February 14th instills emotion. Some associate the day with anxiety, stress, nervousness, or even anger. Others associate it with love, romance, or unnecessarily expensive chocolates. Those in love tend to look forward to the day while those out of love tend to dread it. The black and white ends of the spectrum are not the only perspectives, however. Although in a relationship, some may dread the day because of the expectations associated with it. This anticipation could turn Valentine's Day into Valentine's Week. The days leading up to it are filled with anticipation. What did he get me? Will I like it? How much money did he spend? Where did he make reservations? Which lipstick will look best in photos? With this type of internal monologue, no matter what your significant other does on the big day, it will be a let down. Expectations are a direct route to disappointment. He could sell his soul for a Sephora gift card, Tiffany necklace, and 100 red roses and there would still be something missing. Our minds have a funny way of exaggerating what we think we want, and if reality doesn't match up it can feel as if the world is falling apart.
If this is the case, the days after Valentine's Day can feel like disaster relief clean-up. The significant other will most likely get angry at the lack of appreciation, a fight will ensue, a breakup will be considered, and THE WORST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER will spill over into the next week as you two try to pick up the pieces. A simple way to avoid this is to silence the Valentine's monster in your brain and realize that this one day a year can either be celebrated or ignored, but it doesn't have to be stressed over.
A lot of the relationships around me have been changing. New relationships have formed, old relationships have ended, and those in-between relationships are still pretty much in-between. Many people my age are experiencing their first long-distance Valentine's Day because of college, or experiencing their first Valentine's Day in general because of a new college relationship. Whatever the case, it is important to not be sucked into the social media vortex of Valentine's Day culture and appreciate the day as an opportunity to share our feelings with loved ones.
Valentine's Day can include buying chocolates for your best friend. Or showing up at your girlfriend's dorm with dining hall food and a movie. Or sending a letter in the mail to your grandmother to remind her that you're thinking of her. Or texting your mom to let her know that you always appreciated the heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine's Day morning before school. If it's in your budget, buy your boyfriend an expensive watch. Or don't. There are no rules or regulations, no parameters or laws. The couple that spends the whole night in cooking a meal from Kroger and watching reality TV could have a better night than the wife sitting across from her husband at the steak house dripping in diamonds. Love is not measured by the price tag on your Valentine's gift. Although it can feel disheartening logging into social media and seeing the extravagance of everyone else's gifts, be appreciative for what you have and don't take the love around you for granted.
If you're not in a romantic relationship, there is always next year. If you are in one, think about how lucky you are to have found someone to spend your time with and how you looked forward to this during those Valentine's Days alone in the past. With this in mind, it will be a little more difficult to be upset by an underwhelming present or plans that didn't work out. Spend your Valentine's Day or Days full of appreciation instead of going through the roller coaster of expectations and disappointment. You'll thank me later.