2015-02-12 / Top News

Fear that Valentine’s Day choice? Ask before buying those chocolates

John strode past the display of chocolates and cupids without a glance. He hated Valentine’s Day. He’d fallen into the Godiva trap last year. Knowing Liz loved chocolate, he’d thought she’d be thrilled when he presented her with a mammoth as sortment. But the crestfallen look on her face had made it clear he’d gotten it all wrong. Liz had been hoping for something more significant. Now, John was feeling tremendous pressure. A year had passed and he knew in his heart Liz was hoping for a more definitive statement of his intentions. But John just wasn’t sure he could take the next step to get engaged. He was trying to sort it all out, and come up with answers. And, this stupid Hallmark holiday was intervening and putting too much pressure on him to define where they were. Ladies, we know there’s a conversation that pops up annually in locker rooms, clubs and offices throughout the country: Men bemoaning the pressures they endure with expectations to come through for their “sweethearts” in creative, spectacular ways.

We know all their gripes:

“My wife complains the chocolates will kill her diet.”

“If I choose an outfit from Victoria’s Secret, she’ll say I bought it for MY enjoyment, not hers.”

“I tried sending flowers to surprise my girlfriend at the office, but I heard that her co-worker’s husband sent a more elaborate arrangement.”

“I bought my wife an expensive piece of jewelry and she complained I not only overpaid, but it wasn’t really her taste.”

“Why should I bother, if I won’t please her anyway?”

Gentlemen, we know it’s the time of year that causes even the most easygoing men to hyperventilate and sweat. Why do so many of you resent a day that’s been allocated to express feelings to your sweethearts?

We understand that no one likes to feel pressure to plan a special evening or to buy gifts designed to meet commercial expectations. And, yes, most people balk at being told what to do and when to do it — especially when it comes to romance. We believe that when left to your own devices, you’re clever enough to come up with sentimental gestures. So, we get it: You like the freedom and comfort to do things on your own terms.

So, ladies, maybe we should ask ourselves if we are really as unreasonable as charged? Do we get caught up in the hype and set impossibly high standards that are bound to leave us disappointed?

Actually, I don’t think that’s the case. Most of us just like to know that the special person in our lives truly appreciates who we are and that this person is motivated to come through for us in important ways.

As we all know, love is not measured by the dollars spent. Another couple may be showier in their outward affections, but it doesn’t prove their relationship is stronger. But unfortunately some of us do get caught up in believing that others will evaluate our relationship by the material display of gifts.

Many of us are not careful enough about the way we express our disappointment.

We may read way too much into what our partners do, or don’t do, misinterpreting these gestures as definitive statements about how important we are. To protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, we may criticize or attack. We may get huffy or become defensive, because somehow we didn’t get the sense they put in enough effort. What we may really be seeking is validation or reassurance.

Sometimes, when a relationship is in an uncertain place, there may be some anxiety about the significance of the gift, or the words expressed in the card. Will we disappoint a loved one because we haven’t come through in an important enough way? Have we put ourselves on the line by committing to feelings that are more intense than we really feel? If we are feeling hurt or angry, it may be difficult to sincerely celebrate a day dedicated to romance. If our partner has seemed preoccupied or aloof, there may be discomfort about putting sentiments into words that may keep us feeling needy or exposed.

If we’re in a fairly new relationship, we may worry that overdoing Valentine’s

Day may seem pushy or send the wrong message. We may hesitate to elevate things to a stage we’re not quite ready to enter. And, we may also worry if we don’t do enough we may sabotage a relationship that has promise.

Of course, for all of us, there have been times when we haven’t been satisfied with the state of our romantic lives. In these instances, Valentine’s Day may become an offensive reminder of all that’s lacking. Lonely singles often curse the day that accentuates their frustrations. Those who have lost a partner may acutely feel the pain of the loss. And, sometimes, the loneliest of all are those in committed relationships that are faltering or in conflict.

There may be ways to take the edge off this holiday by having a candid discussion with our loved ones beforehand. Discussing how to make the day meaningful and asking for feedback may head off misunderstandings. We may, in fact, discover that our loved ones are not seeking expensive baubles or lavish dinners. Together, we may come up with sentimental ways of celebrating our bonds that will speak volumes — without the costly price tags or pressure. ¦

— Linda Lipshutz, M. S., LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Palm Beach Gardens, serving individuals, couples and families. She can be reached in her office at 630- 2827, online at www.palmbeachfamilytherapy.com, or on Twitter @LindaLipshutz.

Return to top