front of me. I’m open to a “both and” approach to balloons & true love. But as we approach our spouses this Valentine’s Day, let’s challenge one another to remember that love is not a feeling. Feelings are fleeting and easily changed. True love is an enduring choice and the repeated action of putting someone else first, especially above self. It’s the not-so-glamorous moments shared together as a united front. While a lavender & pink iced cookie cake sure is cute, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real, mature love I feel for the man who thinks I’m beautiful even on my worst hair days.
So, I will refrain from wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. But I will offer you a hearty HAPPY TRUE LOVE DAY!