You might be someone who feels that Valentine’s Day is just another “Hallmark Holiday.” A day that causes too much anxiety and allows for consumerism to run amok. And you’d be right!

In terms of recognized holidays, it’s probably right up with there with New Year’s Eve as the most over-hyped, under-delivering holiday on our annual calendar of events — but that might just be the result of how you’re approaching this day, altogether.

If you’re like most people, you might only be recognizing it as a “romantic” holiday. And that makes sense… All you have to do is walk into just about any kind of store (starting on January 2nd) and you’ll be assaulted by all the things you’re supposed to buy to show your romantic love interest just how much you care about them. There are whole industries (think: jewelry, chocolate, flowers and lingerie) that are banking on the fact that this is exactly what you’ll think about when February 14th rolls around: Romantic Love.

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you know that I have an interest in promoting a healthy sex life. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about romantic love when you think of Valentine’s Day. But depending on where you are in your couple relationship, the circumstances in which you find yourselves on this particular day of this particular year, romantic love and its celebration might be problematic, or create too much pressure for one or both of you.

What do I mean by that?

What if you’re newly pregnant? You peed on the stick not so long ago and are joyfully expecting a baby — but you’re also simultaneously puking almost all day long. And when your head hits the pillow at night? You want NOTHING but sweet slumber to arrive so that you can stop heaving and get some relief!

What if you’re in your second trimester and your sex drive is in overdrive? Maybe your partner needs an actual break from trying to keep up with you. Or they’re a little weirded out or scared about harming the baby if they have sex with you. Number one, it’s normal to feel this way and number two, you can’t hurt the baby by having sex with a pregnant woman. That’s a myth.

What if you’re in your third trimester and getting into a comfortable position to sleep is hard enough, let alone finding one that will work for some sexy time? Even if you’re interested, you might feel like it’s just a lotta work at this stage of the game and sex ends up being more functional than fun. 

What if you’re newly parenting and that damn six week mark (that every book ever written about returning to sex postpartum) comes and goes? Your libidos are mismatched, breastfeeding makes for increased vaginal dryness, you might be afraid it’s going to hurt, your breasts are for work — not play, you’re SO.DAMN.TIRED.

What if your kids are not babies anymore? Your days are filled with making dinner, running them from one place to another, prepping lunches and backpacks for the next day, checking in to make sure everyone is doing okay mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually… parenting is hard work.

WOW – Barb! You are not making a case for celebrating Valentine’s Day! This is a bummer post, dude.

Stick with me…

Cut yourself some slack on this particular day, of this particular year, with your particular set of circumstances. And instead of caving to the pressure of getting the right jewelry, or wearing some lingerie when you’re feeling anything but sexy, or buying the appropriate expression that will show your partner just how much you care…

Focus on why you love your partner.

And if it’s been challenging lately (or for a long while now) to remember why you love them, let your mind wander away from the romantic aspects of love (eros) and instead focus on the deeper love of friendship (philia).

In this article from Psychology Today, Dr. Neel Burton describes philia this way: “…the best kind of friendship is that which lovers have for each other. It is a philia born out of eros, and that in turn feeds back into eros to strengthen and develop it, transforming it from a lust for possession into a shared desire for a higher level of understanding of the self, the other, and the world. Real friends seek together to live truer, fuller lives by relating to each other authentically and teaching each other… with some degree of openness, articulacy, and insight, both to change and to be changed.”

What are the characteristics that you admire most about your partner? What traits do they possess that you’re happy your children have inherited from them? How have they shown you that they care for you and your well-being over time? What are your shared stories that make you laugh, make you cry, make you roll your eyes at remembering them? How has knowing your partner changed you for the better?

My guess is that a short, hand-written note that answers one or more of the questions above would mean so much more to your Valentine this year than any box of chocolates or flower-filled vase or sexy lingerie ever could. Taking a moment to tell your partner that you love them, really love them, by recognizing and identifying your deep connection of friendship will — I promise! — strengthen your feelings of romantic love for one another! 

And it might just help us all take this day back from Hallmark and the consumerism it has become entangled with.

In the immortal words of Tina Turner in all her badass, 80s glory, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” I’d say… Well, if we’re talking about real love and not just romantic love, then the answer is: EVERYTHING.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you feel like making MY day, share this post with someone you love. Thanks.

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