Be honest–who was disappointed in what their partner did (or did not do) for Valentine’s Day?
I don’t do Valentine’s Day. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I made Valentine themed barrettes for my nieces, and I bought some candy, because candy is delicious. What I don’t do is celebrate Valentine’s Day with my husband. It has taken years of convincing to get him on the same page because he is a sweet, romantic, and thoughtful man, and I am an asshole. It took him a few years to believe I truly didn’t want to celebrate; years in which he got me something even after I expressly stated I didn’t want anything, because he is also not a stupid man and wanted to ensure I wasn’t trying to trick him by saying I didn’t want anything and then getting mad when he didn’t intuit I really had. Even now that he good-naturedly accepts my Scrooge-like behavior, he will still attribute everything on that day to being “for Valentine’s Day.”
In years past, I have attributed my anti-Valentine’s Day to “not buying into some Hallmark holiday” and all the other tripe people throw around to justify themselves, but the reality is, I don’t like to be disappointed. One year, many, many moons ago, I put together an extremely thoughtful and fun gift for the guy I was dating. It was an elaborate scheme in which I stole the spare key to his car, put the gifts in his seat on my lunch hour, then called him to ask him to look for something I had forgotten in his car so he would be surprised by the gift sitting there. It included some silly Curious George stationary, because he loved Curious George, among many other items he had been wanting. When he picked me up that evening, my gift was a note about how neat he thought I was, written on the stationary I had left for him a few hours earlier. I was hurt. I was sad. I was disappointed that I had put so much time and thought into something and he jotted some words on paper he had on hand. I didn’t need diamonds or flowers or anything outrageous; if he had written the same note for me on a card, I don’t think it would have been as bad, but it was his utter lack of consideration for me that really hurt. A lot.
Here’s the thing, though–I hadn’t given him any indication that Valentine’s Day was at all important to me. If he had asked, I probably dismissed it as “not a big deal to me.” Since that was the case, what right did I have to be upset with him when he did exactly what I had said by not making a big deal about it? How often do we do this to our partners? We put expectations on them to behave a certain way, expecting them to read our minds and intuit what we need or want without ever expressing our desires out loud. We want to know that they know us well enough to know what we really meant, to prove that they pay enough attention to know when we aren’t being forthcoming because we want to be surprised. How often does this work out positively for anyone? We want and expect people to behave as we would behave in situations; we expect from others what we expect from ourselves. Except, those others aren’t us. They don’t have the same life experiences, they don’t put emphasis on the same things, and they have their own sets of expectations.
This habit extends far further than partners. There are certain things at the office that I am very particular about. For instance, our main conference room has double doors. When people leave meetings, they always open one, but rarely the other. That one closed door drives me crazy; something about it being closed throws off the flow of the office for me. My receptionist, who cleans the conference rooms after they are used, never opened the second door when he was done cleaning. I would stomp over there and open the door, loudly clanging it against it’s magnetic door stop to get my point across that the door needed to be opened. He never got the hint; I got more and more annoyed. Then one day, I said, “hey, can you please make sure you open both doors when you are done cleaning out the conference rooms?” and, by golly gee, guess what? I haven’t had to open that door in months. Yes, this is a silly example, but I think it illustrates the point I am trying to make. Basically, if you let people know what you expect from them, they are usually more than willing to do it.
This is a part of myself that I have worked on over the past few years. I try to make sure that if I have specific expectations of something, whether it is a holiday or housework, I make those known. Another example for y’all–the kitchen being clean is important to me. The rest of the house can be a disaster, but for some reason, if the kitchen is clean, I feel more at ease. Instead of expecting my husband to have to same idiosyncrasy, or to read my mind, I let him know my position. Now, even though he doesn’t particularly give two shits about the kitchen, he helps keep it clean. Conversely, he gets antsy if the garage is a mess (the one part of the house I could care less about), so I do my best not to let it get too cluttered or out of control. Both of these items caused tension in our co-habitation early on when we both thought the other should just know this thing; now they rarely have to be mentioned.
We all want to believe that the people in our lives know us well enough that these things don’t have to be said. Unfortunately, this line of thinking usually leads to nothing but disappointment. It leads to frustration and can erode even the strongest of relationships. My challenge to myself, and to anyone reading this, should you care to join me, is to tell people what I (you) need. When someone doesn’t live up to an ideal in my head, I will be upfront and honest about my needs for the future. For the most part, people like to make other people happy. Most people don’t intentionally try to hurt each other’s feelings or ignore their wishes. I will try to remember that, try to remember not to see maliciousness where there is none, and try not to interpret lack of fulfillment of my needs as an attack or inconsideration, but as a genuine lack of the proper information.
Going back to my earlier question about being disappointed by your partner the other day–could anyone’s disappointment have been offset by any of the above?
***MJ wrote a really touching article the other day about how much she enjoys celebrating Valentine’s Day with the people she loves–I Don’t Hate Valentine’s Day | Persephone Magazine. It is one of the first articles I have read about the subject that actually gave me pause about my boycott. Check it out!
**** also, I found a ton of adorable Etsy stores when searching for Anti-Valentines items, should you want to check them out. A Shop of Unnecessary Necessities by roscata on Etsy, MetalliCarp Design by Metallicarp on Etsy, Conversation Heart Fingerless Mitts pink by TwinkieChan on Etsy, Grumpy Snarky Valentines Day Conversation by suzyqandsallytoo, Oxidized FUCK Conversation Heart Necklace by HannahBlountJewelry.