It’s that time again — Valentine’s Day. The holiday of romantic love, chocolate hearts, and passionate feelings about whether Valentine’s Day should be celebrated, or banned.
Yes, a dozen red roses, plus dinner, will cost as much as your car payment. And yes, love is as sweet on February 15th and every day after that (and should, indeed, be expressed all year long.)
And it’s true, Valentine’s Day is a red ribbon sales day for Hallmark and Hershey and a host of others who peddle “romance” for profit, creating enough hype and hoopla to turn even the ultra-romantic among us into a Valentine’s Day Grinch.
Still there are those of us who like to make the most of the day. We don’t take it seriously enough to expect something from Tiffany or to assess the depth of our love based on what happens that day. We simply view Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to do something sweet with the special someone we love.
Whether you’re a Valentine’s Day hater, a scoffer, or a romantic like me, consider these reasons to make Valentine’s Day a holiday you won’t want to miss:
1. It feels good to give.
When we give to others, at least two good things happen: we feel closer to the person who’s received our gift and that person feels closer to us.
It doesn’t matter what you give — a cookie, a back rub, a coupon that promises that you’ll help clean out the garage; or better still, your undivided attention.
Generosity is good for your health, your self-esteem, and your marriage. Though I don’t recommend giving with an expectation that your spouse must respond in kind, most often, our generosity is met with gratitude, which is an act of love, as well.
2. There’s no such thing as too much L and A (Love and affection).
Maybe your everyday life is chock full of hugs and “I LOVE YOUs!” Then again, maybe it’s not.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life, to let our to-do list grab more than its fair share of our time. To often (and too easily) the sweet, loving gestures and kind words that are so important in marriage go unexpressed.
Sometimes what we express isn’t loving at all.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to put some love in the bank. Go on. Go a bit over the top.
3. It’s good for your heart. Literally.
Forget the over-priced dinner and the wilting bouquet. One of the best things you can do for your marriage and overall well-being is to hug.
It’s fun. It’s free. And it brings a host of good things. Hugging and hand-holding have been found to release the hormone oxytocin, which reduces blood pressure, boosts your mood, and lowers the levels of stress hormones in your body.
Sounds good to me!
Need I say more?
5. It’s about fun.
Valentine’s Day is not a solemn occasion. Cupids and hearts and chocolates left on your pillow are about whimsy and playfulness. They’re about the light side of love.
Loathe the idea of an over-crowded restaurant with a prix-fixe menu?
Can’t stand dressing up?
There’s no need. Take a walk. Go out for breakfast. Or lunch. Have cookies and milk, or order a pizza.
Maybe just saying, “I love you” will feel like enough.
Whatever you do, don’t have a fight about not living up to some romantic ideal.
6. It’s a good day to start making things better.
It’s a sad fact that some people turn Valentine’s Day into a day of reckoning. Just Google Valentine’s Day and divorce and you’ll see what I mean.
Everyday disappointments about marriage can feel even more disappointing on a day when we imagine everyone else is “in love.”
Rather than mope or bemoan the miserable state of their marriage, rather than feel defeated and just try to get through the day, I’ve know couples to use Valentine’s Day as an occasion to reach out: To talk about wanting to have a deeper connection. To talk about ways to have more kindness and love. To renew their effort to try.
Of course any of us can do this any day of the year. But, as one of my clients said, “What I wanted for Valentine’s Day was a better marriage. I figured this was a perfect day to begin.”
7. It’s a chance for romance.
People have used the occasion of Valentine’s Day to profess love, to propose marriage, to send flowers or a love poem to someone they secretly admire.
Why not let your inner romantic roam free?
8. It’s an opportunity to smile.
This one’s a lot like hugging.
Smiling has a profound effect on the reward centers of the brain: one smile can generate the same degree of pleasurable brain stimulation as 2000 bars of chocolate, without impacting your waistline. (I did not make this up!)
Smiling reduces stress, relaxes us, and even builds trust.
Want a gift that keeps on giving? Smile.
Since smiles are contagious (it’s difficult to frown when someone smiles at you) the benefits you get from your smile will be shared by everyone around you. You may even get a hug in return.
9. It’s a day to bring out your crayons.
Or, your paper and pen. Or, your grandmother’s recipe for chocolate fudge hearts.
Write a love poem, a haiku, or a limerick — the more risqué the better.
10. It’s a perfect reminder that love matters.
Ask anyone what they want most with their partner and they’re likely to say that they want to love and be loved.
We all want to be cherished. We want to know that, despite the inevitable ups and downs of marriage, our spouse still wants to be our Valentine.
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Valentine’s Day graphic by Randall Munroe.