Most people I know hate Valentine’s Day. Most of the time I hate it too. The reasons for hating Valentine’s Day are obvious:
- It fuels the Hallmark-Industrial Complex. Valentine’s Day has been co-opted by gift stores, jewelers, pharmacies, etc., who exploit romantic guilt for profit.
- It’s usually the worst day of the year to be single. In a society that insists that true happiness can only come through romantic and sexual relationships, singleness is treated as an anathema. Valentine’s Day is simply another reminder to many single people that our society’s disordered hierarchy of values has placed them at the bottom.
- It can create strange expectations for couples. This is similar to the New Year’s Eve effect: New Year’s is supposed to be the craziest day of the year, but usually it’s just another day to attend a decent party. Unrealistic expectations can also make Valentine’s Day a difficult day for couples as well. Visions of Clark Gable and looking over a railing with Ashton Kutcher distract us from the small and simple daily acts of love and service that build strong marriages.
However, there is another reason to hate Valentine’s Day. Often, I hate Valentine’s Day because it reminds me how bad I am at expressing my deep seated love, affection, and appreciation for my wife. The paradox of hating Valentine’s Day is that you hate it because you know that you need a schlocky and cliché consumeristic day to remind yourself that loving your spouse sometimes entails going overboard in affection, and, dare I say, romance. Ideally we would be the kind of people who communicate through word and deed continually how beautiful our spouses are, but the reality is that sin pulls us inward, self-absorbed even when we’re outwardly friendly and kind. Our self-absorption dulls our expressive capacity for love, and we forget to be thankful for the ways a loved one has truly blessed our lives.
So let’s acknowledge the trappings of Valentine’s Day, but let’s see it as a reminder that gestures of affirmation and affection are good, whether it’s expressed through a Leslie Knope-style brunch with friends or flowers and card for a spouse.