As a therapist, I have a unique perspective of this annual holiday. Despite an unfortunate misconception, Valentines day is an actual holiday for some people. I often hear comments like “It’s a made up holiday” or “It’s just a Hallmark Holiday”. While this may be true for some people, for other’s it’s a very real holiday that comes with a plethora of traditions and expectations. Keep Reading to discover the Top 3 Valentine’s Day mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Failing to Acknowledge the Holiday
In order to understand why failing to acknowledge this holiday is a mistake, you must first understand what the holiday means to others. Biologically, we are wired for human connections. We want to love and to know that others love us. Valentine’s Day, for better or worse, is the day set aside to proclaim and affirm your love. When your partner fails to acknowledge the holiday, failure to feel included in the “hoopla” may feel like you’re missing out.
But, what’s the big deal about “missing out”? Well, that, brings us to another human tendency. Catastrophizing, taking something small, and then based on the one incident projecting horrible things to happen in the future. When the holiday goes unacknowledged, how likely is your partner to then wonder if it’s a sign the relationship is doomed.
So, whether you are in a new relationship or a long-term relationship, you may be determined to think about Valentine’s Day. You plan out what you think is the most original and fail proof way to acknowledge the holiday. In the past, you the holiday came and went. You carried out your plan, but the response wasn’t what you expected, and on some level you feel like a failure. What happened? Most likely it was mistake #2 or mistake #3.
Mistake #2 – Inaccurately guessing your partner’s Love Language
According to Gary Chapman in his New York Bestseller, The Five Love Languages, people tend to express their love in one of five different ways. Chapman identified quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and physical touch as being ways that people show their love for others. Understanding his theory goes a long way to making those Valentine’s Day choices.
Quality Time typically means time focusing on your loved one. Does watching TV with your loved one count? Hum, maybe not. Understanding what quality time means to your partner is the key to making sure that your efforts are meeting their needs. Solving this mystery is all a matter of asking questions and then listening to your partner’s responses. If you asked your partner to describe their favorite vision of really great quality time, what would they describe? The answers to this question indicate how they define quality time. For someone who’s love language is quality time, setting time aside for them on this holiday by giving them your full attention will make the holiday special and meaningful for them.
What about Words of Affirmation? I bet your wondering what to do if this is your partner’s preferred love language? Well, you could combine it with quality time and then over dinner tell your partner five things that make them an amazing person. Words of affirmation could also be the hand written card attached to the bouquet of flowers you bought sharing all the ways that you are grateful that this person is in your life. Most people in general love a good heartfelt compliment but if this is their love language hearing those words or reading those words will brighten their day.
Gift Giving is perhaps the easiest of all love languages to figure out. Every other commercial on television will spout convincing lyrics all designed to get you to their store. But is the simple act of giving a gift enough? Will any old gift make a person who’s love language is “gifts” happy? These are compelling questions. Gifts should have thought behind them. Perhaps a story about why the item is perfect for the person you’re giving it to. Besides the actual item your giving the person, you’re actually giving them reassurance that you understand them and know their preferences and that your willing to take the time to find the perfect thing for them.
Acts of Service explains why cooking dinner or checking things off a “honey do list” can put a sparkle in your loved one’s eye. For someone who speaks a love language of “acts of service”, it’s the personal things that someone does for them that fills their heart with warm fuzzy feelings. My personal favorite suggestions for “acts of service” gifts for Valentines include car washes, planting flowers/yard sprucing up, and making those piles of laundry disappear.
Last but certainly not least is the love language of Physical touch. Physical touch encompasses a wide range of behaviors, beyond the obvious one of sex. In the beginning stages of a relationship, sometimes it’s hard to speak the language of physical touch. But, as your relationship progresses you may find your partner seeking opportunities to hold your hand. If they do, its possible they’re speaking to you in their primary love language. While you may be content to allow your partner to initiate the physical touch, if physical touch is your partner’s love language, eventually your lack of initiation of touch may tug at their heart. Things to remember, initiating sex does not necessarily cover all the physical touch needs. Try to think of it this way, Wine is a nice beverage choice, but it’s not always going to quench your thirst. Sometimes your need the simplicity of water.
So, you made all the efforts to acknowledge the holiday with your partner. You brained stormed for days and plotted out the most creative ways to express love to your partner. You even incorporated their preferred love language into your plans. But the day comes and goes and it still seems to be a minor disaster.
Which, lead us to mistake #3.
Mistake #3 – Failing to Communicate
It takes two to make the holiday special. Did the day end with your feeling like you made all the effort? Let’s roll back time and work on that pre-Valentine’s Day conversation. Ice-breaker questions could sound like “What are your thoughts on Valentine’s day”. Or, an even more direct approach “I know Valentine’s day isn’t a holiday everyone celebrates, but I have always thought of it as a fun day to be silly and romantic”.
Communicating in a relationship is often cited as one of the most difficult tasks a couple can navigate. Couples can spend hours giggling and discussing current events but really getting down to the deep discussions can be difficult. While bringing up these sticky topics may seem challenging, communicating your dreams, thoughts, and expectations can help make those dreams a reality.
If the thought of Valentine’s Day brings up some concern, anxiety, or discontent about your relationship; it may be time to consider relationship counseling. Counseling can help you uncover the underlying issues that are drawing you into the mistakes noted above and help you to resolve them through greater understanding of each other.
To make an appointment, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our practice at (713) 463-5879.