Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day -- Oh Yes, the Little Gestures Matter

Guys (men and women) you have to celebrate this holiday. In some way. Any way. Big. Small. A way that will let the person you love know you love him or her. Old or young, it matters.

It matters for a lot of reasons. The surface one is that it's because our culture celebrates this holiday and all around each of us is this huge message of SHOW YOUR LOVE.

We may say we don't buy into it, or shun "Hallmark" holidays but I am going to call BS on that. Nobody is that cool. Nobody never needs someone to show their love. Nobody ever learns to live perfectly well without love. We all need to feel loved, in some way.

And, on special days, like today, we like to see it in some special way.

I say this as someone who used to think she was too cool, too strong, too modern to need flowery hearts and fake holiday sentiment.

Until I finally admitted I did, said so, and improved my marriage.

When we got married, we had an emotional "pre-nup" in which he made me swear to never surprise him for his birthday (party-wise) or have waiters sing to him in a restaurant. He hated that stuff. We were still in our "cool youth ennui" stage of life. We eschewed artificial trappings and Hallmark holidays and materialism. We were about modernity and independence and keeping it real, man.

See, we met (and married) when we were really, really young. Like wet behind the ears, barely formed frontal lobe young. Sure we thought we were adults: out of college, degree(s) in hand, paying our own way, real professional jobs. HA! I can look back now, nearly 20 years later and say that: HA!

We were young and silly, but the emotional "pre-nup" was a pretty decent idea, except we didn't do a "what to do" part. We only did a "don't ever do this to me" part, which was fine, but only half the story. To tell the truth, I don't think we even knew what we needed, at that time. Or maybe we didn't know how to express it, fully.

I thought, silly girl, that I wasn't worthy and anyway I was a Modern Woman and we did not need that crap. Plus, after my experience growing up, I swore on my own grave I'd never need a man to fulfill me. In fact, we each had our own reasons for having up a pretty solid emotional wall. So we were both stalwart. HA!

But he is a sap and I am a romantic. He's got a better backbone, though. So for years I did all those silly little things: little birthday wishes all over the house, cake with candles after dinner and the occasional party; notes in his briefcase or shoes; special made plans; gifts; poems; even sent him flowers etc. These were all double messages, you know:

Love me love me love me
show me show me show me
see what I love to give and to get I love you
here's how I see love
I tell you this way and
hear it from you this way too
do you see how love looks to me
love me love me love me
show me show me show me

And he, not so much. From the very beginning, I steeled myself and pretended I didn't need it, didn't care. But I was unhappy about it.

I loved him every other day because he is a great guy, except those days. I started really hating holidays and birthdays.

I grew to understand what it was that I needed, and turns out, it is paper hearts and flowers. Or sticky notes with poems. Or a box of chocolates. Or a foot rub. As it turns out, I am not that picky and am pretty easy to please, so long as you try.

See, what I really needed, just sometimes, was for my love to step out of the daily box and do a little something special. I needed my love to know how I saw love, and put effort into speaking my love language for a day. Because that's love.

So I told him this.

He confessed he liked my little things I did, that they mattered to him.

Now he does those little things for me because he learned to value them, to admit he needed them, but mostly, because he values me and our marriage and is willing to do these things for that. That's love.

I don't know what your love is, who it is with or how it looks. It might be roses. It might be a sticky note with special words on it. It might be a lover or a best friend or a child or a parent.

But you...YOU...deserve to get that love today and on other special days. YOU deserve to give that love, too.

I like Hallmark or contrived holidays. I like a cultural tradition of take time, be together, express care. It's easy to take things, people for granted. It's easy to get consumed by the rote and routine of life. Do a love day today. If you just can't bring yourself to buy into it, say I love you along with a why, at least. And make sure you do something romantic, special, loving and passionate on another occasion.

Today I am looking forward to a Valentine from him. He tells me he loves me in many ways every day, and that's nice. I do see that. But getting something special, that's nice too.

In a relationship, it is so important, those expressions of passion and love and romance and sentiment. In fact, it's priceless.

Have a very expressive Valentine's Day, friends!


niobe said...

Thinking about this.

And wondering what you do if, when you look into the recesses of your cold little heart, you realize that you don't love anyone at all.

Christine said...

yes! yes!! YES!!!!

niobe--i bet there are at least two people you love.

niobe said...

Christine: Well, I guess there is one person that I loved

However, note the use of the past (very, very past) tense.

Also, sorry for the hijack, Julie. But this post really made me think.

Julie Pippert said...

Niobe, you know me enough to know thinking is greatly welcome here and never seen as a hijack.

Look into the recesses of your heart. There is some love there, and, at the very least and most, love yourself.

At heart (pun intended) that's what this post is about, loving yourself enough to give and receive love.

Mary G said...

I get this. You could be talking about me, the 20 yr old who told her fiancé that she didn't want a diamond but hoped to be provided with an automatic washer when the first child arrived.
I got it, too. And a dryer for the second child.
And I've left a lot of cards and notes and chocolate around the place.
Today, the day before our 49th anniversary, my husband, incapacitated by back pain, is fussing because he does not have an anniversary gift for me and won't be able to get one.
So, yes, I get this. Big time.