What’s The Big Deal About Valentines Day Anyway?

I forgot about Valentines Day this year.  I know, hard to believe a relationship therapist could make such a goof but I really did.  Between the snow, family crises, changes in my husband’s work schedule, I was totally oblivious until I walked into the Hallmark store and saw all those pretty red boxes staring up at me.  Uh Oh.  At that moment I felt a rush of sympathy for all those hapless husbands and boyfriends, caught empty handed on the big day.  I pride myself on being creative, but this year, with all that’s going on, a wicked little voice in my head said, “oh just buy a card and be done with it.”  And I heard a supportive echo from romantic deadbeats from Valentines Past:  “Why is it such a big deal?  Everyone knows it’s just a ‘Hallmark Holiday’ anyway?  Shouldn’t s/he know I love her/him because I _______________(fill in the blank, work so hard, say it all the time, do so much, etc.)?”


So why is Valentines Day a big deal?  It’s true.  A day of chocolates, flowers and gushy cards doesn’t (or shouldn’t) count more than the other 364 days of hard work, sacrifice, kind words and loving deeds.  Gary Chapman, in his book, “The Five Love Languages” explains that each of us expresses and receives love in our own way.  For some of us it is through the language of touch (hugs, kisses, holding hands), for some of us it is through the language of service (cooking a dinner, fixing a broken door) for some of us it’s simply spending quality time together taking a walk or watching tv, for some of us it’s through the giving and receiving of gifts (jewelry, flowers) and for some of us it’s verbal (expressions of love and appreciation).  And it’s crucial to remember, you and your partner don’t necessarily speak the same love language.  If however, for either of you, your love language encompasses words, gifts or loving deeds Valentines Day is a wonderful opportunity to let your partner know what they mean to you.


There is, as well, a deeper reason I believe why Valentines Day matters to so many of us.  It has to do with deeply rooted psychological needs that are so often imperfectly met in childhood.  Among these needs are the need to be seen or visible, the need to know that we are good enough, and the need to know that we are loveable and (as we become adults) to know that we are sexually desirable.    When we receive a Valentine or some other romantic gesture it meets all these needs in one glorious rush – we feel seen, we feel good enough, and we know that someone loves and desires us.  And that feels awesome.  When our partners  somehow miss the mark, even though our adult rational brain understands and makes excuses, the little child inside of us is crying out “don’t I matter, don’t you see me, don’t you love me?!!!”


So even if cards and flowers and romantic doggerel isn’t our native “love language” it perhaps behooves us to take the time to let our partners know that we see them, we want them, we love them, we affirm that to us they are indeed amazing.


Guess I’d better get myself over to the card store before all the good ones are gone!

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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