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“I wonder where he’s hidden my pressie,” I thought to myself as I rummaged through my husband’s closet.
It was February 2007, and it was my first Valentine’s Day as a married person.
My dad used to buy presents for my mum to surprise her and kept it stashed away from everyone. I was subconsciously expecting the same because I thought it was the most loving and sweet thing to do as a child.
They say we borrow our ideas of love and romance from what we learn from our families, so I guess that is why I subconsciously expected it.
I searched high and low and found nothing. “He’s either good at hiding or forgotten to get me a present!” I thought.
Well, no one could be better in sleuthing than little Nancy Drew, so I was convinced that he had forgotten to get me one. I was shocked and upset—how this could be true? We had been married for only three months; the romance couldn’t have fizzled out so soon.
As I started preparing for the evening ahead, my dear called to tell me that he was on his way to the shopping mall to buy my gift. I heaved a sigh of relief because I was beginning to believe that my relationship had hit rock bottom before even starting. Phew!
My darling hubby (DH) knew I loved creams and perfumes, so he bought me some lovely stuff from Clarins. I loved it, but more than the gift itself, I love the thought.
Over the years, I realized that it is not fair to compare how different people display affections of love.
DH was different from my dad. He was the type who would buy my gift at the last minute. Sometimes, he would even buy the same one repeatedly because he was running out of ideas
But, he was always clued in to what I wanted or liked and got it for me without waiting for special occasions. If the clean freak in me wanted a new Hoover, he would buy it for me immediately. Or if I mentioned that my favorite perfume was running low, he would buy me one without me asking.
Besides the whole gift-giving saga, we love each other in ways that cannot fit into anyone’s definition of “perfect love” but ours.
In fact, now we don’t even buy each other gifts on these occasions because we feel we have what we want. Instead, we purchase orchids or any flowering plants for the house and have fun with our kids.
Now that our relationship has evolved, I chuckle at myself. I realize how silly it is to equate gifts on special days to love. I can’t believe that I had trivialized and commodified it.
But I realized that I am not alone in falling for the “gift-giving” charade. In 2020, Valentine’s Day shoppers were projected to add $27.4 billion to the economy, according to the National Retail Federation—that’s more than the $20.7 billion spent in 2019.
When I wondered why we fall for this trap, I got my answers from the book, The 5 Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman, Ph.D., marriage counselor and author.
In his book, he says that people with different personalities express love differently. He calls them the five love languages:
2. Acts of service
3. Receiving gifts
4. Quality time
5. Physical touch
We crave for these depending on our preference and subconsciously expect these from our partners.
No wonder multimillion-dollar companies are making money at our cost, playing with our insecurities, and commodifying “love” for us. We expect all these repackaged beautifully on a day like Valentine’s Day.
Instead of letting them get the better of us, this year, let’s do things differently:
1. Reflect on what your love language is; then find out what the love language of your partner is. We should try doing that generously, or tiny bits of it to each other, all year through—we won’t need Valentine’s Day to celebrate.
2. Remember that love is not a one-day affair; it is ongoing. As adults, we can’t afford to believe that love, respect, and reverence are reserved only for one day—it’s tiny acts done all through the year. Expecting these only on certain days is like accepting scraps of love and reverence instead of expecting it as part of our lives.
3. Remember, Valentine’s Day is like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus concept—it’s great for kids. It is to make them believe in the goodness of life, to create intrigue, inculcate values of generosity, magic, and reverence. It is suitable for children because they need that larger-than-life picture. These days are useful to weave stories for the kids because their little minds can only comprehend such stories and outward displays.
So this Valentine’s Day, I would love for everyone to raise the bar to everything in life—for love, respect, reverence as a parent, lover, woman, and all the other essential roles we play.
We must make it an integral part of our life and not accept scraps on one little day. We are not kids anymore, so this Valentine’s Day, let’s not get hoodwinked by ad companies and buy the stories they sell us—let’s let our love triumph over everything.