Should Valentine's Day Matter When You're In A Relationship? 3 Experts Weigh In
With it right around the corner, it's prime time for those in relationships to start thinking about how they're going to spend Valentine's Day and make the day special for their significant other. According to new research conducted by finder.com, Americans will spend an estimated $30 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2019, and over half of Americans (53 percent) are planning to treat somebody on February 14, spending an average of $221.34 per person.
If those figures are any indication, it's clear that plenty of folks love the idea of a holiday centered around romance, and have no qualms with pulling out all the stops to romance their partner on V-Day. But for others, Valentine's Day is nothing more than a kitschy, unnecessary holiday with too many expectations — financial and otherwise.
"For some, Valentine’s Day is a commercial ploy to separate fools from their money," Daniel Sher, a registered clinical psychologist with a special interest in couples therapy, tells Bustle. "Many experience Valentine’s Day as inauthentic and false. Others relish the opportunity to celebrate this day and derive an important sense of meaning and validation from it."
Whether you're the kind of person who wants to be showered in candy hearts and bouquets of flowers or the kind who'd rather stay home with your partner eating frozen pizza on Valentine's Day, it's worth diving into why this holiday is so polarizing for people — here's what relationship experts have to say on the subject.
Why Valentine's Day Can Be A Problem For Some Couples
When you're constantly bombarded with images — on commercials, TV shows and movies, and even social media — of happy couples going on intimate dates and exchanging fancy gifts, it's easy to get intimidated by the idea of making Valentine's Day plans with your significant other. There are so many unrealistic expectations placed on Valentine's Day, which can lead to disappointment if couples aren't careful about getting on the same page before the holiday.
"I have always had an issue with Valentine's Day because... high/unrealistic expectations are placed on people to demonstrate their love and commitment to a partner," Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist, and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "The result has been to sow fear, doubt, confusion, and misunderstanding between couples when expectations are not met due to a partner not getting it right."
When it comes to how we each feel loved and cared for by a partner, everyone has unique needs and expectations. If you're someone who wants to feel wooed and romanced on Valentine's Day, that's absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed about — but it's important to make sure you communicate those expectations to your partner well in advance of the holiday.
On the flip side, if you *don't* want any lavish gifts or big plans, communicate that to your partner, too. It may not sound romantic to tell your partner what exactly you want or expect from Valentine's Day, but it's much better than the alternative: disappointment (or worse, sadness and anger) as a result of miscommunication.
"Have a conversation with your partner and work out how they feel and what they think about the celebration," Sher says. "Try to understand their expectations — and look out for those hopes that aren’t made explicit. And of course, let your partner know where you’re at in this regard. If you really want to celebrate your love on Valentine’s Day, use this day as an opportunity to communicate openly and reach a compromise that you’re both happy with."
Should Couples Celebrate Valentine's Day Year-Round?
One of the biggest gripes people have with Valentine's Day is that it's cheesy and inauthentic. After all, if you're really in a healthy and happy relationship, you don't save up all your expressions of love for one random day in February.
"[Valentine's Day] puts all the emphasis on this one day, as opposed to the other 364 days of the year when exchanging acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and receiving gifts are the key to keeping the relationship strong and happy," Coleman says.
The basic principle behind Valentine's Day — making your partner feel loved and appreciated — is one that can be applied to your relationship any day of the year, not just on February 14. According to Kayla Lords, writer and sexpert for JackandJillAdult.com and co-host of Loving BDSM, it's way more important to have your own "Valentine’s Days" sporadically and impulsively throughout the year than to focus all your energy into making just *one* day special.
"Couples can and should mark the holiday if they want to, but it should be one of the many special days in the year when couples share their love, admiration, desire, and other positive feelings for each other," Lords tells Bustle. "Better yet, show love and desire every (or nearly) every day instead. If you wait until Valentine's Day to do that, resentment builds, hearts are broken, and relationships end."
Rather than focusing your energy on making Valentine's Day 2019 the most romantic day of your relationship so far, try talking to your partner about ways you can make each other feel cared for on a day-to-day basis instead. It's a win-win: you both feel more loved each day, and there isn't as much pressure to plan a stellar Valentine's Day celebration year after year.
But when Valentine's Day does roll around, the most important thing is that both you and your partner are on the same page about your expectations and can enjoy the day together — regardless of what you do or how much you spend.