While Valentine’s Day is traditionally touted as a time to celebrate love and happiness with a partner, for me, it’s also a reminder that unhealthy relationships exists and are actually quite common. No matter what age, gender, race, religion, education, or income level a person is, toxic relationships know no boundaries. Before I met my husband, I was in a relationship (during my uni years) which ended when a friend of mine intervened and drove me to the police station in the middle of the night.
Of all the things that can affect one’s life, health, career, and finances, I would say that relationships, particularly romantic relationships, have the greatest impact. Yet it surprises me how very few financial advisors/planners or even medical professionals will even bring up the topic.
I’ve seen way too many financial plans and life plans go down the drain when a relationship unravels. As someone who had previously been in bad relationships and has now been married for more than a decade and a half, I can tell you that love is a skill that we all can learn to improve.
Katie Hood, the CEO of One Love, puts it this way,
The truth is, we’re all sort of flying blind when it comes to love. While we’ve all felt love, we’ve never actually been taught how to love.”
Sure, some of us (myself included) came from broken or dysfunctional families whose parents did not serve as great role models. But this doesn’t mean we can’t educate ourselves about what is an unhealthy relationship versus what is a healthy relationship. And it also doesn’t mean that once we get married, we stop trying to improve our skills.
Valentine’s Day Gifts Nobody Wants
This brings me back to why I’m writing this as a Valentine’s Day post. You see, my aforementioned ex was always big on celebrating Valentine’s Day. This didn’t just mean I would receive a grand gesture from him; it also meant I would need to make my own grand gesture. I would need to put forth a similar amount of time, effort, and money toward my gift to him.
In that relationship, gift giving quickly turned into high expectations. And with high expectations, came disappointment and comparison. If my gifts weren’t perceived to be as “meaningful” or “special” as his, somehow it turned into control.
Flowers, chocolates, jewellery, romantic dinners, movie dates — they were great, but the focus for that relationship was always on the quality or quantity of the gift, and not on the relationship itself. Nobody wants to feel sad, lonely, disappointed, stressed out, or dread in their life. But what’s worse is when you feel these things while in a relationship.
The Best Valentine’s Day Gift
The best gift you can give your partner is a healthy relationship. And not just on Valentine’s Day but all year-round.
So this Valentine’s Day, instead of thinking of creative ways to save a few dollars on Valentine’s gifts, why not use this day to reflect on the quality and health of your relationships. Make it a day to discuss and learn about each other’s wants, needs, goals, and expectations. After all, effective communication is one of the keys to a healthy relationship.
As another blogger put it,
True love is what you feel the day after Valentine’s Day…and the day after that…And if you don’t feel it the other 364 days of the year, then Valentine’s Day really doesn’t matter.”
So what does my husband usually give me on Valentine’s Day? A nice evening out? Nope. Roses? Not even once. Throughout our entire marriage, he has given me nothing for Valentine’s Day. Nothing material, that is. Yet his love, thoughtfulness, respect, support, and kindness are expressed every day; not through gifts but through actions.
Was this something that came naturally to him (or to me)? Well… not really. Given that both of us came from dysfunctional families, we both had to learn how to communicate, understand, express, and meet each other’s needs. We both had to make mistakes and learn from them. And although the two of us have come very far in our relationship, we still have much more to learn, to appreciate, and to practice.
The willingness and the ability to improve our relationship, and the love and respect we have for each other, is yet another reminder of just how lucky I am. Had I stayed with my ex, I could have easily ended up in a less desirable place.
Let’s all learn to love better this Valentine’s Day. So that our relationships can have the love, quality, tenderness, dignity and respect that they deserve.