Sunday, February 8, 2009

Valentine's Approacheth

Well, now that Valentine's is coming up, I thought I'd post a little bit on some of my thoughts (in progress), opinions (still forming), and musings on the subject.

Do most married women look forward to Valentine's Day? Probably. Do most men? I'm not so sure. For instance, have you ever been in a mixed group of married people and one of the women starts talking about what her romantic husband did for her last Valentine's? The places he took her to, the surprises, the romantic things he did, the gifts, etc? I have. If you watch the guys in the room, many of them begin to get uncomfortable. Some look they want to bolt! And almost all of them are not feeling happy thoughts towards the man who did these things! For myself I know I often think something like "Uh, oh, I hope Jobina isn't listening to this . . . Doh, she is . . . well, maybe she won't get any new expectations . . . Oh man, now I have to come up with something really good!" For married men it seems there's pressure on Valentine's day - perform! Be romantic! Plan something! Buy something good! And of course we have to do it because it's Valentine's Day.

When men are in the dating days, the affection and zeal shown on Valentine's is natural and not usually forced. Yet after marriage many men feel resistance to it. I know tons of guys who either don't like or even hate Valentine's day. Why is that? It's certainly not because they don't love their wives. Is it the pressure? Maybe, perhaps it is because it the decision to be romantic feels forced and not something spontaneous and sincere. That would be a good hypothesis except for the fact that the same expectations were there in their dating years and then it wasn't much (if at all) of a problem. Maybe then it's insecurity? Maybe deep down they feel that their affection showing is lacking. Maybe Valentine's Day convicts men? Hmmm . . . I'm not sure.

One thing is for sure; you can't just ignore the holiday. I have heard many men explain why they refuse to celebrate Valentine's day (the commercialism, the forced romance, the fact that they "aren't the Valentine's type," etc). But behind 90% of these men are women who are hurt by their spouse's rejection of the holiday (whether they admit it or not) and take the rejection personally. I used to belong to this group. I wanted to rebel but eventually realized that it was just too painful on my wife. It wasn't worth it. I decided to embrace the holiday (even though my instinct is to loathe it) because I know my wife loves it. And I want to please her.

Another reason why I think that Valentine's is not always comfortable for men is because in many ways it seems that the genders see the holiday differently. Women often see it as mostly a time to meet their emotional need for affection while men tend to see it as a time to meet their emotional need for sex. Thus if you get two groups together; one of women and one of men and talk about Valentine's day the conversations will be quite different! Since the advertising and cultural expectations lean more towards romantic displays of affection - my theory is that many married men find it difficult to relate to. Many men don't naturally find it exciting to think about displaying affection without the potential for present or future possibilities of. Is this evil? I don't think so. I think we need to think of Valentine's (for marrieds) in a way that balances the needs of displaying heartfelt affection and the passion/romance and sexual fulfillment - if we want the holiday to appeal equally to both sexes.

Is there such a model? I think so. It's called The Song of Solomon, a book in the Bible that has excessive amounts of affectionate poetry mixed with tasteful but exciting expressions of desire and sexual intimacy. In my humble opinion the best marriages are the ones that are high in affection and passion. Should we not approach Valentine's (at least for married couples) the same way - exalting both aspects of romantic love? The application of this to me is this: both spouses should expect and contribute to a Valentine's day that has lots of displayed affection and lots of sexual fulfillment. What do you think?

P.S. Please note that I'm not trying to gender stereotype here, and I realize I make some generalizations that won't fit all people. For all of you men who desire more affection and you women who desire more passionate sex, I know you are out there!

10 comments:

Elayne said...

Only fitting that your mother-in-law should be the first to comment, hey Mark?!
When we were your age, with small children we always got a sitter and went out to dinner for Valentine's Day. There were flowers and chocolates at home given as gifts and sometimes other gifts as well.
Once our daughters had left home we decided there was nothing very romantic about sitting shoulder to shoulder in a crowded restaurant where at least 10 people around you could hear every word you said.
That's when we decided to plan a menu TOGETHER cook something we really liked TOGETHER, and eat our chocolate at home TOGETHER! Another thing we decided was that we didn't want someone else writing our love notes to each other so we stopped buying cards and making our own. Nothing fancey. Just words from one heart to the other (neither of us are artists!!)
We both enjoy Valentine's Day so much more since we invented our own way of celebrating.
I'm just too inhibited to talk to you about the sex!!
Love,
Mom
PS...Happy Valentine's Day to you both!!

Lindsey Dueck said...

At first I though you were going to say how useless and dumb Valentines Day is, and I am every glad you didn't.

As most women, I love it, and I think it is important for both sides to make an effort. For me, doing nothing would feel like I wasn't worth it. I am glad there is a day like this every year. It is a good excuse to do something extra special together. Not that you can't do it any other day, but I would feel left out if all the other couples around us did romantic things that day, and I got snubbbed. Honestly, I would feel jealous and embarassed. Maybe that is a bad reason, but that is how I would feel!

Lindsey Dueck said...

very glad, not every glad. ARGH, sorry.

Jobina said...

You've got me pegged Sweetheart! I love Valentines...it's an excuse to be extra mushy. But I don't really care for the going out part, I'd rather stay in and hang out with you! I'm a simple girl!.

Mark said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Valentine's people, I'd love to hear more on the topic!

Mom: I find it interesting how your conception of what romance on Valentine's should like. I suppose its important to check in with your spouse and be honest and open with what you consider romantic to be. Then you figure out a way to make both of you happy. What really is bad is when one spouse tries to overpower their partner's Valentine's wishes with their own. Or they assume that the other person's is just like theirs. Big mistake!
Lindsey: I don't hate Valentine's (but I do realize that I have some issues with it). I agree, it is good to set a day aside as special.
Jobina: I'm good for staying home this year - I have some ideas to make it extra special! And of course as long as you are there I know I'll be happy . . .

Jay Boaz said...

Sarah made the mistake of telling me she didn't care about Valentine's Day, so on our first Valentine's I didn't really do anything. I then found out she had been a little less than truthful... :)

~Hat~

Lee said...

hmmm...I guess I am in the minority here. Don't get me wrong - I love to go out with my husband but overpriced sitters, dinners and flowers really irritate me. It really doesn't mean anything to me (really) to have Keith make an effort for because society decided we need a "love" day.
Not bashing those who like it tho - I think if you do enjoy it, it is awesome. To me tho, it doesn't feel planned (which I like), but instead forced (which I don't like!)

Sarah Boaz said...

When Jay and I were dating I told him not to make a big deal about Valentines day, not so much because I didn't like the holiday but because we were just dating and still attempting to do special things with/for each other. Now we have joined the married club, and have less time devoted to "dating" one another. I don't need/want expensive gifts, but some time together would be great!

Lifelines said...

I think time together doing something we both enjoy is the best. No expensive gifts for me.. but I do appreciate quality chocolate! My husband would never forget Valentine's Day and actually I think he puts more effort into it than I do, which isn't really fair (to him).I think he does it because he knows how much it means to me.

Lindsay said...

I'm with the rest of you on the hatred of crowds and the desire for quality time together. Last year, we picked up sushi and cheesecake and watched a movie at home... It was a perfect V-Day, and one we plan to repeat indefinitely.