Avoiding a Valentine's Day Massacre

You may not be familiar with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre as a historical event involving deception, spying, guessing, and brutal murder, but you may feel very similar in regards to Valentine’s Day in your own significant relationship. Like Al Capone’s henchmen in the infamous Chicago Massacre of 1929 spying on his rival gang members, you hide out, closely watching your partner trying to discern what their expectations for Valentine’s Day may be.  

For women, you hope to get some romantic gesture and respond accordingly, thinking you’d rather not end up looking silly being the recipient of a box of chocolates while wearing lingerie that is more on par with a nice dinner and a thoughtful, yet inexpensive gift. You hope your spouse remembers and decides to do something, but you hope your reciprocal gift is on point. You may be thinking something like “What do I think he’s going to do so I can respond appropriately?”

For guys, you mostly likely hate this day. You would love nothing more than like that fateful day on February 14th, 1929, to take down Valentine’s Day consumerism with your own Thompson Machine Gun. You’d like waltz right up to the aisle of cheap teddy bears and other red and pink colored paraphernalia and just let it have it. You are full of anxiety and pressure because this was way easier when you were dating, but now, maybe five, ten or twenty years into marriage, you have no idea of what to get her. You don’t want to be that guy in Walgreens at 5:30pm on February 14th staring frantically at the few remaining cards, knowing none of them are really “her”, but knowing you can’t leave without one, all the while cursing this day and shaming yourself for not remembering to act sooner like you promised yourself you would last year. And you may be wondering “What’s enough of a gift to meet the minimal expectation and avoid that face of disappointment?”

Well fear not, I’m here to help you avoid all of this mess and one more Valentine’s Day Massacre in your relationship. Valentine’s Day is more heavily celebrated (thank you marketing) than anniversaries, and most people do some combo of the card/flower/dinner/chocolates, yet this is much more challenging when you are beyond courting and are in a marital relationship.  So, here’s what to right now:

1.     Stop the unconscious games. Acknowledge that you both are fearful of this day to one another and you would like to get out of this crazy trap of disappointment, fear, spying, and deception.

2.     Talk about expectations now. Don’t wait until one of you is disappointed because you didn’t get the sex you gifted for (men), or you didn’t get the sweet card and gift you hoped for (women). And yes, part of maturing your relationship from dating to marriage is getting expectations and desires out in the open. That is to be known, or intimacy. Ask each other these questions:

a.     How do you want to acknowledge Valentine’s Day, if at all?

b.     Do you want to exchange gifts? If so, to what degree?

c.     Do you want to go out to eat? If so, on what level?

d.     Is the actual day important or can you wait a few days later or celebrate a few days earlier?

e.     Do you want to possibly get away together?

f.      Do you desire or expect to have some form of sexual intimacy? (and no, talking about it beforehand does not take away the excitement. It makes it more exciting. If you don’t believe me, prove me wrong.)

3.     Do a post-game evaluation. After the day, sit down and discuss whether the intentional choice you made together delivered or not for you both. If adjustments are needed, discuss them and make plans for different next year, which leads me to my next point.

4.     Make plans for next year. Go ahead and agree to pursue something similar, with adjustments, for next year and make this a ritual that the two of you can look forward to together next year. Take the guessing games, dread and fear out of it and replace it with excitement of getting to express your love to your spouse in the way you know the desire to receive it.

And if you are dreading Valentine's Day because your relationship is already troubled or because you don't have the relationship you long for, don't worry. There's help for you today.