Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Valentine problem: How the day of love is ruining romance

We all know that single people hate Valentine's Day and their reasons given are legion. For some it's personal; "I never have anyone on Valentine's day." Some blame capitalism for their distaste; "It's just a way for greeting card companies and florists to make money." Others, more honest, can even be malicious; "All these happy couples make me sick!"
But if you ask these same people (women especially) their feelings about Valentine's Day while they are in a relationship, you will get quite a different response. In fact, you'll hear them gush about how their boyfriend surprised them with dinner and flowers, swoon as they showoff the necklace he bought them and describe in adulation God knows what else. Yes, Valentine's Day reveals one of life's unfortunate truths; attitude is often spoiled by singltude.
While couples may have good reason for their adoration of V-day and singles their reasons for antipathy, relational status is not exactly a rational barometer for deciding one's feelings about a holiday. Besides, who wants to ride the rollercoaster of love-hate with an annual event?
My advice for couples and singles alike on Valentine's Day? Hate it. No matter what.
Now before all you couples discard my thoughts as the ranting of a misogynist hater, just hear me out. I did not come to this opinion lightly and it does not stem from the bitterness of a past burn; in fact, those who know me well would actually describe me as somewhat of a romantic. While I can't speak for all couples, as a man in a successful, long term relationship (over a decade of marriage), I think I have some credibility on this issue. Let me explain why I think the day of love is actually hurting relationships and stifling romance. (That's right romantics, I'm on your side.)
You see, in the romance department, most people are about as stable as a spastic colon. The flames burn hot in the beginning, but over time things naturally level out. Romantic gestures become a sort of maintenance rather than a desire, and the dinners, flowers and necklaces only serve as holiday highs in an otherwise tepid relationship. So often I see couples who express their affection through gift giving and grand surprises during Valentine's Day, and then treat their loved one as a buddy or roommate until the next holiday. Don't get me wrong, I am all for grand gestures, but why let "The Man" tell you when to do something nice for the person you love?
We should never think of romance like a to-do list and we certainly shouldn't need a national holiday to do something nice. Bring her lunch at work, bring him a cup of coffee after class, wear something "nice" for him just because, do the dishes and make breakfast for her while she sleeps in, (trust me guys, it's nature's most powerful aphrodisiac). $5 daisies for no reason mean a lot more than the obligatory $40 dozen roses on Valentine's Day.
I'm not saying you should just ignore Valentine's Day if you are in a relationship, but for the sake of your Valentine, don't just check it off the list. If you have someone in your life, make sure they know your happy about it all year long.
Keeping the fires burning can be a lot of work, but take it from someone who knows, that work pays dividends.