Posted: Feb 12, 2014 8:00 AM
 
What began as a liturgical celebration of the Christian Saint Valentine before evolving into a day of celebrating love in the 18th century has now morphed into a highly commercialized holiday where bigger — and more expensive — is better. Is the Valentine's Day of today cheapening the idea of showing our loved ones how much we appreciate them?

Vanessa H. hates Valentine's Day. And she's not the only one.

Initially gaining popularity with small tokens of affection in the 18th century, the Valentine's Day of the 21st century has become a sugary sweet day of sentimentalism, often causing stress, guilt and sometimes even forced romance. Valentine's Day advocates may claim that the naysayers are just jealous, but even those in healthy and happy relationships, like Vanessa, a happily married mother of three, can be seen rolling their eyes at the abounding romance.

Commercialism

With each growing year, holidays in the U.S. get more commercialized and more outlandish, and Valentine's Day is no exception. Americans spent nearly $2 billion in 2013 on flowers alone for their loved ones.

The small tokens exchanged in its early days have evolved into aisles and aisles of red and pink flooding the stores. Candy, teddy bears, roses. Enter a store and head straight for the prepackaged tokens of affection. There's absolutely no thought required.

Unfair expectations

It's hard to deny that Valentine's Day marketing is in fact created with wives and girlfriends in mind. Some — not all — women sit on pins and needles, waiting for their special someone to grace them with a gift. And inevitably, some will be disappointed with their roses, typical heart-shaped box of unidentifiable chocolates or glittery card with a generic romantic message. The lofty expectations placed on male partners to find "the perfect gift" can be overwhelming, not to mention unfair.

I think celebrating love is great! But men and women need to be sure to have realistic and communicated expectations.

"Valentine's should celebrate our love, not your love for me," Vanessa says, explaining that love should be celebrated constantly, not just once a year. "I think celebrating love is great! But men and women need to be sure to have realistic and communicated expectations."

Blogger Laura O'Rourke agrees that holidays like Valentine's Day set up expectations that can be hard to meet. But she doesn't let the commercialism or the sugary sweetness of the day get her down. "I made the decision late in my teens that I would always choose to celebrate Valentine's Day in a way that celebrated love but didn't create expectations that could be dashed," she says. "I love that Valentine's Day celebrates and idealizes loving human relationships. Valentine's Day is what each person, and each couple, makes it to be."

Love, family style

Despite their opposing feelings on the holiday itself, Vanessa and Laura both strive to make Valentine's Day a family affair, revolving around conversations about love and kindness. Vanessa understands that someday her twin boys may have girls in their lives to whom Valentine's Day is extremely important, and she encourages all of her children to show love creatively and thoughtfully.

Likewise, Laura delights in making her husband and boys feel special. "We use Valentine's Day as an opportunity to really have a conversation about love and how it works in our family. As they are getting older, they will be able to play more of a role in Valentine's Day by participating in doing loving things for the rest of their family."

That sounds lovely.

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