Where Logic Meets Love

Don't Try to Tell Me What I Want for Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Don't Try to Tell Me What I Want for Valentine's Day! | Faith Permeating Life

It's Valentine's Day, and since I write about marriage a lot, I think somewhere in the bylaws of the blogosphere that obligates me to write about Valentine's Day.

So: Valentine's Day.

Mike and I don't really do Valentine's Day. Some years we'll be like, "Hey, you want to do something?" and we might go out for dinner or something. We tried doing the dinner and a movie thing one year, and that went badly. (Because we decided to see King Kong. What?)

I'm pretty sure it was for Valentine's Day that one year in college we got dressed up and went to Taco Bell. It was awesome. I wore sweatpants under my dress because it was so cold. And Mike didn't care. Because he's awesome.


There are two main things I hate about Valentine's Day. And no, it's not the whole "Oh, it's just a commercialized holiday and acts of love should be spontaneous blah blah blah."

The first is this message: "Men, even though your wife insists you don't have to get her anything, she really wants flowers/jewelry/whatever."

This pisses me off because it assumes that I'm incapable of speaking for myself, and argues that if I do say something, I am lying.

Mike knows exactly what would happen if he bought me a piece of jewelry:
  • First, I would say, "Hello? Have we met? I don't wear jewelry."
  • Secondly, I would say, "How exactly did you pay for this? I know you don't have this much money in your personal account, so you must have spent our money on this piece of jewelry that I'm not going to wear. Why would you do that?"

It would not surprise me if the women at Mike's work asked him what he got me for Valentine's Day, and when he said, "Nothing," they told him, "No, listen, believe us, she really does want you to get her something." It wouldn't be the first time he's had such a conversation.

The fact that other people presume to know what I want more than my own husband makes me angry, and plays into the whole "bumbling, ignorant husband" stereotype that I hate.

The second thing I hate about Valentine's Day is the women who actually do say they want nothing when they want something.

No! Stop it! Why would you do that?

All you're doing is making it more likely your partner will do the "wrong" thing, setting yourself up to be disappointed, and making it more difficult for me to convince people that I'm telling the truth when I say the same thing!

I mean, I get the theory behind it. If you say you want nothing and he gets you something, he has the chance to "surprise" you. If you tell him to buy you flowers and he buys you flowers, then it's like he's just following orders.

But if the goal is for you to be surprised, rather than the "obligation" of Valentine's Day to be fulfilled, then why not say, "I would like it if you surprised me with flowers every once in a while"? If that's the most important thing to you, then the day shouldn't matter so much.

And if you do care about getting something on Valentine's Day, then be honest!

Or you can have a conversation about it: "Would you like to exchange gifts for Valentine's Day?"

Or you could say, "I would love for you to plan a surprise date for us for Valentine's Day."

If you are legitimately expecting something and will legitimately be disappointed if you get nothing, tell your partner.

No matter the context, expecting your partner to read your mind almost always ends badly. (Though maybe not this badly.)

I realize this post may be coming too late for some of you, but consider it a lesson learned for next year. Or maybe for your birthday, Mother's Day, anniversary, or any other date you want your partner to acknowledge in some way.

If you're in a relationship, do you and your partner celebrate Valentine's Day? How did you decide how you would celebrate it?


  1. We don't celebrate it. And I know what you mean. People always tell him that "she does want something." I DON'T!

  2. So, you said everything I wanted to say about Valentine's Day. Well-done! I love it!

  3. @Michelle P
    Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way! So annoying to have other people speak for you, isn't it??

  4. Yes, expecting your spouse to read your mind is a bad strategy all around. I always cook a special dinner for us on Valentine's Day, and we eat after the kids go to bed. I'm super busy this year, so I am cutting some corners, but it's still special (aka, not chicken nuggets or spaghetti).

    We don't do gifts really, it's more about just us taking a time-out together and show each other some affection.

  5. I think you make some excellent points! I think it's also important to have a discussion with your partner about how their family does holidays/gifts and what they've been used to growing up. My husband's family gives money for most occasions, and so he was very shocked one year when he got me money for my birthday and I burst into tears! I was very upset at the time because in my family chosing personalised presents means thoughtfulness. Eventually I realised he didn't actually do anything wrong there because I never told him what I was expecting!

    Now I just tell him what I'd like (e.g. I said for Valentine's day I would like flowers and a card but he doesn't need to get anything else) and it saves a lot of hassle on both ends.

  6. Also - the other thing I just thought of: I don't like how Valentine's Day is about "what did you get?" instead of actually just celebrating how you're going as a couple. Although like I mentioned above I did ask for flowers, but I also tried to spend my day preparing a nice evening for my husband, and put most thought into what I wanted to say on his card, instead of what to get him.

  7. @Gina
    My mom used to always make a special dinner for the whole family on Valentine's Day--at least that I can remember, which was like high school. I think crab eventually became the staple Valentine's Day dinner, as that's something everyone in my family loves but that isn't something we would get to have very often. But when your kids are young, I like the idea of having a nice dinner to yourselves after they go to bed :) I'm not anti-Valentine's Day in general, because I think it can be a nice reminder to take time out for the one(s) you love, however you celebrate it.

  8. @Lozzz123
    Very good point! That's part of the reason Mike and I did our month of parenting discussions, so we could uncover differences in our expectations based on how we were each raised. Even if you have very different expectations, getting it out in the open allows you to discuss/compromise as needed so there's less disappointment on either side. Good for you for just being upfront with your husband about your expectations for Valentine's Day.

    I don't know if I've ever had someone ask me what I got for Valentine's Day--definitely for birthdays--but that strikes me as an incredibly personal question. I would imagine plenty of people give their significant other some kind of "intimate" gift for Valentine's Day, and that's not exactly the kind of thing you chat about at the water cooler. It definitely seems more appropriate to ask, "Did you do anything special for Valentine's Day?" (which does not assume they did anything at all!).

  9. I so agree with you. When I tell my husband I don't want anything, I don't want anything. And will want to know where the money came from if he did buy my something.

  10. @Kathy Schneider
    Exactly! On a related note, it bugs me when people make comments about him "buying me dinner" or whatever. I know not everyone has joint finances, but we do, and most of the money is coming from my job! So I don't understand the mindset that he has all of this money at his disposable and can spend it all any way he wishes, so any money spent on me is him "treating" me. It's 2012, for goodness' sake! Grr.

  11. This was the first time either of us was in a relationship on Valentine's Day, and we both wanted to mark the occasion. He doesn't get home from classes and meetings until 8pm or so, so we planned to go grocery shopping when he got home and then have a candlelight picnic in our living room.

    However, our sleep schedules have been fairly messed up lately and around 2am the morning of Valentine's Day we both realized it was the 14th. I couldn't wait to give him his gift--pistachios and the illustrated book Missed Connections (a card with 14 reasons I'm nuts about him followed later). I had slipped a couple weeks ago that I was thinking about something, but nothing too big. So I did expect he would do something also. However, since he's someone who doesn't really understand the point of an engagement ring, and we DIY'ed our Christmas gifts, I really wasn't expecting more than a thoughtful card. But he surprised me with a necklace he bought on etsy. It's nothing fancy, but I love it. And I have to wonder if I would have been disappointed without at least some show of thoughtfulness. Maybe this is just because it's our first Valentine's Day together.

    I definitely understand how others might sincerely not wish to get caught up in the commercial aspects of Valentine's Day. For now, I enjoy the motivation V-day provides to do something a little extra special. Certainly, that can be done any day of the year though!

  12. @e
    That's great! It sounds like you had a nice Valentine's Day. I agree that I like the motivation Valentine's Day can give to do something special, whatever that means to you, which is why I'm not anti-Valentine's Day as a general rule. (I'm just anti-people-telling-my-husband-I'm-lying-to-him.)

    Mike and I ended up going out to Chipotle, which it turned out was a good choice--I dropped my business card in the bowl on a whim, and won us some free Chipotle! :)

  13. Yes! I agree with this so much. I know a lot of people who pull the whole "oh, I don't want anything" thing, then get upset when their partner doesn't magically read their mind and surprise them. If I say I don't want something, it's because I mean it.

    We're low-key. We just went for pizza and kind of exchanged gifts; I got him beer + chocolate and his gift to me hasn't arrived yet so I have no idea what it is.

  14. @Krys
    Yup, mind-reading is never a good expectation to have. But unfortunately it's hard to convince people of that sometimes, especially when it's so common. I've definitely been in a group of women before where one woman says, "Well, he ought to know ________" and all the other women say, "Mm-hmm, totally." I never want to be the one going, "Well, actually, let me lecture all of you on how detrimental this kind of thinking is to your relationships." And so it persists.

  15. The thing that caught my attention the most from this post (besides the fact that I agree with everything you say...life is so much easier when you are honest with your man - as well as yourself)...is the fact that you said that you wore sweats under your dress and it was OK because your husband is awesome....
    I think my husband is awesome for the same reason (and, of course, many others) and one of the main reasons is because what I wear and what I do do not matter in the scheme of things - it is who I am. Valentines day has no bearing on how I perceive how much my husband loves me.

  16. @Shayna Abrams
    This ties in somewhat with my previous post called Don't Pop the Bubble. I don't think anyone should feel like they have to act a certain way or dress a certain way or else risk losing the love of their significant other. It's too stressful to try to keep up a mask and pretend to be someone other than yourself!


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