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How Valentine’s Day Can Ruin Your Relationship

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How Valentine’s Day Can Ruin Your Relationship

Candlelit dinners replete with a fine bottle of wine, diamonds, roses or imported chocolates. If you haven’t planned or purchased something from this list, you’re more than likely going to have a horrifying night (and you won’t get lucky either) this Feb. 14th. Why? Because unrealistic expectations are not just about women, but men too. We all fall into the Valentine’s Day trap and beyond. The problem with romantic fantasy is that it starts long before our first big Valentine’s purchase or even before our first kiss. We’ve been hearing the “happily-ever-after” fairy tales since we were in kindergarten and we’ve grown up with a steady diet of the diamonds-are-forever commercials.

The commercialization of Valentine’s Day has given rise to great expectations and just as often great disappointments if the gift giving is not enough to meet our romantic fantasy. These expectations have evolved over time and, with the help of jewelers and car makers, have encapsulated our longings to be loved with an equally open wallet. This profligate giving of expensive tokens has become the opportunistic statement of our enduring emotional wishes. We all want someone to think we’re special, that we can’t live without them! What better means of satiating our need to be loved than coughing up a diamond or two. The problem is that we may not have the means to meet the need.

So it is with Valentine’s Day. As our expectations soar with the coming of this much ballyhooed holiday, we can make out the problems that may come with it. It is not that gift giving is bad or that we should not give them but if we are making a connection between the size and cost of the gift with the quality of our love, we are creating an expectation that can cause a deep emotional rift in what may be an otherwise healthy relationship.

Ted Huston, a professor at the University of Texas, developed a project in 1979 that followed 168 married couples for 14 years to see what factors were present in successful long term marriages. He found that couples who entered their relationship with high expectations were far more likely to experience conflict and disenchantment.

Huston found that even though there is a change from courtship to marriage in the adage that “all finance’s love football” it will not ultimately ruin our relationship. He concludes that the greatest harbinger of hope for couples is, of all things, friendship. It appears that those couples who managed to keep their expectations realistic and concentrated more on the way they interacted with each other proved to be a winner over the long haul.

When we think about friendship with our lover, what immediately springs to mind is: what’s friendship got to do with romance? Long term love is sustained not by romance alone but by the daily activities of following through on promises, showing up, being there when we are needed, owning up to our responsibility for our part in an argument, and first and foremost, by being the kind of person who is worthy of being loved.

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Read more: Love, Relationships, Valentine's Day

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Dr. Bill Cloke

Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a PhD in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and TV psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit happytogetherbook.com.

46 comments

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9:43PM PST on Feb 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

4:48PM PDT on May 22, 2012

Just ENJOY each other

7:57PM PST on Feb 23, 2012

Haha goes to show how ludicrous it is then?!

12:49AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Yes, sure, we've heard of the happily ever after since we were in preschool... But you know, this article is geared toward high schoolers. Please say that adults are more mature, because if adults are really expecting this frivolous holiday to turn out so special, maybe they deserve to be tormented for being childish and materialistic?

I tend to enjoy more of the Shrek inspired pair of Donkey & Dragon. We celebrate totally unconventional, but, the way I figure is we get our tax return not much later than this holiday, and my birthday is right near it. I'd rather do something better for the two of us or the family rather than have some cut flowers that will only wilt in a few days.

I'm also a home care aid, and well, I'll tell you, expensive jewelry and my job DON'T go together. As a diabetic, chocolate is off the list. Plus we need to lose weight.

The way I like to celebrate? Cook the easiest meal we can find in the house, even if it means reheating leftovers, take a nice relaxing shower together, and follow it up with a good fun session to help us sleep really good...

7:38AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

NOTED!

4:27PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

If 2 people love each other then they show their love all year round,not just for one day a year,I think its silly and too expensive,its like almost everything else now its too commercial

10:45AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

If people are in a loving relationship, they find ways throughout the year of showing that love without a "special" day to remind them.

10:31AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Back in the 60s, my excuse for a grade school (upstate NY) tried to force this fake 'holiday' on us. I refused to connect with it; when they quit nagging for Jr High I completely ignored it and when my folks moved to Tuscaloosa AL for my highschool years I all but forgot it. My parents (married over 50 years until my mum died at age 78) never celebrated it. I never considered it a holiday because we never got a day off for it.

Nowadays, I might go to an orgy or celebrate physically with my lover for Lupercalia, but I still ignore 'Valentines' as a useless memento of a stupid monk beheaded for an illicit lover. The beginning of the Roman Republic is much more meaningful 2760 years ago than some idiot monk a couple hundred years past. So much for Choco-Greed Greeting Card day!

9:56AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

great article thanks!!

7:41PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Give a gift only when you really mean it.

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