VALENTINE’S DAY AND GREAT EXPECTATIONS
The History Channel online page tells us that Valentine’s Day was the probable result of the Catholic Church trying to “Christianize” a Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, that occurred in February. It is not clear which St. Valentine the day is named for, since there are at least three St. Valentines recognized by the Church. One of them was a priest who defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II to stop performing marriages. Claudius II believed that single young men made better soldiers for Rome, but Valentine was soft-hearted and married the young couples in secret, for which he was eventually executed. There is a legend that says he fell in love with the daughter of his jailor, who used to visit him in jail, and before he died he wrote her a love letter signed “From your Valentine”. This goes to show that some men are very romantic. Still, it has been my experience that women are more likely to have higher expectations for romance on Valentines Day than men. It is a statistic of the Greeting Card Association that Valentines Day cards are the second most popular cards purchased in America (after Christmas) and that women buy 80% of all cards.
It is probably social conditioning and advertising that suggest to us that, as women, we should expect our romantic partners to sweep us off our feet on February 14th with gifts of diamonds and chocolates and red roses, and if this doesn’t happen it is a sign that our partners either a) don’t love us, or b) don’t love us enough to show their love in the way we want them to do so. How many commercials on TV and online show a perfectly-coifed, handsome young man on bended knee presenting his beloved with a diamond encrusted ring or bracelet, and her responding with a gasp and tears and her hand on her heart. What a surprise! What a romantic show of love! How perfect! I hope all of us have that experience at least once in our lives, but to expect that level of romance every Valentine’s Day and every anniversary…well, it’s just a little ambitious.
The reality is that romance waxes and wanes in a long relationship, and there are times when our partners may love us dearly with their whole hearts but may not be able to show us in the way that we want or expect. For instance, there are many ways to show your love for someone, and my way of showing my partner I love him may be very different than the way he thinks love should be shown. If you are familiar with The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, the best-selling book by Gary Chapman, you know that there are different ways to show love. Chapman describes five ways:
1) Words of Affirmation…unsolicited compliments, words of support and encouragement, words that say “I love you” in many and various tender ways.
2) Quality Time…giving your partner your full and undivided attention, being there, spending time together without distractions.
3) Receiving Gifts…for some people this is very important, and it’s not about materialism or the cost of the gift, but rather the thought put into choosing it, showing that you really know what your partner likes, and you are willing to go out of your way to find the perfect gift.
4) Acts of Service…doing little chores, sharing responsibilities, taking the burden off the loved one—that’s what this one is about. It is saying, “Here, let me do that for you.”
5) Physical Touch…being close, giving hugs, holding hands, tenderly touching arm, shoulder, face—these are signs of affection that really matter, not only in intimate moments but all the time. Neglecting to do this will cause real pain in a partner for whom physical touch is prime.
So the point is there are MANY ways to show love, and all of us have our own expectations of what we want from our partners and our own styles of demonstrating our love for our beloved. If you are trying hard to show love for your partner, but it seems it is never enough, your partner never seems satisfied, or somehow you always seem to fall short (you will know by the complaints and the loud sighs), maybe it is time to reassess the way you are showing your love. Consider the five love languages described above. Which style of expression does your partner prefer? Here’s a clue: how does your partner express love for YOU? If Words of Affirmation are important to your partner, then it might be wise for you to start using that love language too. Time to use your imagination and try some new ways of saying, “I love you”.