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.