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Posts Tagged ‘romance in marriage’

Valentine’s Day is the yearly event that causes more headaches and heartaches than any other. Some may disagree, saying that Christmas is more stressful, but I’d bet my best red lipstick that more psyches suffer on February 14th. than on any other day of the year.

Think of it. The idea alone is masochistic. It’s the day chosen to show people how much you love them. Conversely, if you receive no such declaration, you may assume that no one loves you. It’s a logical deduction, even for a child.

Speaking of children, flash back to that brightly covered box in the front of the classroom, the one stuffed with carefully chosen paper Valentines? Remember how you waited with anxious breath for your name to be called, how everyone counted their cards, perhaps spread them out on their desks for others to admire? What must have been going on in the head of the classmate who received no cards? What a harsh reality for a child! Who knows what residual complexes remain once they become an adult?

I sympathize with people who are alone on Valentine’s Day, caught up in the melancholy envy of those in love who are out celebrating. But here’s the clincher: being in love does not guarantee Valentine’s Day will hold any romance, and relationships can be put to the test. I’ve learned that the hard way.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love my husband dearly, but romantic expressions of love are not his strong suit.

His proposal to me was muttered under heated breath when, at 17, he pressed me against my parent’s back door for a goodnight kiss. “You’re gonna marry me, right?”

The budget for my engagement ring was negotiated between us. He would spend the proceeds from the sale of some musical equipment, not a dime more. I was too thrilled with the prospect of being engaged to dwell on the budgetary constraints.

To be practical, my wedding night was spent in our new apartment, rather than a hotel room. His best man and ushers had stayed there with him the night before, and the place looked like a charity bazaar after a three-day blitz. In the corner of the bedroom sat a partially dismantled car engine, evidence of his latest project.

Have things changed since our marriage? Over thirty-two years have passed, and my memory may not be the sharpest anymore, but truthfully, I can’t actually recall a Valentine’s Day that was the kind of romantic surprise women dream about. Therein lies the problem. Women fantasize about such things all their lives, but men are just not hard-wired on a parallel path.

I observed the “out-of-sync” interplay between my parents for years. Mom would watch soap operas where men planned extravagant and imaginative surprises for their loved ones; but Dad was another story. He’d leave a greeting card up on top of the fridge for her to see. Sometimes, there would be a heart-shaped box of chocolates with it. Once in a while, there would be a cheque inside the card, and his name scrawled hastily, devoid of any personal message. Of course, my mother did less. She was from an age where ladies did not bother to even reciprocate Valentine’s gifts. I can’t imagine how he would have reacted if she had.

So, though I’ve never really expected grand gestures from my own husband for Valentine’s Day, secretly, I’ve always hoped. I’d see the romantic gift a friend would receive, and I’d grow wistful.

As V-day approached, I’d inevitably become more and more anxious, gearing myself up for the inevitable letdown. Sometimes, he’d completely forget. Other times, he’d say he was planning various things for months, then he’d go on to tell me why none of it could be accomplished. To be honest, I believed him. An “event planner” he’s not.

“I wanted to take you somewhere special, but couldn’t decide where to go.”

“I was going to buy you roses, but they seemed such a waste of money.”

“I thought you’d rather pick something out yourself.”

“I didn’t know what you wanted.”

“I wanted to get you something sexy, but I figured you wouldn’t wear it.” Now, there’s a story behind this line. Years ago, he ventured into an erotic clothing store and bought me what the salesperson claimed was a negligee. Actually, it was four strips of very sheer blue material, two down the front, two down the back, perhaps three inches wide at best near the upper end and wider towards the bottom. Ribbons attached the strips to each other. Problem was, I could only wear it if I stood stock still. One twist and those two strips down the front no longer covered the “essentials.” At a time when two little sons might run into our room at any time during the night, it wasn’t too practical. We both laughed, he a little less heartily, and he’s shied away from sexy purchases ever since.

Another time, he brought me home a card and lovely wrapping paper but no gift. “I couldn’t find anything good enough,” he said, frustration dripping from every word. He seemed to have developed a “tic” while he was out too.

Sometimes he says, “What do you feel like doing for Valentine’s Day?” Of course, what I want is for him to plan it for me. If I actually suggest that, he looks like he’s about to have a stroke from the pressure of it. He’ll say “I thought we should go out for dinner,” but he’ll say it that night, at 5:00 P.M., when there’s no hope of getting reservations. Then he’ll squirm in remorse.

Once, we had a romantic dinner, and we followed it by going to a movie. “Total Recall” does nothing to keep the “warm and fuzzy feeling” alive, believe me.

But after all this time, I’m almost used to it. The truth is, he’s special in every other way that counts. He brings me tea and tells me I’m smart and beautiful all the time, even when I’m feeling like Phyllis Diller on her worst day. And I don’t think his lack of romantic inclination reflects anything more than an inability to recognize the special, small gestures that can be so heart-warming. In other words, big, expensive gestures occur to him, but limited by budget and circumstances, he flounders.

So, if Valentine’s Day is spent like so many other “dates,” I’ll be prepared. A dinner out if I make a reservation, followed by a tour around The Home Depot, and an early return home. Then, perhaps, a glass of wine each, a fast “I love you,” and we’ll each depart for our separate televisions. He’ll watch “This Old House” or The Antique Roadshow,” and I’ll watch a taped soap opera, probably General Hospital, so I can watch Jax as he plans a superbly romantic evening for his current lady-love.

If I grow envious, I’ll remind myself of what my husband said to me recently. He was removing wallpaper from a room, and he commented on the strong, unhealthy fumes from the stripper he was using. Then he added, “It’s okay. As long as I see your pretty face just before I die I’ll be happy”

Okay, so it sounds corny, but it goes a long way towards making up for Home Depot on Valentine’s Day

(published in the Globe and Mail, Feb. 14/05 under title: Valentine’s Day façade, Valentine’s Day feeling)

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