My dear friend Val was horrified when Carl, whom she had just started dating, hired an a cappella quartet in striped suits and straw hats to show up at her office on Valentine’s Day and sing for her.
Now, Carl was a brave man because surely anyone would consider that a big gamble: Would Val let herself be carried away by this romantic, original and expensive gesture?
Or, as it turned out, would he want the earth to swallow her? She called me for an emergency coffee date and asked me: was I being funny or sadistic? Is he romantic or crazy?
Valentine’s Day offers the opportunity to express our love or interest in someone through a gesture, usually with a price tag attached.
Vicky Reynal says ‘your generosity doesn’t have to be financial: we can show generosity by investing time in preparing something special’
However, for many, it is a stressful day where they try to guess what their partner might be expecting (to avoid disappointment or conflict!) and risk spending too much unnecessarily. So how do we decide what’s reasonable on Valentine’s Day?
If you are thinking about ‘going big’ I invite you to ask yourself: why? Quantifying what is “large” is impossible because it is subjective, but when considering the choice, you know on some level whether it is too extreme. Stop and ask yourself: what do you expect this gift to say or what do you imagine this gift will “buy”?
Do you expect a big, expensive gift to buy you love? Do you expect me to compensate for your emotional unavailability (or whisper it, maybe even your lack of sexual desire?)
What if you’re trying to impress someone with a flourish at the beginning of a romance? Do you hope the ticket price of your Valentine’s Day gift will distract him or make up for your shortcomings?
Or are you one of those people who waits for Valentine’s Day to come and go and your partner doesn’t notice because, in reality, you prefer to save money, you don’t believe in “commercial holidays” and you hate paying too much? for the flowers?
A few words of caution if this is you, because while you might save money on flowers, you could pay a high emotional price for taking this approach without proper communication with your partner.
There are two things I invite you to consider when making this decision on Valentine’s Day: your intentions and your partner’s expectations.
Be clear with yourself about where you stand on V-Day. Are you hoping to avoid having to celebrate?
Or do you see it as an opportunity to express something to your partner? If it’s the latter, then it’s important to be very clear about what you want to express: is it your love, gratitude, or appreciation for your partner? Or are you buying a “I’m sorry” gift?
Maybe you want to rekindle the spark that has been fading in your marriage or you are expressing a desire to take the relationship further with the person you have been casually dating.
Being clear about your intention can guide your choice and how much to spend on a gift: if you want to rekindle an old spark, it may be more effective to do so through a thoughtful gesture (such as revisiting the location of your first date, or arranging for kids stay with the grandparents so you can have dinner for two at home), which will be a cheaper and more effective way to say “I want to invest in our relationship.”
Spending more is not what will get the message heard; Money has no magical qualities: it can only support a message reinforced by words (perhaps on the accompanying card) and by actions, such as putting thought into the gift.
As you contemplate the question of what to buy and how much to spend, keep your partner’s expectations in mind.
If you’re in a new relationship and have no idea what your partner expects you to do on Valentine’s Day, you might want to gather some information first.
What do you think about it? Do they usually celebrate it? You’re at the exciting and nerve-wracking beginning of the relationship, where you’re setting his expectations for a future with you: are you more romantic or more cynical? Withholding or generosity? Your generosity doesn’t have to be financial: we can demonstrate generosity by investing time in preparing something special.
Keep all that in mind when choosing something that seems genuine but thoughtful. So even if you’re 100 percent against the idea of Valentine’s Day, if they’ve told you they “can’t wait and are so excited,” you’re about to show them if and how you’re committed.
Not spending money or effort on Valentine’s Day without knowing they agree with your point of view is a risky strategy: I’ve seen the no-gift approach interpreted as “he doesn’t love me,” “he’s not interested anymore.” , “He is clearly a selfish human being.” Therefore, it might be wiser to talk about it and explain your reasons, leaving room for compromise.
Vicky also says: “We all have different views on what is too expensive or cheap, funny or embarrassing, cute or cheesy.”
But going overboard with extravagant gifts can be an equally risky approach: Your partner (if you share finances) might even get angry that you spent so much money on something “unnecessary.”
If you’re in a long-term relationship, expectations may be clear by now: Maybe you’ll exchange cards every year, or you’ll both be fine without celebrating.
However, while you still have the option of repeating the possibly comfortable pattern you’re in, you can always break the pattern to make a new statement. If this is the case, it will not be the price that will generate the response, but the fact that you did something different from the “usual” with a positive intention.
If you do that, why not back it up with words to help your partner understand your gesture (rather than leaving the interpretation to their own assumptions or even suspicions?).
We all have different views on what is too expensive or cheap, funny or embarrassing, cute or cheesy. If we have made a mistake and our partner is angry with us, be curious to know why he thought it was a bad choice, but also why he may be going beyond giving and spending on a gift: what meaning has he given to this gift? . ?
Don’t deny their feelings because they have a right to them, but rather remind them of your intentions so they can see another way to interpret them. And what did Carl say to Val? “I wanted you to feel special.”
So on Valentine’s Day remember: keep your partner’s expectations in mind but spending a lot of money on a gift will not convey a message more clearly than words or gestures. As my example with Carl shows: bigger is not always better.
Do you have any questions for Vicky Reynal? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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