Is Valentine’s Day important to celebrate? Our therapists share their thoughts
Valentine‘s Day is a holiday that seems to be revered, loathed, or simply tolerated by singles and coupled alike. While the holiday appears to have in some ways been hijacked by greeting card and chocolate companies, from the vantage point of cultivating and maintaining a healthy relationship, celebrating our love for our partners on February 14th isn’t without merit.Dr. John Gottman, founder of the “Love Lab”, emphasizes often in his literature the importance of establishing Rituals of Connections which he describes as a “method of ‘turning toward’ another person that is reliable and can be counted on.” Now these could be as simple and routine as making sure to kiss your partner when you reunite at the end of the day or as infrequent as committing to schedule a celebration of Valentine‘s Day each year. The unifying theme being that the ritual is intentional (see: “making sure” and “committing”).To some, the idea of planning something out for the explicit purpose of connection may seem unromantic and forced, however those moments of intentionality can be incredibly strengthening and intimacy enhancing. Does the holiday matter? Any moment for potential connection is an opportunity to, as Dr. Gottman says, “turn toward” your partner or away, and Valentine‘s Day is certainly no exception.
Valentine’s Day tradition may provide us with a sense of strengthened connection and security in relationships. It may also be a source of pressure, as we are culturally and socially influenced to write sentimental cards, buy expensive presents, make reservations at extravagant restaurants, etc. And romance might be a challenge when people have tight deadlines at work, are stuck in traffic on the way to a date or struggling with a family health matter. With this in mind, it is important that partners ask themselves individually and as a team what Valentine’s Day means for the couple.
This way, they can choose whether or how they would like to experience the holiday in a way that fosters connection, safety, and joy in the relationship. Cooking together at home, planning a vacation, or rescheduling Valentine’s Day plans to a different date are some ideas that might counter rushing and anxiety. It might also give couples an opportunity to be present and enjoy each other while making the holiday their own.
With so much sadness and cynicism in the world today, it is more important than ever to get into the holiday spirit and find positivity wherever we can. Valentine’s Day is no exception to this. Despite the complaints that V-day is just a “hallmark holiday,” celebrating love and expressing that to the people close to you is actually an extremely uplifting endeavor. Plus dark chocolate and wine have been shown to be good for your heart. Valentine‘s Day may have started as a money maker by big business, but why argue with spending time and money on those you love! This doesn’t have to be restricted to romantic love – I am all for grabbing your pals and having a Galentine’s Day celebration!
As a couples therapist, I believe that it is important to celebrate your relationship daily. Making time for dates throughout the month can dramatically change the dynamic in a relationship. If the focus is on one holiday, it doesn’t allow the focus to be on the relationship but more so on the holiday celebration. I encourage my clients to look for ways to celebrate their relationship throughout the year with small romantic gestures, dates and overall goodwill towards each other.
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to communicate with your partner about each other’s expectations. There isn’t one right way to celebrate. You run the risk of major disappointment if you expect a lavish celebration, but fail to let your partner know. They may view the holiday very differently than you do. Having an open dialogue allows for compromise, while still leaving room for the element of surprise. And that kind of communication is a great habit to get into.