Mindy has spent weeks creating a scrapbook for hubby Joel for Valentine’s Day, filled with photos and cute notes about everything from their first date to their wedding to their best-ever Hawaiian vacation.
Joel got Mindy a card and a muffin — a pink one — that he picked up at the gas station on the way home from work.
Are you guessing this couple’s Valentine’s Day is headed for disaster faster than a box of chocolates left sitting by the romantic fireside?
When it comes to gift giving, Valentine’s Day falls in a class by itself. As a day set aside to celebrate love between couples, the type or size of the gifts we give to one another may take on added significance or be scrutinized for hidden messages.
You know how it goes: She gave me a gym membership — does she think I need to lose weight? He gave me a hoodie — is the romance dead?
We turned to some Top of Utah relationship experts for some insight into the nuances of this February holiday.
Valentine’s Day offers the chance to make a proclamation of your emotional connection to another person, says Lanae Kimber, a professional counselor with Family Counseling Services in Ogden.
“It’s kind of a confirmation of your relationship, of the bond that you have, so in that regard, the gifts mean more,” says Kimber. “Anyone can give you a birthday gift, but you usually only get one Valentine’s gift, so that one gift is more important.”
There’s also a social aspect to the holiday that is different from other events, Kimber adds. “You are proclaiming your love or affection to somebody else in a way that others can see. ... It is important for people to know that you’re celebrating it with your significant other.”
Little wonder then, that Valentine’s Day may start to loom larger than life.
“The receiver expects more, and the giver has more pressure put on them for what the gift will be,” Kimber says.
What, no flowers?
Yet when it comes to celebrating Valentine’s Day, partners may often have very different views, the counselor says.
“One person might think it’s a big huge deal,” Kimber says, “and the other one thinks it’s silly.”
Holiday advertising and marketing also come into play, says Tami Robinette, a licensed clinical social worker at Ogden’s Weber State University. Just watch TV or pick up a magazine and you’ll be bombarded by companies selling products from flowers and chocolates to jewelry and cruise vacations.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that’s what “everyone” receives for Valentine’s Day, Robinette says: “The bar is set sometimes unrealistically high.”
Then, too, folks may fall into the trap of making comparisons, adds the social worker at WSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center. If we received six roses from our significant other, but our friend got a flashy new ring, Robinette says, we may try to explain that difference to ourselves
by asking questions like, “What does my gift say about my partner’s feelings? Am I important to or valued by this person?”
In the process, we may come up with “explanations” that are hurtful to our loved one, Robinette says.
“We might say, ‘I guess my husband is just a penny pincher, or he’s lazy, or he’s not creative, or I guess he doesn’t love me,’ ” she says.
Another problem at Valentine’s Day is assuming that our partner knows exactly what kind of gift or celebration we want. We think — even if we don’t say it aloud — that person should read our mind, says Ryan Calder, an Ogden marriage and family therapist.
This same issue often surfaces in marriage counseling, Calder says, due to a lack of communication between partners about what they really find interesting or meaningful.
If you love me ...
Cupid’s arrows may also go awry if partners aren’t speaking the same language.
Calder says he’s a believer in author Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages.” Every person has a primary way of showing love to others, be it physical touch, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, or gift giving — and chances are, no two partners are the same.
“If our spouse has a different love language, and we’re showing our love (to him or her) in our love language, they may not really get the message or see that as valuable,” Calder explains, adding that the key is to zero in on things that make your partner feel loved.
Maybe hearing words of affirmation makes you feel loved, for example, while your spouse feels cherished by spending time together.
The important thing to realize is that there is more than one way to show love, Calder says. “It doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t love me — it just means they’re showing it in the way they’re used to showing it.”
Finally, it’s important to keep this day for sweethearts in perspective. Yes, everyone wants to be remembered, but Robinette says we shouldn’t act as if the whole year hinges around this single day.
“I would say we can show love throughout the year,” Calder agrees, explaining, “If we’re not showing love day in and day out through the year, it probably doesn’t do a lot of good to show love that one day.”