My husband and I first started dating in February of 2007. Valentine’s Day plus brand new relationship? That’s a recipe for disaster. Add in a weeklong snowstorm? Doomed. He picked me up at my dorm, we got Chinese takeout, and we headed to his apartment to watch a movie.
And that, my friends, was the only Valentine’s Day we ever celebrated.
Oh no, we didn’t break up. We have been together since that snowy February. This summer we will celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary (and yes, we celebrate anniversaries…sort of). But my husband made it clear early on that he wasn’t into “Hallmark Holidays.” I was in my early twenties and head over heels, so I agreed to almost anything he said at that point.
The pages of my calendar turned and soon came another February and along with it another Valentine’s Day. “I don’t do Hallmark Holidays,” he reminded me. “I love you. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”
But…he had a point. If we both did our best to affirm, enjoy and celebrate each other and our love for each other throughout the year–why did we need Valentine’s Day? Why did we need overpriced flowers, crowded restaurants, mushy cards to sustain our relationship?
I thought of how much my dad counted down to his annual beach vacation to Topsail Island. Was that really the highlight of his year? Could one week of beach-sitting and wave-watching really garner him enough peace until next year? (My hunch was no: my dad was never really “at peace” about much, but that’s another story) Or a simpler metaphor: could I eat one meal on January 1 and not expect to be hungry the rest of the year?
We don’t do the cards, the flowers, or the fancy dinner (pre-covid or not) because we make each other a priority during the entire year.
He puts both kids to bed when I just need to sit alone with no one asking me for anything. I handle the four year old melting down about bathtime so he can play peekaboo with a happy baby. He built me a headboard from a vintage door after I showed him a picture of one I liked online. I cleaned and organized his home office when he started working from home. We ask each other regularly, “How can I help you?” and “What do you need?” In the evenings, we often watch a show together or play a board game. We go to bed at the same time almost every night.
We are best friends.
And honestly, gifts are not his love language or mine. I like giving and receiving gifts, but I receive love more deeply through affirmation and words. So with the emphasis on gifts of jewelry and roses? It’s nice, but I’d rather hear why he loves me. Fancy dinner reservations? He’d rather sit with me on the couch while sharing popcorn and watching college basketball.
Unpopular opinions are just that–opinions.
What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. We have a great marriage because we ignore the Hallmark expectations and we do what’s best for us. Maybe your spouse loves showering you with presents, or maybe you and your partner have a long-standing tradition of a romantic weekend excursion. And maybe that fills up your love tank and that’s what works for your relationship. Great! You do you. And well, you do him/her.
But if Valentine’s Day draws nearer on the calendar, and you start to feel some angst, or your spouse starts changing the topic when you ask about dinner reservations, or he completely forgot to even get you a card last year, or you just can’t afford a sitter this time…I want you to know it’s okay.
It’s okay to skip Valentine’s Day. There are no rules around this kind of stuff. A couple can make their own choices about how to celebrate and enjoy their relationship. Be clear with your partner about what you need and make sure you understand their needs as well.
That clarity is absolutely essential.
Like I said, we don’t do Valentine’s Day. But my husband proposed on October 15, 2011 — Sweetest Day. Seriously. He said he didn’t even know it was a Hallmark Holiday. And you better believe, I make it a point to wish him a Happy Sweetest Day every year.