I was dumped twice on Valentine’s Day in my teen years—the kind of dumps that really stick with you. Let’s just say the holiday and I have a somewhat contentious past. Both times I received nice gifts and then later in the day, the guy decided I was not his Valentine. One time the gift was a set of rather expensive, albeit tiny diamond earrings. My dad commented, “Where are the diamonds?” to mask his terrified feelings that I would elope at age fifteen. Obviously that guy was conflicted about his feelings for me and maybe I was not as impressed as I was supposed to be. (He didn’t
even want the earrings back!) I say now with some regret that as a teen I was that girl with a perpetual boyfriend. The tears I wasted crying over boys could fill a small ocean and I wish I had allowed myself to just enjoy life and save the relationship stuff for later!
THE YEAR I GOT ALL THE ROSES
One year after a particularly dramatic breakup right before Valentine’s Day I was feeling extremely sorry for myself and having non-stop PMS-induced crying jags that moved my father to buy me the expensive twenty-four-piece bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day. He had also bought my mother the same twenty-four-piece bouquet.
That same day, my ex-boyfriend had delivered a guilty make-up bouquet of twenty-four roses and someone who signed the card, “Your secret admirer” also sent me twenty-four roses!
I went from crying to laughing as my dad stomped around muttering that the house looked like a damn funeral parlor. I never found out who the secret admirer was because my boyfriend and I reunited—for a few more tumultuous months anyway.
These days I’m on much better terms with V-Day. My husband does all the husbandry things that make a girl happy and we usually opt to stay in rather than eat at a crowded restaurant with a limited menu and inflated holiday prices. (He does not buy me the advertised jewelry special, thank God!)
PRO-LOVE-TIP: Plan your Valentine’s Date not on Valentine’s Day if you want a more romantic restaurant experience!
I guess if there is any silver lining in being that girl with the perpetual boyfriend it’s that I had a list of what I wanted and didn’t want in a long-term relationship fairly early in life. I ended up marrying early and I actually still love my partner as much as I did when we decided to make a friendship into a ‘thing’ several decades ago. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from having a long history with someone and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
YOUNG AND STUPID
I listen to the dating horror stories of single friends, thankful that I am not single, knowing that if I ever am again I will live in a walkup somewhere collecting cats and small dogs. I know finding lasting love is hard and that it gets harder the more established in life you are. I think young love works mainly due to the pure stupidity of it. We tend not to overanalyze people as much when we’re young. The mental checklist of partner requirements is shorter. Maybe we’re simply more open to love when we’re less experienced.
I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes a relationship work or not work. Everyone is different, but here are the four things I believe are really important to long-term love:
1. Similar Values
You can have different interests but you have to have similar values. Many dating services focus on all the things you have in common on an interest level and that’s great—it gives you something to talk about in the beginning. However, I think the most important thing is to have similar ideologies. Certainly opposites can attract— there are those couples with ideas at opposite ends of the political or religious spectrums—but those relationships probably work because both are open to different points of view. Being open is a philosophical ideology in itself! Conversely, a partner who is stuck in a different mindset from your own is going to be a source of friction—and not the good kind.
2. Agreeing on Money and Kids
Be on the same page with regard to money and kids. People who have kids when one partner is not that into it don’t last. People who have differing expectations as to how money will be earned, how expenses will be shared and how the balance of work and family life will be met do not last. Sometimes when friends get divorced and they cite the differences they have with their partner I can’t help but think that I saw those differences before they were married—they just chose to ignore them. I also know couples with differing opinions about family life that negotiated the number of kids and responsibilities beforehand and are doing great.
The important thing is that both parties feel in control when it comes to how responsibilities will be handled—otherwise the relationship becomes a breeding ground for resentment.
3. Sex and Monogamy
It’s more important to some people than others but one thing is for sure—if you are in a long-term relationship, it’s a moving target. If you’re with someone long-term, different things will happen to change your interest and motivations for sex. Will your partner love you if you can’t have sex? How will things go when the kids take up your time? Are you flexible or inflexible when it comes your sexual self? What value do you place on monogamy? If you have dramatically different sexual needs, it’s probably not going to work out long-term.
4. Personality Trumps Looks
There is so much focus on the way people look now. Physical attraction is the way most people find love but I’m here to tell you your eyes might be failing you! I know it’s hard to choose someone based on a dating profile and that looks are important, but having someone interesting to talk to for fifty years is a LOT MORE IMPORTANT. You are truly missing out if you don’t explore a relationship with someone who is everything a life partner should be, minus the physical attributes you think are a requirement for you. You can absolutely fall in love with someone who isn’t ‘your type’.
Silly movie recommendation: Friends With Kids—on Netflix
ALL ABOUT CHEMISTRY
If you doubt that you can be attracted to someone who is not your perfect physical ideal, consider soul gazing—where you stare into someone’s eyes for five minutes. Doing so creates Oxytocin, the real love chemical that is responsible for empathy and nurturing. What you feel initially when you’re in love is a dopamine rush—and that feeling—the one that people are continually seeking and some people think should last forever—unfortunately wears off!
In lieu of a romantic relationship, participating in charitable acts—hugging or sharing an intense experience together—can also create oxytocin! So here’s to spreading the love today and every day, wherever your love journey takes you!
Happy Valentine’s Day!