Max and Susan had been married for 5 years. They’d never quite gotten Valentines Day right.
Last year, Max had bought Susan a beautiful necklace—diamonds in a white gold heart. To Max it represented love. It had a heart, it was beautiful, and it was expensive; plus, he’d picked it out himself. He was completely stunned when she opened it, said a subdued, “Oh, Max,” and looked sad. The necklace still sat unworn in her jewelry box, next to all the jewelry he’d given her over the years.
Susan had fared no better as the giver. For her Valentines Day gift to Max, she’d left work early and made him his favorite comfort foods—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. Max walked in and saw the food on the kitchen table, and his face fell, even as he said, “Thanks, Susan.”
Only after the fact did they come together to talk about what they’d wanted and expected out of the holiday.
Only after Max’s prompting did Susan share that, as much as she could recognize a pretty piece of jewelry, she rarely wore jewelry (hadn’t he noticed?). She’d been hoping for tickets to a concert, something they’d enjoyed together for special events.
When firmly encouraged to share his own feelings, Max explained that, as much as he loved the foods that she’d prepared and valued the time she’d taken, his image of Valentines Day always included an elegant restaurant and attentive waiters. Why hadn’t she assumed, as he had, that they’d be going out?
It’s funny. We talk all the time about Christmas lists. We never talk about Valentines lists. But as we approach Valentines Day, we often have hopes and expectations riding on the occasion. Because it is THE romantics’ holiday, we also often expect our partners to know intuitively how we want the day to be marked or celebrated. Part of the romantic myth is the belief that true love brings the ability to read the beloved’s mind.
Whether or not you’re the romantic in the relationship (this can be male or female), you have an image of what will make the perfect Valentines Day for you and your partner. Whether it’s breakfast in bed, a dinner out at a fine restaurant, a candlelit dinner at home, roses sent or received, chocolate or diamonds, or any one of a million other possibilities, you have an idea of what would represent a “proper” Valentines Day for you. Odds are that you expect your partner to know the image in your mind.
That means that all over this country there are anxious partners knowing that they are expected to guess right or disappoint each other. In some cases they also carry the fear that to guess wrong is to be deemed deficient or unfeeling.
As many of you already know, not all partners are created equally romantic. And although it’s often the case that women are more romantic than men, it is absolutely NOT always the case. Being of less romantic spirit does not make you (or your partner) a bad person. It does however open the door to the possibility or likelihood that the more romantic partner may be disappointed by the less romantic partner. Two partners can also be equally, but differently, romantic, experiencing different things as romantic and loving.
I want to make the case for this year’s Valentines Day celebration that love isn’t about guessing right. Love is about listening to what your partner tells you (and has told you in the past), working to understand it (and how and why it’s important to your partner), and then being responsive by doing those things that make your partner feel loved, cherished, and secure.
If you want your partner to know what makes you happy, tell him or her. Unless you married a certified psychic, you have no business expecting perfect intuitive anticipation of your wishes.
If you want your partner to feel loved and cherished on this most romantic holiday, stop and think about what you’ve been told in the past about what he or she needs, values, and enjoys.
If you don’t tell your partner what you want, you’re likely to be disappointed. If you don’t listen to your partner, you’re likely to be disappointing.
Here’s wishing you a happy and successful Valentines Day.