Valentine’s Day has always been a day to celebrate romance. Ironically, the day also seems to be an inspiration for breakups. Research has shown that relationship breakups were significantly higher around Valentine’s Day than at other times of the year. The holiday can bring our vulnerabilities in the relationship to the surface.

What are your expectations?

Expectations — even realistic ones — can set us up for disappointment. Most holidays come with all sorts expectations, but perhaps no other holiday has expectations so clearly connected to the romantic relationship as Valentine’s Day. The most obvious expectations are usually associated with how we envision celebrating.

Very often, we have a clear picture of how we would like our partner to treat us. Maybe we want to be wined and dined. Maybe we want poetry or lavish gifts. Maybe we want to spend the day together in a place we have always considered significant to the relationship. When our partner doesn’t come through, we’re disappointed and hurt. We feel unloved. We may start to feel like our partner doesn’t know us very well after all, when the real problem may be we haven’t taken the time to communicate our needs or listen to our partner’s needs.

In our fantasies, our romantic partner intuits our needs and desires. We go into relationship unconsciously believing that our partner will know exactly what we need without having to say it. In truth we are projecting what should have been our experience in childhood where it is a parents job to anticipate the child’s need. We unconsciously go into our relationships expecting our partners to give us what we did not get enough of in childhood and when they don’t, we feel deeply wounded and feel like they wounded us rather than it touched an old wound. We tell ourselves, ‘I’m anticipating my partner’s needs. Why isn’t he or she reciprocating’? We use holidays—and Valentine’s Day—in particular, as a measure and set our partners up for failure. The fact is, without an honest conversation, we can’t know our partner’s needs and the same goes for them. In a relationship grounded in open communication, the couple will hopefully discuss what Valentine’s Day means to them and, hopefully, share their expectations.

Are your expectations based in reality?

Where do these expectations come from? Books, television, movies and social media all paint pictures of how romantic love should be. Add in the commercialization around this Hallmark holiday promoted by greeting card manufacturers, restaurants, jewelers, candy makers since the first paper valentines were circulated in the 1800s, and we can fall into the trap of letting social pressures set our expectations for us. We feel compelled to live up to someone else’s notion of what is romantic, instead of trusting our own knowledge of what is meaningful in our relationship. Then, when the person at the next desk gets flowers, or a friend shows off an extravagant Valentine’s gift, we feel shortchanged, even if we were perfectly satisfied with our own Valentine’s Day up until then.

If we continually to use our perception of other couples’ relationships as the yardstick, we run the risk of finding fault with our own. It’s important to remember that we don’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship, no matter what it looks like from the outside — and no one can genuinely live up to the Hollywood ideal.

Getting your expectations met

You might be thinking that when you and your partner first met, it was like Hollywood or a romance novel. It was Valentine’s Day every day, with time spent together, passionate sex and sweet surprises. That could all very well be true, but that was courtship, and sustaining that level of romance over time isn’t realistic.

As love matures over time, it becomes more about being present for each other than just gifts and hot sex. Love means intimacy, caring and sharing, allowing enough vulnerability to communicate openly, and making sure that both partners’ needs are heard and met. We also love and receive love in many different ways. Maybe your significant other makes sure you have clean clothes or checks your tires and this is a way they are loving you daily that you may not see.

If Valentine’s Day is important to you, being clear about your needs with your partner helps all three of you—you, your partner and your relationship. You might also give your partner the gift of knowing you understand that making you happy is your job. Finally, if you communicate clearly with one another, speaking your hearts and listening, establishing a give-and-take meeting both your needs and you don’t save the sweet gestures just for Valentine’s Day, chances are you’ll be satisfied no matter how you celebrate.

Do you wonder how you can reconnect with your spouse or partner? We love working with couples to heal and enhance the quality of their relationships. You can contact us hear for a 15 minute consult so we can see how and if we can help.