Before you go getting the wrong idea, it’s not because I’m single and own 42 cats and resent anyone in a happy relationship. Nope. I’m all about love. Love it!
And I’m not going to get preachy about how it’s a purely commercial holiday. (Though I could go on at some length about how it is a holiday designed exclusively to guilt people into buying flowers, cards, candy, and dinners that have been marked up by hundreds of percentages over their usual prices. But that would be a digression.)
But this isn’t why I hate the heart-shaped, sickly sweet holiday. I hate it because it can be poison for relationships, especially for married couples. We run the risk of falling into the trap that love is something we only need to practice once a year. That thoughtfulness and kindness and putting your spouse first are deeds reserved for a special occasion.
No wonder we hear people talk about “falling out of love” all the time. Who can keep up that first love inertia of love letters, breathless kisses, flowers, and romantic dates? Only people on reality shows with producers handling all the details, and look how well that works out for them.
I don’t claim to be a marriage expert, but Mark and I have been married almost ten years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this:
Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. Love is something you must deliberately, consciously, intentionally do each and every day. It is denial of self, putting your spouse first. It is not always comfortable, and certainly not easy. It is work.
And not the kind of work you can cram into one day of the year, put together hastily with spitballs and scotch tape and covered over with red roses.
It’s the daily work of caring for your wife when she has yet another migraine, and not holding it against her. Of accepting your husband’s insane work schedule and supporting him in it, because that’s what he needs: support, not a shrewish voice wondering when he’s coming home. It’s taking care of each other all the time, in body, mind, and soul.
Valentine’s Day has taken on prom-like expectations for adults. It’s advertised as the best day of your life, when really, it’s just another Thursday night. Here’s the challenge: don’t make February 14th exceptional; make all the other days of the year just as full of love. Then you’ll really have something to celebrate.