February is the month of love – oh so lovely when you’re in it (love, that is) and potentially the polar opposite when you’re not. If you have someone special who makes your wishes come true when February 14th rolls around, you’re likely a proponent of the holiday. On the other hand, if you are left holding a bouquet of unmet expectations on the special day, you’re probably not a fan.
With or without us, approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged every year – second only to Christmas! It’s a huge commercial holiday that many of us celebrate with unrealistic expectations. Or am I the only one who deep down wants to star in her own romantic love scene on Valentine’s Day? Doesn’t a little part of all of us want to be the Sally who met Harry … to be swept off our feet … to feel what they feel in the movies when the music starts playing?
According to Jonathan Fader Ph.D in an article he wrote for Psychology Today, “…setting expectations so high can set us up for disappointment when reality doesn’t match up to these unrealistic hopes.”
That’s what it comes down to really – we set ourselves up. For me it was year after year – whether I was married or single – I always set my Valentine’s expectations high and, subsequently, they were never met. Because they were unrealistic and based on the fiction that a day on the calendar held the key to my romantic fulfillment. Speaking of fiction, some of my expectations were actually inspired by romantic comedies. Okay, approximately 95% of my expectations were inspired by the movies. But, then again, aren’t many of our romantic notions rooted in movies and fairy tales?
It may sound like I don’t like Valentine’s Day, but I’m definitely not a hater. I like that there’s a day when we commemorate love with cards and flowers or something more. Those of us who buy (a little over half of us) spend an average of $130 on our Valentines. That seems like a reasonable average to me, as long as everyone is on the same page. But I don’t like how sad it can be when romantic expectations aren’t met.
If we’re setting ourselves up with unrealistic hopes, like Dr. Fader suggests, we also have the power to change things up in a way that results in something other than disappointment. I decided to try the concept out for myself this year. I set out to rid myself of all Valentine’s expectations. I’m single at the moment, so I didn’t have expectations of someone special to contend with. My vulnerability was loneliness and sadness that I am not part of a couple and expectations built around that. It felt good to acknowledge to myself that more often than not, I feel miserable on Valentine’s Day, because of something I can control. It felt even better when I cleared my mind of expectations and opened myself up to the possibilities. By the end of the big day, romantic love had not jumped out at me from my past or chased me down at the airport, but I had a good day without the familiar cloud of melancholy. I got lots of love from my children and grandchildren, sisters and friends. I even received a beautiful bouquet from my brother-in-law and a couple of nice messages from a couple of exes. It wasn’t an extraordinary day, but it was a good one and fantastic to spend it without my old Valentine pals, Doom and Gloom.
As I mentioned in the beginning, February is the month of love. It is also the month when Americans buy over 58 million pounds of chocolate for close to $2 billion. Billion with a “B”. So really, we’re kind of socially obligated to eat chocolate during the month of February, right?
What’s not to love about that?