The first Valentine’s Day my wife and I shared as a married couple wasn’t exactly the romantic interlude we had anticipated. Since we didn’t have much money, she planned to pick up some takeout on the way home from work, and I intended to clean our small apartment to surprise her. But when I got home, I found a bigger mess than I expected. Our two dogs had gotten into a large bag of chocolates, and our floors were covered with diarrhea.
When my wife arrived home, I ran outside to prepare her for what she’d encounter inside. But before I could open my mouth, she blurted out that she had ruined our evening. She’d hit a pothole driving home, and our dinner had toppled onto the car’s floorboard. Between the doggy doo and the ruined food, our first Valentine’s Day was a total disaster.
For some, Valentine’s Day is about sweeping gestures and declarations of love. That’s why it can come with big expectations and even bigger pressures that set up couples for trouble. In our quest to hit a romantic grand slam on this special day, we may try to find the perfect gift, reserve a table for two at a trendy restaurant or throw in an exquisite combination of romantic gestures to make our spouse fall for us all over again. That’s a lot of pressure for a made-up holiday in the dead of winter!
Romantic plans can often end up in disappointment and conflict when the unexpected happens. To avoid these kinds of pitfalls, get on the same page as a couple. Here are three ways you can tame Valentine’s Day tensions and manage expectations:
A few weeks before the big day, talk about your hopes and expectations for the evening. To get the conversations started, ask each other these questions:
- Do we want the evening to be extra special or just a low-key night together?
- Do we want to celebrate on Valentine’s Day or on a day when restaurants are less crowded and chocolate is discounted?
- Do we want to exchange gifts we can afford or splurge on things each of us has always wanted?
- What gestures say, “I love you,” to each of us?
Regardless of how the evening turns out, paving the way ahead of time will help you avoid the potholes that can ruin your time together.
Shift your focus
As Feb. 14 approaches, we’re inundated with romantic images of smiling couples on social media and nonstop TV commercials for fine jewelry, lingerie, floral bouquets and chocolate. The message is that if we really love our spouse, we’ll shower our chosen one with expensive gifts and Hollywood-style romantic gestures.
God’s definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (verses 4-7).
The world promotes a warped definition of love that focuses on external beauty and worth rather than the inner qualities God values most. Shifting your focus from the world’s distorted view to God’s perspective can help neutralize the Valentine’s Day pressures so you can enjoy time with your spouse.
Simplify your celebration
There are many practical ways to simplify your celebration so it’s more meaningful and less hectic. Here are some ideas:
- Celebrate on a different day.
- Set guidelines for gift-giving.
- Let go of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations.
- Stay off social media and tune out TV commercials.
- Prepare for child care in advance.
- Plan an activity you both enjoy.
- List the qualities you love about each other. Then share them on the day you celebrate.
Above all, keep in mind that the quality of your relationship isn’t measured by the outcome of one day. Don’t let ruined dinners and soiled carpets distract you from what really matters. And whatever you end up doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day, do it with love and for your spouse.