Bonnie Brown: A Valentine’s Day Story

According to the National Retailers Federation, consumers will spend $19.6 billion this Valentine’s Day. Yes, that’s billion with a “B.” And the National Retailers Federation also predicts spending on pets for Valentine’s Day will increase by 27 percent to $751 million. So, how’s a girl to feel if she doesn’t score at least as much as her guy’s dog?  

Many years ago, my sweet husband happened to be working on Valentine’s Day at a local pharmacy, which has a huge gift department. He brought home a beautifully wrapped package for me, and to be honest, I was thrilled. That is until I opened the package to find a coffee mug! And not a tea cup of fine China, but a substantial mug, very utilitarian, no frills. I was speechless, and my feelings were hurt. This mug portrayed not a single molecule of romance. I don’t remember what I presented to him, but I know a card accompanied the small gift. A card that I had spent quite a lot of time choosing, a romantic card that expressed my love and affection for him. It took me several days before I could tell him how I felt about the mug. I knew in my heart that he would never purposely disappoint me. So, I began by telling him that while I appreciated the gift, Valentine’s Day would have been so much more special if he had just written me a loving note rather than thinking that he had to give me a gift. He was surprised but understanding, and I think he appreciated that I was honest with him about my feelings. I kept the mug for a long time, albeit in a far corner of the cabinet until it left by way of a garage sale.  

How many of us have unrealistic expectations of what our significant other will present to us on this most romantic day of the year? Do we all approach this holiday with dread? After all, we often set ourselves up for disappointment. What if Hallmark doesn’t come through for us? What if the very expensive meal is not even appreciated? What if the flowers aren’t to her liking?

I had someone tell me once that her mother had said to her: “When you marry, you should marry someone who loves you more than you love him.” And it appeared that she had. Her husband treated her like a queen—did all the cooking, laundry, errands, all while going to law school. But alas, the marriage didn’t last. No surprise there. How can any relationship survive if you measure out your affection while expecting your spouse to be more invested in the relationship?  

My husband consistently makes me feel loved and appreciated. There’s communication, acceptance, commitment, compromise, forgiveness, honesty, and sharing. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:   

  1.  He takes out the garbage;  
  2.  He pays the bills;
  3.  He helps with housework;
  4.  He picks up his clothes—he even does laundry;
  5.  He compliments me every day in some way;
  6.  He’s a wonderful father and grandfather;
  7.  He has a sense of humor and makes me laugh;
  8.  He’s kind, intelligent, and interesting;
  9.  He is a gentleman always;
  10. And most importantly, he lets me know each and every day that he cares about me.

Our romance, our relationship, should be important every day, not just on this prescribed day of love. It’s challenging to make sure your significant other doesn’t feel ignored because we are busy people, with busy lives. Everyone is busy! Just ask anyone. But if Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin could have “conscious uncoupling” when they dissolved their marriage, can’t we ordinary, non-Hollywood folks have a “resolute romance”—a daily and purposeful action to show our lover they are the center of our universe? It doesn’t have to be a box of chocolates (although chocolate is good). It could be that he routinely puts the seat down, or she stocks the fridge with his favorite brew. It could be as simple as taking a moment, just a pause in your day, when you look your lover in the eyes and express your devotion and assure him/her that they are indeed the center of your universe.  

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

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