In my opinion, there are two holidays that may be the most anti-climactic of them all, setting most of us up for disappointment: the first being New Year's Eve and second being (of course) ... Valentine's Day. Though as you read this article, know that this is not an anti-Valentines Day scolding or "how Hallmark has successfully brainwashed our frontal lobe" rant (even though it kind of has — let's be honest). Yes, I will most definitely share my own critical analysis, but the arrival destination will be an actionable way to create a true connective experience for you and your partner this Valentine's Day. Because really, isn't that the point?
Every year, somewhere within the first week of January, my favorite evil mega store Target begins its annual Valentine's Day transformation where it looks as if a tsunami of Pepto-Bismol just flooded the card aisles—at least that was my experience three weeks ago: As I walked past the entrance doors, it wasn't more than one step where I was suddenly engulfed by the pink and red tidal wave sweeping me away from the carts and smack into an overpriced card that said "Luv you FUR-ever" with a picture of a dog as it plays the George Clinton song "Atomic Dog" ("Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay..."). I couldn't help but sigh and think to myself, "Ugh, already?", which which is the shortened version of: "Is it already that time of the year where so many people plan for Valentine's Day to fix frustration, challenge, drama and pain in their relationships by making dinner reservations at the newest trendy restaurant in town?"
It's also that time of the year a woman thinks she is better off perusing articles all over the internet about the top 10 gifts to buy for that "Special Man" when instead, she should probably be trying to explore why she has been avoiding sex with her husband for over six months. It's that time of year when a husband's only pleasurable event about the holiday is his last minute trip to CVS where he can buy his annual sexually suggestive card (which this year will be a picture of a pig that says, "It's Valentine's Day...Let's Pork!"). And inevitably, on February 15th, some wife somewhere has woken up depressed because of the massive disappointment she felt last night when her husband hadn't even tried to make dinner reservations or any plans for the evening, leaving her to feel more dismissed than ever.
The problem is that all of three of those people are seeking the right desire in the wrong way. Although our worlds have grown in ways we never could have imagined, at the same time we have become overloaded, overscheduled, over-impatient, over-impulsive, overindulgent, over-entitled and completely disconnected from ourselves and the intimate relationships in our lives. After all, why even bother taking your best friend out for dinner (in person) when you can send him or her a singing telegram via Facebook?
Look, I'll be honest here: Has there been a time where even I drank the Valentine's Day Kool-Aid because my husband surprised me with a material gift that was completely unexpected? Absolutely. But as a result of the gift, did I feel closer to him? Not particularly. However, I did take pictures of the gift and immediately send them to one of my girlfriends. Intimate husband and wife moment? Not so much ...
So do I think we have this whole Valentine's Day picture wrong? Well, as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I'm going to be bold and say, yes. We sure do. In fact, I think we have it completely a** backwards to the point we are sadly way too focused on how the holiday should look on the outside — and completely ignorant to what is needed on the inside for two people to emotionally connect.
So forget the obnoxious sexy card, forget about hyper focusing on whether or not you are going to get that best dinner reservation in town, forget about buying a new watch, bag, gift certificate, piece of jewelry, or etc. for your partner. Instead, I'm going to give you an idea for something that is more invaluable that any material gift or dinner reservation. Something that I'm going to bet, with confidence, that it will be something will have you and your special someone feeling more connected with each other compared to a day ago. Trust me when I say that although it is very basic, it will fill him or her up with something that money can't buy:
Get a paper and pen
Write down 10 things you appreciate about the person
Take it seriously, be thoughtful and be specific
Do not rush
When finished, put in an envelope and give to your special person (doesn't even have to be a romantic partner) on Valentine's Day
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