While I'm definitely not one of those people who despises Valentine's Day, I've never been a huge proponent of it either, no matter what my relationship status is. I've never gone out on a Valentine's Day date. I've never even been to a singles Valentine's Day party. Instead, when the day comes raging around the corner each year, you can find me wrapped up in bed like a burrito, watching movies and sucking the house dry of all the snack food.
My partner, who I've been with for almost two and a half years, shares my sentiment, except he feels a bit more strongly about it. While I use the day as an excuse to make homemade pink desserts, he tends to roll his eyes at the holiday in general, cynically insisting that it's just another way for capitalist society to rob us of our money.
However, holiday or no holiday, he and I have been so busy over the past few months that we haven't really had that much time together. Our work schedules haven't really aligned, and even our weekends have been jam-packed with social events. I didn't care how stereotypical the day could potentially turn. The bottom line is I love the dude, and we were in dire need of quality time together. So I announced to him that's precisely what was about to happen this Valentine's Day.
Since neither of us are very good at tackling Valentine's Day in the classically romantic way, we decided to do the things we're already familiar with. We would spend the whole day together, with minimal technological distractions, focusing on our relationship. To us, that meant we would talk about the uncomfortable stuff — what our future plans are, what we've been bottling up, and how we really feel about each other.
This week, we happened to be housesitting for a friend, a single mom who was away on vacation while her three kids were with their dad, which meant we had access to their lovely home, including a fully equipped kitchen, a fireplace, and a Jeep. On the outside it looked like a coincidence, but I think not. My boyfriend and I had been talking a lot lately about potentially getting our own home setup in Australia, so it all felt sort of like a trial run at playing house.
We're that annoying couple who likes to exercise together, especially on the weekends when we have time to. Our original plan was to go to a 10 a.m. yoga class at the studio where we teach, but by the time 9:30 rolled around, and we were still wrapped up under the covers, we quickly decided against it.
I insisted we do something, either a short workout routine or a sequence of yoga together, before the day started. He looked at me like I was crazy.
"It's Sunday!" He said. "Let's go get coffee and eat something, you know, and talk about stuff."
He had me at coffee. Neither of us spent time primping. I didn't put any makeup on. He tossed on an old fleece pullover. We jumped into the car and made our way over to our favorite coffee shop. As we walked in, we were mid-laugh about something, and nearly everyone shot us the kind of death stares that are exclusively reserved for Valentine's Day.
As if that would stop us. We got our coffees and a few pastries, sat down at the window, and actually spoke to each other for almost an hour about our lives. No phones or iPads. It felt nice.
We've had the majority of our most serious talks in the car. I don't know what it is about a long drive, but it brings out everything that's been left unsaid. I guess we were long overdue for one, as it had been months since we had even been in a vehicle.
On our way to Trader Joe's, we fell into a rhythmic conversation that gained a serious tone pretty quickly. We started tossing up ideas of where we would go next. After almost a year and a half of traveling, we didn't really have a plan anymore. All we knew for sure is that we've been missing the simple comfort of having a base, somewhere we could call home and leave all our stuff whenever we decided to travel.
He then brought up the million-dollar question: whether we should buy a house in Byron Bay, Australia, the only place in the world that feels like home to the both of us. It was a topic that hadn't been brought up in quite a few months, but it's an idea we've been flirting with for a while.
Obviously we didn't come to any conclusions as we ran our errands, but we certainly opened up the possibility of taking our relationship to the next level. The good news? Neither of us freaked out.
I'm aware that this looks like a very cliche thing to do on Valentine's Day. In a way, it was totally textbook. We poured ourselves some wine and cooked a seafood pasta dish together. We giggled when the tomato sauce went splashing everywhere and got on his black shirt. Cute, right?
Cute until we started fighting, that is.
Over the past year, my boyfriend and I have been through a lot — a lot more than we let on in public, actually. There was even a point in 2015 when we broke up for a while, and once we got back together, we sought help to rebuild our relationship. Although we've worked through most of it, there are still moments when we remember it all and briefly hate each other.
It started with a minor comment he made about how red I turn when I drink wine. Let's just say it triggered a lot of leftover rubbish in my brain, all of which was about so much more than my Asian glow. Next thing I know, we're screaming at each other and I'm threatening to pour the rest of the wine into the sink (obviously an empty threat) and walk out of his life forever.
Luckily, we were in a big house. I locked myself in a spare bedroom while he finished preparing the pasta. For the sake of the experiment, I chose not to stay mad for too long. He gently knocked on the shut door, I answered, and he served me spaghetti while apologizing. Dinner was spent talking it out, in the most adult-like way possible.
We didn't erase the past that night, but we at least felt comfortable enough to speak honestly about the things that were still bothering us. It was the emotional version of a hot yoga detox.
"Can you believe we're still together?" He asked genuinely.
"No," I replied earnestly. "No, I can't. I never thought we'd make it this far."
He lay on the couch while I was sprawled on the living room floor, my feet slightly burning from the fire. I had just made a piping hot plate of churros and he was polishing off a bowl of cookies 'n cream ice cream. We were full-bellied and content.
We recalled the first day we met, how awkward we were. We talked about how sudden my move to Australia was. There was something meaningful about us remembering how our relationship started while sitting apart from each other. Because even though we've moved past the can't-take-my-hands-off-of-you phase, we're still in love. We're in a solid place that isn't solely defined by physical attraction.
Blame it on the wine, but the sentimental words came flowing out. I won't share them all because that would probably embarrass him and, even worse, embarrass me, but I will say this: we reminded each other that regardless of all the crap we've waded through over the past year, we still want to be together. For us, that's pretty much a miracle. I may have cried a little.
It had been ages since we spent this many consecutive hours together, other than those 12-hour international flights we had recently been on. I was amazed to see that my boyfriend actually enjoyed this experiment. He mentioned a few times that if Valentine's Day had been introduced to him like this — chill, cheap, and committed to having a good time together — he would do it every year.
For me, I was thrilled to see that the guy could still make me laugh. He had me snorting into my soy latte and cackling in the frozen food aisle. The whole day was a solid reminder that life will always be fun with him — and there's nothing more romantic to me than that.
As for our plans to buy a house, those are definitely still up in the air. We've loved this housesitting gig, and we've had a blast browsing through available real estate online. However, after our talks, we can see that we're in no rush to make any huge decisions like that. The optimist in me sees that spat we got into as a good thing as well. It's a reminder that we've still got some junk to clear out of our closet, which means we're neither perfect nor boring (two cardinal sins in my book).
The most surprising and humiliating thing I learned is that I am very capable of being cheesy and cliched on Valentine's Day. Would I do it again? Probably not; I don't have much more sentimental juices left in me. One day of professing my love for someone is enough, thanks very much. But at least it was entertaining for the both of us.
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