A Different Perspective: This will be my third post on the “lovers” holiday and I am stretching my brain to think what I might add to the topic that would be useful here. In the post Valentine’s Day Gifts Take Some Knowing I tackled the topic of gift giving. Valentine’s Day and The Coupledom: Is This A Test? provides a perspective on how to prevent the spiral downward that this holiday can trigger for couples.
Try A Little Humor With The Heart: Now I am thinking, how you approach Valentine’s Day each year can mirror where your Coupledom is developmentally. Looking through articles on phases of marriage has produced little inspiration here. So I have decided to create my own developmental phases for the purpose of this Valentine post:
Phase 1: The Valentine Date For Two: Once you have established that you are a “couple” that first Valentine should be the easiest and perhaps the most traditional: candy, jewelry, a massage or a romantic dinner for two. Sounds simple but if this first Valentine is fraught with angst or disappointment, turn it around by talking about how to make it better this year or next year. Don’t use it to tarnish the new bond; rather to polish it up for the future. Without removing all the sparkle, see if you can unearth your expectations and double-check if they make sense. If not, create something more satisfying and realistic together, based on who each of you is and how the Coupledom you create together can reflect both your styles.
The Yin Yang: It is typical that the yin yang characteristic of mate selection (opposites attract) usually translates into one as the romantic, the other the pragmatist. The romantic will paint the red, pink and perfect picture of lovers’ bliss but the pragmatist might speak of budget, time allotment and location. Rather than fight or feel insulted, recognize that you are looking at a sliver of the shared life as it really is: a mixture of two potions shaken together to create an original blend of both. Drink up.
Phase 2: Valentine With Responsibilities: Now you are no longer a blend of two but a melange of at least three or more. And that doesn’t mean just children. Could be a mortgage, rent, demanding boss, a dog, two cats, academic deadlines, children or all of the above. Now Valentine’s Day means sitters, perhaps an exchange of cards before bedtime or left at the breakfast table on the way out to catch the train. Maybe a promise of a weekend away when the baby is weaned or the bonus comes through. How does this Valentine sound now? BORING! Yes, but here is the moment for a developmental leap. Squeezing the “we are lovers, right?” between the sheets of this phase of married life is more complicated but it is also not forever. Keeping a perspective on the transient nature of these passages can place a more accepting expectation of this lovers’ celebration. Figure it out together, don’t set up your spouse to disappoint you. Look at his or her day and say, hey let’s make a moment that works for both of us.
Shared Humor Is Sexy: Opportunities for humor are everywhere, just check out popular sitcoms or chick flicks, The New Yorker Magazine cartoons or YouTube. The usual dirty diaper joke or the coitus interruptus youngster who is having a nightmare moment in the other room is always available for a few yuks. Rather than personalize the obstacles or realities that interfere with your Valentine dream, recognize the great bonding opportunities of shared humor, as sexy an exchange as anything can be, and the “let’s be real together” rather than the very corrosive “let’s test each other’s love or sexual desire.” No testing! Pleasing yes, but with a useful dose of what is possible, likely and mutually acceptable.
Phase 3: Valentine With Trust and Wisdom: Okay, so now you have survived the early years of marriage and the kids are big enough to let you guys go out by yourselves. Money is still tight and time remains limited but out of the house is doable. Is there trust that you are both on board to care for and love each other? If so, Valentine’s Day should be more of a mutual “let’s have an adventure” rather than try to resurrect the sparks of a decade or more ago. Those sparks ignite naturally. But you have so much more now, too. You have the wisdom of knowing what works best for shared enjoyment. And if you don’t know yet because you have been sacrificing “personal” wants for family unity then dig around together to figure that out. “What would be fun for you?” “What attracts you?” This is an opportunity for each of you to fantasize your Valentine with the other and try to put together a mix of both visions. Is it a day, a weekend perhaps or a long awaited vacation? Budgets, time constraints and inclinations are all equally significant. But don’t fight. If your ideas clash initially, leave the conversation for another day. Or surf the web together. Use your wisdom and trust to make the matured mixture of a shared life into a fun outing to celebrate a love of some duration. And watch out for the sparks that might be ignited by kindness and respect. They can be mighty powerful.
Phase 4: To Infinity & Beyond: How do senior couples mark Valentine’s Day? No, this is not a setup for a joke (but I do like a good joke so please post some on the blog as comments). Senior couples who have seen many Valentine’s Days together might go for novelty. Or perhaps nostalgia. For new couples who are seniors, see Phase 1 and have fun. For this post, I would love their wisdom on what keeps love alive over the decades. My beliefs are evident from these concepts: value your Coupledom (that third entity that you create together in which your relationship resides), think outside of the box, be flexible, try something new and keep a healthy perspective on it all.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.S.C.W. 2012