Is Valentine’s Day Too Much Pressure?

I write about marriage and sexual intimacy, which means that when Valentine’s Day rolls around, I should be encouraging all that lovey-dovey stuff, right? Yet my marriage is in the camp of those who really don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, except for maybe a greeting card and an extra kiss.

Truth is, I’m not very excited about any of the holidays that involve gifting. Maybe that’s because gift-giving is #5 on my list of the 5 Love Languages. But in my case, that’s okay — because it’s #5 on my husband’s list too.

For many of you, that is not the case.

Is Valentine's Day Too Much Pressure?

Sometimes both spouses are right there on the same page about holidays and gift-giving, but oftentimes we’re not. You may not care about this holiday and yet be married to someone who believes that Valentine’s should be properly hailed with professions of undying love, greeting cards and flowers, gifts the size of ring boxes, and a romantic dinner for two.

It’s a big deal to some people. Valentine’s Day spending is predicted to reach a record $18.9 billion — that’s right, billion — this year. And the average amount spent for a significant other is $128.90 for men buying and $62.47 for women buying. Yes, this means we ladies clean up compared to you guys, but isn’t your wife worth the extra $60? (Say yes.) By the way, that doesn’t count the dining bill.

Isn’t that a lot of money? A lot of pressure?

What if you spend that $62 or $128 and your spouse isn’t thrilled with the day? Do you expect major points for effort? Do you at least think you should get sex on Valentine’s Day?

Let’s back up here and talk about how to take some of the pressure off this actually-very-sweet holiday. After all, who isn’t in favor of flowers, chocolate, and love?

Mutual understanding. You should talk with your husband or wife and find out how they view this holiday. Is it a big deal to them? Would they rather avoid it? Communicate about your desires and look for areas of agreement.

Although this is one area in which if it’s no big deal to you but really matters to your spouse, make an effort anyway. Gift-giving might be #1 on their Love Language list, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to shower your spouse with the love and affection they long for. You would appreciate if they did the same for you in an area you care about.

Realistic Expectations. If you’re not a millionaire, you cannot purchase dozens of roses, hire the limousine, go out to a five-star restaurant, exchange fine jewelry, and stay overnight at a luxury hotel. And you shouldn’t expect that from your spouse. Likewise, if your husband is not an emotional millionaire, he will not suddenly become Romeo and Cyrano de Bergerac molded into one and sweep you off your feet with a romantic adventure worthy of the history books. He may not even remember which chocolates you like.

Remember this is a day about expressing love. Not reaching some unattainable romantic goal. You chose this person with all of their blessed quirks, and you love each other. Set your expectations according to the couple you are. If she isn’t a domestic diva, don’t expect the perfect candlelight dinner. If he isn’t a brilliant poet, don’t expect him to cite a sonnet. If she isn’t… Well, you get the point.

Line up your expectations according to your strengths. Don’t simply celebrate love on Valentine’s — celebrate each other.

Don't simply celebrate love on Valentine's — celebrate each other. Click To Tweet

Don’t keep score. Here are three ways we keep score on Valentine’s Day:

  1. We compare how we did to how our spouse did.
  2. We compare how our spouse did compared to prior Valentine’s Days.
  3. We compare how our spouse did to what we hear other spouses did.

And all of those comparisons are likely to lead to disappointment and resentment. Valentine’s Day performance shouldn’t be reviewed like you’re a love critic.

You’ll always find someone who did better, even your own spouse in a previous year. I could search YouTube right now and find Valentine’s Day videos that would make you wish your husband was as thoughtful as that guy or as sensuous as that woman. So what? You don’t know their whole story.

Besides, marriage isn’t about keeping score. Not on Valentine’s or any other day. Instead, adopt an attitude of gratitude for the spouse you have and the covenant you share. You want to keep score? Count how many generous things you can do for your spouse today. And then do it again tomorrow. That’s a more winning approach.

Take the long-term view. It’s a day. One day. Whether you nail it or blow it, your marriage is not comprised of a single day. It’s a blessing we long-married couples have — with all these days spent together, very few stand out alone. Rather, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, our marriage exists as an entire thing, not judged by any one day but by our perseverance, selflessness, and love in action.

We build our relationship day by day, but a single bad day — even Valentine’s — won’t kill it. And a single fabulous day — even Valentine’s — won’t rescue a failing marriage. We must take the long-term view and foster intimacy each and every day. Forgiving each other for the days that don’t go well, celebrating the ones that do, and praying God will infuse us with His love to spill over to our spouse.

Is Valentine’s Day too much pressure in your marriage? Maybe. But with some intentionality, you can ease some of that pressure and enjoy February 14 . . . and every other day in your blessed marriage.

Sources: U.S. News – Valentine’s Day Spending to Approach $19 Billion; Forbes – Valentine’s Day Spending Predictions That Might Surprise You

26 thoughts on “Is Valentine’s Day Too Much Pressure?

  1. Keelie Reason

    Great thoughts! I hate that people feel so much pressure about gift giving and stuff on Valentine’s. To me, it’s a day to just focus on being in love with my husband. Although,I do like chocolate, so I won’t turn it down if I get it. 😀 I love to take Valentine’s, our wedding anniversary, and our dating anniversary and be reminded of the mushy gushy aspects of our relationship. Those aspects aren’t always present, but they are sometimes. I like to celebrate our love, basically by thinking about it in depth.

    I’m glad you and your husband fall in the same category on this. I think a lot of people don’t.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Love this: “To me, it’s a day to just focus on being in love with my husband.” Absolutely! That’s what it should be. Enjoy!

      Reply
  2. libl

    We don’t do Valentine’s Day. When we started dating, I was so excited to finally be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Well, I got stuff for him and surprised him, but he did nothing. He then told me he refuses to do Valentine’s Day. All my pink and red hearts fantasies flew out the window. I relented, because he did have a point…..He would rather show me love randomly throughout the year than just give in to the pressure of another commercial holiday.

    Still, it would be nice to actually, for once in my life like I always dreamed, get the whole Valentine’s kit and caboodle.

    But, with many things in our marriage, what he says goes, and I relent.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Maybe you could bring it up again and explain why it means something to you and look for a compromise? Just a thought.

      Reply
  3. alchemist

    We sometimes do stuff, sometimes not.

    Last year he proposed on Valentine’s day. This year is our first one as a married couple. But gifts are really low on both our love languages. The plan was to go hiking and make some yummy duck. I was planning on wearing something pretty my mom bought for the honeymoon (which we didn’t really end up having, so he hasn’t seen it yet 🙂 We’re still very new to this married thing. So it seems weird to go super over the top.

    Reply
  4. Re' Schlitt

    For my wife and I, Valentine’s Day is not really a big deal because we live out the spirit of the day on a daily basis, everyday of our marriage. Passionate kisses, long hugs, cuddling, and frequent written and spoken “I love you” messages, are the norm for us. As such, for us, Valentine’s Day is not about making up for lost time, it’s more about putting a cherry on an already wonderful marriage.

    Reply
  5. Eric

    Great Post, J!
    Let me say, though, I’m glad I didn’t marry a woman with giving so low on her list of Love Languages! I love giving, and for my wife of 52 years it’s usually a box of expensive hand-made chocolates from a candy store. Here’s a true story from 51 years ago of what NOT to do. On February 14 1965, I went into a store that makes their own candy and had them pack a pound of chocolates, all in HER favorite flavors. Then I picked out MY favorite–raspberry jellies in dark chocolate, four ounces in a paper bag. When I got home, I gave her the bag, and merrily announced, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
    Well, she frowned when she peeked inside. Dark chocolate was not her favorite. Raspberry jellies? She hates them. She bit into one–and burst into tears. I tried to console her with the REAL gift. But she was furious. It took a couple of hours for things to get lovey dovey again.
    I read a while back that in America more babies are born in November than any other month. I haven’t seen statistics to prove this, but my parents had seven children, and four were born in November. So you count the months yourself. Apparently a lot of couples make love on Valentine’s day, and many do so purposely to get pregnant.
    I know from experience that the best times DW and I have had in bed were when we were trying to become pregnant. Our youngest (he’s now 38) was born nine months after we spent an evening in July in the best encounter ever.
    My suggestion: if you do plan another baby, let Grandma have the kids for Sunday afternoon and evening on February 14. If you can’t afford a hotel or motel room, fix the bedroom up with hearts, perfume and maybe some red sheets. Then enjoy yourselves for an hour or two in a robust, romantic intimate encounter. This won’t guarantee a baby in November, of course. But I do believe that He who told our first parents to “be fruitful and multiply” smiles on this kind of purposeful “becoming one flesh.”
    Eric

    Reply
      1. Eric

        Congratulations, M:

        Of my four Valentine’s Day siblings, two were born on November 1, two on November 10 and one on November 7. My mother, who would have been 97 on May 20, was born exactly nine months to the day after her parents were married in 1917. She told me that her mother was a virgin until she and Grandpa married (Grandma was 24 and Grandpa was 38). On April 15, 2015 Mother went to be with Jesus–and her parents and Dad.

        Eric

        Reply
        1. M

          Wow that is so neat that two sets of siblings share the same birthday. 🙂

          My father was also born nine months to the day after his parents married.

          I am sorry for the loss of your beloved Mother. What a joy to know though that she is reunited with family and sits at the feet of Jesus now. We will see our loved ones again and I find such comfort in that.

          Blessings to you and yours!

          Reply
          1. Eric

            Thanks, M,
            The last words I heard Mother say, only hours before she went to be with Jesus, were, “I want to go home. There are people waiting for me there.” Among other things, she was getting frustrated at the expense and fuss made to keep her tired old body this side of eternity!

            Now to make this “on topic” for a sex & marriage column, Mother was the parent who answered my questions about sex. Dad was uptight, and wouldn’t talk about it. If any of you have seen the comedy movie PLEASANTVILLE, which trashes parents of the 1950s, Mother (1918-2015) didn’t fit that stereotype at all. She would talk about things, honestly and frankly. For instance, when I was getting married she wished me to know that women need to have orgasms. Dad didn’t know that, she said, and she was married for several years before she learned that she even had a clitoris.

            But my dad was a great man, who never forgot a Valentine’s Day or an anniversary! I remember well the heart-shaped, enameled red steel box Dad got her one Valentine’s Day, filled with Whitman’s Sampler chocolates. Mother used it for many years to store sewing things in. It was an expensive gift for a poor farmer in the 1940s, so I’m guessing that Dad, who cut logs in winter, may have just got a check from the sawmill.
            Eric

  6. B

    I hate Valentines Day (and my birthday, and my anniversary…). My problem is I compare too much, as in number 3.

    I’ve never been given any kind of celebration. In fact, I really wanted to go away for our 20th anniversary, and my husband was on board, but nobody wanted to watch our children (and they are well behaved teens, so it’s not like they’re wild toddlers…but our family has issues. 🙁

    I also hate asking for gifts, well, telling someone what I’d like. I mean, that just seems so much like begging or clamoring for attention. I can’t get it out of my head that it’s greedy and WRONG.

    What upsets me, although I’m pretty good at not showing it outwardly, is the comparison. My husband is a good man who acts loving to me most days. But he doesn’t really think a whole lot about celebrations, gifts, etc. He usually acknowledges the event and gets a card (I hate cards so much.) But I know a couple women who are downright bullies to their husbands. The relationship seems strained – AND YET – on a birthday or Valentines Day, these women are lavished with gifts. Their birthdays are major events. They are treated incredibly lovingly by the same husbands they are snarky to. My husband says a lot of that is done for show, and perhaps he’s right, but there are times I wonder why other women are worth a lavish dinner for thirty people, and my milestone birthdays slip by unnoticed. Well, except for the ever present greeting card. (Did I mention I HATE greeting cards?)

    So this year I’m going to try something different. I’m not going to care. Im not going to compare. Im going to just relax and enjoy the fact that my husband loves me, even if he stinks at showing it. He thinks working an insane amount of hours is love, and while I may never understand that, I’m going to try to accept it.

    But gee, I wish Valentines Day had never been invented. It’s just another day to feel unworthy, plus the history of it is kind of morbid.

    Reply
  7. P

    We do nothing special on Valentine’s Day. Why not? Simply because my wife is my Valentine 365 days a year (366 this year, of course!) and vice versa.

    Reply
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  9. A

    I very much feel that the pressure to experience something special because it’s Valentine’s Day is not healthy for a marriages with sex intimate issues. It’s taken us 32 years to understand that sex is beautiful and God designed. Couples need to make sex talk a priority in order to enjoy sex together. NO SHAME NAKED sex takes time patients and practice. It’s all about thinking about the spouses needs and slowly and respectfully explaining your own needs. It’s all worth it once the shame turns to erotic respect for one and other. The way Adam and Eve must of experienced sex. Yes erotic sex after 32 years of marriage. We made dates and enjoy and anything is ok and that’s so much fun.

    Reply
    1. B

      That’s actually really great to her, thanks for sharing, A! After 20 years of marriage, I figured it was all pretty much downhill for us. I felt envious of all the young couples who read these blogs and are figuring it out so early. I feel happy for them, but envious, too. But your story gives me hope!
      My husband has recently started sharing with me that he’s been praying for our marriage and wanting things to improve. I’ve kind of felt like, what’s the point – it’s far too late. but your comment gives me hope, so thanks again for sharing!

      Reply
      1. Eric Wiggin

        To B,

        I do understand your angst re what you seem to indicate is a less-than-happy marriage. I don’t know your circumstances, but I do ditto J’s “It’s never too late.”
        Please let me add some of my own experiences: With 20 years of marriage, I was in the midst of a depression not caused by our marriage, but it sure affected out relationship. I’d been a pastor and a public school teacher. Tenured, I could have stayed in the school classroom until retirement. But the Lord opened the door for me to teach at a small Christian college, and I stepped through.
        Five years later I had lost my teaching job–twice! The first college (which has since recovered) fell from an enrollment of just under 500 to 250 in two years. College #2 shut down for a semester, reorganized and moved to a new campus. So for the rest of my working years (I’m 76; married 52 years–same wife), I had to patch up things with part-time work as a substitute teacher a part time journalist, and eventually as a novelist (and no, few writers get paid like John Grisham or Stephen King)–I have met King, though). God has blessed us financially in ways I won’t take time to describe, though we are still “poor.”
        We were married 30 years when child #4 graduated from high school, married and went to college. With all the kids out of the house, life improved for both of us–more time for each other, to go out to eat, etc. The summer I was 55 we spent a week at a Christian writer’s conference that went back-to-back with the national CBA Christian Bookseller’s convention. Together in a motel, DW and I made love five nights in a row (about an hour each time), something that I never expected to be able to do at that age. For more than a dozen years we traveled together to conventions and conferences.
        And after long dry season away from teaching an adult SS class, I was given a class at the church we now attend.
        My wife arrived home at 3:00 AM this Monday, after nearly a month visiting our youngest son & family in a state 1,000 miles away. It’s now Wednesday, and I’m in Third Heaven with her home. And though our love life has naturally slowed down, it’s still there, praise God.
        One thought re my depression. For months I read and reread Psalms dealing with David’s problems. God blessed and lifted me up as he did David. Wherever your Bible has titled a Psalm “A Psalm of David,” read it and pray for blessing. It will do wonders for your soul.
        Eric

        Reply
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  11. Noel

    This has been causing some conflict in our marriage. I’m in the pro-Valentine’s camp while he is not. We do many things together throughout the year as a couple, but my husband is not romantic 99% of the time. I honestly use valentines day as a way to pressure him to be romantic. This year , I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a reservation at a fancy restaurant I knew he’s always wanted to try. I figured it would be my treat. Last night, however, he said he’d rather cook at home than eat out. So today I cancelled the res and told him the place I had planned. He said, “Well, if I’d known it was for that place, I ‘d have gone.” UGH!!! I thought women were complicated!!! I know we have a lack of communication on this topic, but I feel that he is being flippant while I’m sharing my soul. I’ve been working on trying to let go of my vision of our fantasy marriage, but his attitude is sure making it hard. 🙁

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m sorry this is a struggle. Are you very direct about what you’d like to do? Most guys don’t read their wives’ minds very well. I have to be pretty clear; e.g., “I want to go out to ___, because getting dressed up and spending time with you makes me feel cherished.”

      Reply
      1. Eric Wiggin

        J, I agree with your response to Noel. As a male who loves to be romantic, if my wife planned a restaurant reservation, I’d have gone and had a good time. Over the many years, I’ve surprised my wife with meals out and overnight trips to resorts.
        BUT . . . it’s usually not a smart move for a woman to try the same on a man. Eating out is NOT a “Love Language” for many men. Men who work, and often commute for hours daily, want to eat at home, ordinarily. Dressing up to go out to a noisy restaurant, with a waitress who can range anywhere from polite and efficient to too helpful, continually interrupting your attempts to make lovey dovey conversation with DW to pour coffee, to ask “is everything alright,” or whatever, do get on my nerves. Then we drag home several hours later, and since it’s Valentine’s Day, she wants some whoopee . . . well, you get the picture.
        I know, of course, that a lot of wives who respond to these posts also work full-time jobs, and they are in no mood to prepare a meal at home after work–and I DO understand. So here’s a suggestion: have something catered–delivered to the door. And be more creative than just ordering pizza, puh-leeze.

        One more thought: We’ve got a two-day holiday this year, with Valentine’s Day and President’s Day back-to-back. Since VD is a Sunday, the restaurants will be crowded. Why not celebrate small at home, then have the big restaurant dinner on Monday, if you have that day off?
        Eric

        Reply
  12. Noel

    I hear what you both of you are saying. Yes, J, I’m
    so direct, to the point of being called nagging. At this time, I’m struggling to just keep my mouth shut and just stuff whatever I’m feeling because I don’t know how to express my feelings without upsetting him. Eric, great suggestion, but I have work on Monday – I’m a teacher and have staff development. :/ I guess my viewpoint is just that, if one dinner out is so monumental to me, why can’t he suck it up and just do it? To give you just a bit of background, I’m the wife who never says no…like, ever. Whatever he wants to try, I’m game. But things like this make me wonder if I should be playing games.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      He should suck it up. I completely agree he should take you to dinner if it matters! I’ve said that very thing to husbands. BUT I also believe in speaking to the person who visits the blog and equipping them to influence their marriage positively. I literally spent years wondering why my husband wouldn’t change and why God wouldn’t change him. And honestly, things only got better in my marriage when I let go of that frustration and found ways to achieve good ends that didn’t build resentment toward my husband. That’s why I tell people you can’t control your spouse, so work on yourself.

      All that said, my heart goes out to you. Hang in there! Most of the time, it really is that the spouse flat-out doesn’t understand why something is so important to you, not that they don’t care. So give some grace.

      Reply
    2. Eric Wiggin

      Noel,
      I just read your post, and J’s response to you. I’m afraid that she is right. I’ve been married 52+ years, and though my wife is the the nicest woman (this side of the Mississippi, at least), there have been times when, as a husband, I’ve wondered why God didn’t change her. Or at least do it sooner. I am a combination of analytical and creativity. I’m an introvert who doesn’t like crowds, and yet I tend to feel empowered when I’m asked to speak before a crowd. I was once given five minutes and put on the spot to address 3,100 men at a conference. Great fun!

      Dear Wife, OTOH, is a social butterfly–gregarious to the extreme. We’ll go to a church meal, and while I’ve already found a table at which to eat, she’s off gabbing with friends, or trying to comfort someone, or help a mom with an unruly two-year-old. This drives me NUTS! You get the picture? But we have learned to appreciate each other’s differences, though it’s taken a few years.

      For all of us, it’s a matter of learning to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). For most of us, that may take half a century–or a bit longer. “Marriage is not intended to make us happy; it’s to make us holy.” I think John Piper said that.
      Eric

      Reply

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