Instead of spending Valentine's Day stressing out over flowers and chocolates, try a low-key activity with your loved one instead. (Photo Illustration by Emily Crooks)
Instead of spending Valentine’s Day stressing out over flowers and chocolates, try a low-key activity with your loved one instead. (Photo Illustration by Emily Crooks)

They say that true love means never having to say you’re sorry. I say it means never submitting your partner to outdated, cliched Valentine’s Day expectations.

Valentine’s Day, like any successful consumerist venture, is all about competition and ever-increasing expectations. A 2012 study revealed that on Valentine’s Day in the U.S. $1.7 billion was spent on flowers and $3.4 billion was spent on romantic Valentine’s dinners. That sounds about right. The expectations are high, and the competition is fierce. Your partner gave you gerber daises? That’s great. My partner gave me two dozen long-stemmed roses. You have dinner plans on Valentine’s Day? How sweet. My spouse is whisking me away for a romantic weekend.

I pity the poor fool who doesn’t live up to his or her partner’s expectations. I’ve seen it countless times: all of the people in your class, office, or group of friends are being showered with flowers and insulin-triggering candies while you’ve been left out. Obviously it’s because your partner doesn’t care about you as much as theirs do. It has nothing to do with the fact that your partner doesn’t like public displays of affection, or that the way they like to show love has nothing to do with tacky, themed gifts.

Every couple and relationship is unique. Each of the people involved have different desires and different needs, and Valentine’s Day washes all of the individuality out of those relationships. What if you hate big crowds and waiting an hour to eat at a restaurant? You’d better hope your partner feels the same way. What if you can’t afford to shower your partner with flowers and heart-hugging teddy bears? Your “creative” and cheap alternative had better be the best thing since your kindergarten macaroni art.

Valentine’s Day takes well-adjusted people in more or less functional relationships and puts them inside a 24-hour “Hunger Games”-type competition. Only one person gets to be the winner, but everyone has to participate. Oh, and if you’re single don’t even bother leaving your house. This holiday is for couples who love each other with a capital “L.” You should plan better so that next year you’re not alone.

If you love someone, you can (and should) show them every single day of the year. And rather than comparing your Valentine’s Day experience with everyone around you, think about the things that person does for you — and you for them — every other day of the year. All the flowers and candies in the world can’t compensate for someone who makes you unhappy the rest of the year. Similarly, unmet Valentine’s Day expectations shouldn’t be the basis for condemning someone who makes you really happy.

This year, my husband and I are staying in. Neither of us feel particularly inclined to deal with the crowds, and we’re not exchanging gifts. We’re going to cook one of our favorite meals and play video games, and we are much more excited for the three-day weekend than Valentine’s Day. This may not be the perfect way for everyone to spend Valentine’s Day, but I think it speaks to the heart of what this “holiday” should be: a day to spend time with the people you care about — whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not — and appreciate everything they do for you.


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