A Rational Guide to Valentine’s Day

My daughter-in-law Caroline is joining us for Java today! And even though I’ve posted this before, it’s too good not to share it again today. She’s talking about Valentine’s Day – the expectations and the reality. She’s a 20-something with a great perspective that will encourage and challenge you.


guest post by Caroline Rothschild

Today is Valentine’s Day. In the middle school world, it’s the day that roses are delivered to classrooms and kids walk around with giant teddy bears bought from the grocery store. In the adult world, it can easily move from being about chocolate to something far more complex; the day can too often become about feeling loved.

I wrote the post below about 4 years ago, and I find myself publishing it again each year because, somehow, it stays relevant. Regardless of age or stage of life or relationship status, the post stays relevant because it’s really not about Valentine’s Day; it’s about expectations. And, so often, our expectations are set so high that they are bound to let us down.

Valentine’s Day in elementary school rocked. Back then the only downside was creating the Valentine’s box. Every year I tried to make these outlandish boxes that inevitably failed, and then my dad would come to the rescue and do damage control on my box super-late the night before Valentine’s Day.

How awesome was it that Valentine’s Day at school was basically one big candy exchange?! I love you, you love me… It was just a random day in February that involved candy, which made the day awesome. Too bad we don’t do that in real world. These days, Valentine’s Day is basically the day each of us either loves, hates, or is completely over.

A Rational Guide to Valentine’s Day [Click to Tweet]
Maybe it’s partly because thanks to social media, you and I will both get a play-by-play of how everyone else is spending their Valentine’s Day.

The problem with Valentine’s Day is far too many people leave the day feeling unloved — both those in relationships and those who are single.

And, let’s be honest, feeling unloved is the absolute worst. But, before we hate on a day of the calendar and rid this earth of February 14th forever, let’s think about this.

We should celebrate the one we’ve committed our lives to and the one we’re going to spend forever with. We should set time aside for the warm, sentimental moments that make our heart race – be it on February 14th or another day. We need to celebrate our partner because in the next week they are probably going to drive us up the wall, lead us to tears, or make us question our own sanity as we stomp out of the room. (or, maybe even today!)

But, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, we don’t dwell on the latter reality.

It is the warm, sappy moments that we — especially young women — envision and crave. We picture candle lit dinners, petals on the floor, classical music mysteriously coming out of the walls (or, whatever other cliché picture comes to mind when you think of a romantic Valentine’s Day).

The problem is these expectations are unattainable and unmaintainable. My husband is a rockstar in my book. He keeps my sporadic self afloat and our life intact. He’s my favorite person in the world, and I want to spend all my free time with him. He’s selfless and makes me want to love the Lord more and he serves me so well. But, even though he’s all those things, we don’t live in a scripted Hollywood romantic comedy.

The expectations from culture simply aren’t attainable (nor should they be the goal) when we are two very human people with a knack for being selfish and self-centered and live lives with real stresses and real issues to work through constantly. We don’t live with a soundtrack to go with our lives, and yet, true love amidst our messy reality leads to joy that far exceeds that which is so often idealized in our culture.

Love might have flowers & chocolate, but true love really is…  something beyond feeling.

it’s commitment that says whether I like you or not today, I love you. I choose you over & over.

it’s swallowing a good comeback because you realize that unity is better than winning.

it’s learning to communicate without holding up defenses.

it’s hearing criticism and realizing it comes from a place of edification.

it’s about… it not being about you.

… true love is work. And when you think about it rationally, true love is nothing like what we envision Valentine’s Day to be.

I cried at every birthday party all through elementary school. My tears came with such clockwork that my mom applauded me the first year I didn’t cry. I would wait so long for my party and the anticipation would build for the best night of the year to celebrate ME. When it came and didn’t live up to the Mary-Kate and Ashley hype in my mind, I cried. I think that’s a bit like Valentine’s Day.

For some who are single, Valentine’s Day has evolved into a focus on what is missing for idealized, romantic moments. For those in relationships, the expectation for those same idealized, romantic moments remains unmet… because we don’t live in a movie.

These expectations don’t foster to love. They inevitably lead to being let down. 

Valentine’s Day is an excuse to buy chocolate for yourself and friends.
It’s a reminder to love and cherish those around you.
It’s a reminder for me to convey the love I already have for husband.
It is not a reminder you are single.
It is not a reminder that your spouse isn’t romantic.
It’s not a reminder you don’t have much money or that you have to work too much.

It’s a happy and simple thing. It’s a random Tuesday with chocolate and a reason to show love to those around you. Let anything beyond surprise you — not be the expectation.

Share some love instead of calculating what’s coming your way. I guarantee that’s the purest form of love. Pure, selfless love.

Let’s be the best lovers this Valentine’s Day by loving well.

In the comments below, share an idea of how you can show love to someone this Valentines day.