It’s fair to say that if you’re looking to involve yourself in a never-ending debate, nothing’s more effective than topics dealing with religion or politics. Bring them up whenever and wherever you like, and you’re sure to get someone’s blood pumping.
But there’s a third topic, often overlooked but equally inciteful, that’s particularly popular this time of year: Valentine’s Day. Or, more specifically, not celebrating it. It’s an especially difficult topic to avoid, because the subject is often bridged innocuously—even used as a form of pleasantry:
- “How’s it going?”
- “How’s the weather?”
- “Did you catch the game last night?”
- “So, what are you getting your wife for Valentine’s Day this year?”
To this last question, I generally reply, “We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.” And after many years, I know that I’m usually going to be met with one of two reactions as soon as the words leave my mouth, depending on who I’m speaking with (yes, I know they’re cliché):
- Man – Confusion, which turns to dismay, which turns into something resembling jealousy.
- Woman – Shock, followed by general disgust.
Look, I’m no sanctimonious Scrooge, and I don’t snub Valentine’s Day because I’ve been hurt, deceived, or some other such displeasure. In fact, quite the opposite: I’m an incredibly lucky guy with Superwoman for a wife, and two of the sweetest, most beautiful, and most awe-inspiring daughters on the face of the planet—none of whom I can even remotely keep up with. The full scope of the love I feel for my wife and children is light years beyond any words I could fleetingly assign to it.
The reality is though, that replying with “nothing” is a heck of a lot easier than constantly explaining why I no longer celebrate Valentine’s Day. And it’s this:
Though we didn’t get married for many years afterward, my wife and I first started dating when we were 19. We’ve been through a lot during our nearly two decades together, including four moves across the country, the birth of two beautiful daughters, our parents getting divorced and then remarrying, the passing of my father, and countless other moments in the “memory collage” of our lives together. We’ve laughed and cried, struggled and coasted, felt connected and distanced, played in the winter snow and sweltered in the summer heat. You name it, we’ve done it.
However, as I move closer to middle age, I’m increasingly aware of the fact that truly meaningful displays of affection are less about the big moments, and more about the thousands of small, seemingly insignificant ones. Telling my wife that I love her as often as I can. Stealing a quick peck as we pass each other on the way to doing whatever life requires of us. Briefly squeezing her hand in a tender gesture. Making sure she knows that I’m immensely proud of her. Looking at one another and immediately knowing what the other person is thinking. Writing “I love you” in the fog-filled bathroom mirror after a shower.
It’s admittedly trite, but my outlook on life is this: All we have is the present moment, and we’re afforded the precious gift of being able to decide exactly how we’ll use it. Like nearly everything else in life, the value of our spousal relationship can be found in the present moment – not in the things we’re told we need to buy one day out of the year. In other words, our daily actions convey far more about how much we cherish someone than what we can (or can’t) afford to buy them.
With this in mind, despite all the money Americans will spend in the pursuit of romance this year, the forced, prepackaged nature of Valentine’s Day can actually cause us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing in order to forge valuable, long-term relationships: it leads us to the conclusion that “things” are the most appropriate way of sharing the love we feel for one another.
This Valentine’s Day, instead of reaching into your wallet, let your spouse know how much you love them by reaching into your heart. Show them your undying love; don’t just tell them. The next time they want to tell you something, listen to their words, and hear what they’re saying. Give them a hug for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Heck, do it five times today, and every other day you’re together. Admire their beauty when they’re not looking. When you first see them at the end of a long day, kiss them hello, and ask what they need help with. This amazing human being has chosen to spend the rest of their life with you, and it’s important that you take the time to express your gratitude.
Whatever you do, be a dork. Be cheesy. But above all, be yourself, and be mindful to show your love each and every day. In the end, this will be a thousand-fold more meaningful than some random object, one day a year.
What are your thoughts? Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Why or why not? If not, do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share?