James and I don’t do Valentines Day. Actually, we did it once. It was when we’d just got together, and it was kind of a game of chicken we both lost. I remember a conversation along the lines of, “Should we…I mean, do you want to hang out then?” and neither of us wanting to come off as anti-romance literally two weeks into our new relationship. We ended up doing a group triple date thing where we played the Mr & Mrs board game (and, not relevant to this at all, we came second which I think is pretty impressive after only a fortnight of dating). But we never really “did” Valentines Day after that – it wasn’t for us, and I for one was relieved.
For me, Valentines Day has always been a completely manufactured waste of time and money; a day to turn love into a corporate earner, put pressure on couples to randomly be extra brilliant to each other, and make single people feel bad. Why did we need a day to give presents, go on dates and show someone else we love them? Surely, if you are in love, you should be doing that kind of stuff generally anyway, right? Why do you need to parade your romance around for the world to see and compare?
Needless to say, my history with February 14th has been a grouchy one. But these days – and maybe I’m getting soft in my old age – I’m starting to see the point of Valentines Day.
Because people who are in love often don’t actually make much time for romance. We’re busy with work and kids and responsibilities. If you live in the same house, it’s easy to fall into being roommates who float past each other without really connecting as a couple. You might go out for birthdays and anniversaries, but a few years into marriage you’ve been through big problems, annoying habits, and yet you’re still here – so what’s the point of trying to impress one another?
But then there’s a day – one day a year where you suddenly feel you really ought to make time for one another. And so you buy a little present to show you care, otherwise the other person might be upset you forgot. You get all dressed up, even though they see you at your lowest level of effort most of the time and one night isn’t going to make them forget what you actually look like. You go for dinner and sit across the table from one another, but suddenly find yourself talking and laughing and really connecting. You’re actually on a date, and having fun, even though you only went out because it’s Valentines Day and you felt like you had to.
And perhaps there’s too much pressure in that, but maybe a little external, outside pressure can be good for us. How many of us would spend an entire day or few days with our extended family if it didn’t happen to be Christmas? Or catch up with old friends if it weren’t for being thrown together at some wedding none of us wanted to go to? The truth is, no matter how much we say we’re going to connect with other people, life has a habit of getting in the way of our best intentions – so maybe we should also let life also force us up off our backsides and make the effort once in a while. Maybe we should say, “Yes, Valentines Day is stupid and corporate, but also we haven’t had a date night in ages so let’s just give in.”
If you really hate Valentines Day, you can still use it as a prompt to invest in your relationship even if you do nothing on February 14th. For us, Valentines comes after a slew of holidays in quick succession – James’ birthday, Christmas, my birthday, our anniversary – so we’ve barely got time or money to do something special just because we’re supposed to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t set aside another time or date to celebrate and just be “us”.
I have a friend on Instagram who’s making the effort with her husband to do 20 proper dates in 2020. You could aim for one date a month, or setting aside a “Valentines Day” later in the year, or planning a weekend away together, or whatever works for you and your lifestyle. The important thing is to make time to just be the two of you – to connect, to remember what you like about each other, to invest in each other for the long haul – whether you do that on February 14th or not.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti