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Managing Valentine’s Day Expectations

Feb 15, 2023 | Relationships

Key Takeaways:

  • How do you express love? How do you like to receive love? And no, I am not asking what your “love language” is.
  • Valentine’s Day can bring up many, varied feelings for each individual, regardless of relationship status. It can be a day to perform the love we have for those in our lives, a day to mourn love loss, a regular Tuesday in February, or something completely different.
  • Ask yourself what your expectations for Valentine’s Day might be. How do these align or diverge from your expectations for being in loving relationships?

Early each year, supermarkets and convenience stores will clear their “seasonal” aisles of Christmas goodies and stock red roses, heart shaped chocolate and candies, teddy bears with stitched messages confessing love and affection. When these aisles reflect hues of red and pink, it can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day is approaching.

If you google the history behind Valentine’s Day, you might find yourself swirling in a mysterious sea of historic interpretations, Christian lore, and love lost. Despite the confusing origins of this holiday of love, there are still explicit and narrow norms around how to celebrate this holiday – and these expectations can lead to pain and disappointment, rather than connection and love.

What is meant by “norms” for how to celebrate? Norms are a set of social expectations dictated by shared values. For example, saying “thank you” when someone opens a door for you is a social expectation that is rooted in a shared understanding of manners/etiquette. In terms of Valentine’s Day, norms can look like the following:

  1. Asking/Waiting to be asked to be someone’s Valentine.
  2. Posting a photo with your partner(s) with a caption explaining all the things you love about them.
  3. A dozen roses, a candle-lit dinner, a horse drawn carriage ride through the town square (maybe).

While these normative demonstrations of love might be lovely and wonderful for many people, they do not capture all of the ways to express and receive love. And, by elevating norms like these above others, a hierarchy begins to form: my love is better/more socially acceptable than yours because it meets these norms.

If February 14th is truly a celebration of love, it should be a celebration of love in all forms, not those that are more socially normative or celebrated. Below are some opportunities for reflection for how to manage your expectations for Valentine’s Day, whether or not your definition of love is included in the norms above:

  • Ask yourself or your loved one how and when you/they feel the most loved. Is it during a certain activity? Is it in a certain environment? Is it when love is expressed to you in words? Verbal? Written? Song? Touch?
  • What do you like about the norms associated with Valentine’s Day? How can you suspend those from the rest?
  • Am I waiting for Valentine’s Day to express my love to someone? What would it be like to not wait?
  • What are my expectations for how/when love is expressed to me? What are my expectations for how/when I expressed love to others?

There is no one-size-fits-all for love. Allow Valentine’s Day to be a part of your expression, if you so choose, but work towards creating a practice of love that suits your needs and the needs of your partner(s), even if it is separate from social expectations and norms around love.

Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

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