Yes, I am a happily married woman.
No, we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.
I know, I know. When folks hear about this it either makes them feel very uncomfortable or they love it. Regardless of where you fall, I hope I can tease this out in such a witty, mirthful post that by the end you will be disarmed by my humor and readily consent to my point of view. Or not.
How it Started:
It began when my now-husband, then-boyfriend and I were dating. I had a few V-day celebrations under my belt from the past and we were deliberating on what we might do together. As we discussed it, a few things began to occur to us. First, the pressure of this holiday is saturated with anxiety. Also, the crowds in the restaurants are overwhelming.
Basically, if everyone and their mom is eating out tonight, why on earth would we want to kill ourselves to get a table?
But we had other concerns. As college students we noticed that a lot of the folks we knew were plagued by the dark side of Valentine’s day. On one hand, there are couples who use the holiday to pressure each other and/or talk themselves into some sort of physical intimacy they would not be comfortable with otherwise. I still hear so many stories about regretful situations taking place on Valentine’s Day simply due to the pressures of the holiday and how these pressures are used on people.
On the other hand, are the single & lonely for whom this holiday is just a series of nightmares to be avoided. For obvious reasons, Valentine’s Day is not a harmless celebration of love for everyone.
Then on the third hand, are the coupled & lonely who are experiencing a different discomfort. The vapid quality of this holiday lends some to use it as an excuse to forgo valuable, longstanding love and care. Instead "deadbeat partners" (as my husband so decidedly puts it), use Valentine’s Day like an annual get-out-of-being-a-good-partner card where they can buy gifts, eat expensive food, and use that as an excuse for negligence for the rest of the year. Couples are not immune to loneliness and Valentine’s Day can be twisted into a culturally sanctioned show-up-once get-paid-for-a-year scam.
"But isn’t this a historic holiday? What about the Feast Day of St. Valentine?"
Yes. February 14th has traditionally been on the Catholic calendar as the Feast Day of St. Valentine. And St. Valentine, as we all know, was the patron saint of love due to the fact that he owned that factory that specialized in putting puns on little cards that accompanied the candy hearts.
Or was he?
History is actually pretty fuzzy when it comes to Saint Valentine. What we do now is that some guy named Valentine was brutally beheaded as part of a grotesque public spectacle. And this lovely scene of blood and violence happened on - wait for it - February 14th.
"Honey, with all the blood and gore going around I thought you might like some candy and a card with Justin Bieber on it. Happy death day."
Let’s just say that history doesn’t give us much of a platform to leap from especially when we find ourselves drowning in red, pink, and white decorations veiling a long trail of mediocre romcoms.
"But what about love? Isn’t it just a good day to celebrate such an important thing as love?"
Yes and no. There’s really no harm in doing something special on a particular night to accentuate the fact that you love the people you are loving deeply year round. But trying to defend the integrity of one day a year where we emphasize love feels about as rational as having a day to focus on oxygen. I’m not sure it makes a good case to say that it’s important to focus on something so important once year because we take it for granted the rest of the time. What do I mean?
Let me explain for my own personal experience. Throughout the year my husband and I take one night a week to have a date night (with about an 80% yearly success rate). During these times we intentionally open space to learn about each other and where we are currently existing emotionally, vocationally, relationally, and spiritually. We also make sure that every couple of date nights we use that time to incorporate friends, mentors, and people we love. This way one aspect of our special time together is blended with our interactions with others. This is because we believe deeply that community (not romance) is essential to the health and success of our marriage. We take turns planning date nights for each other. On our wedding anniversary we either take a special trip together or we buy one big gift together that is for both of us. We regularly alternate shopping, cooking, and household chores and we have always made it a point to express our gratitude even for the little things. We tried to show each other physical affection every day; even the busy days when that is just a small touch on the shoulder as we passed by, or a long hug. And I don’t say this to brag or take credit, because a lot of these have come through trial and error, or on the advice and example other couples that we admire. I tell you this because I think it’s important to model healthy relationship as much as we can and because after living life the way that we do we just don’t feel any need for something like Valentine’s Day. With so much love and affection in our lives even one day a year to accentuate or supplement that just feels unnecessary. As a result, it really takes the pressure off and gives us a moment to remember how important it is to love each other at a high quality every single day. Whether you are married or not, I believe that feeling loved by the people around you, in healthy doses throughout the year lends itself to the same conclusion.
But there is at least one good thing that has come out of Valentine’s Day and that is this exceptional line of Puritan Valentine’s cards. So for all of you lovers out there, here is my Valentines gift to you.