Ah, Valentine’s Day, thou shining day of Lurve! How must it feel, knowing that not everybody loves thee.
As someone who attended an all-girls school, a university with a much larger female cohort than male, then taught at a girl’s school and currently work in an office with more ladies than men, boy have I heard the female perspectives on this day. Wide and wild goes the gamut. I also work in advertising, so the whole commercial gimmick side is certainly not one foreign to me. Matter of fact, I have definitely been a part of campaigns designed to pull you into pity purchases, don’t-leave-me purchases, please-marry-me purchases and “I’m all alone, so come here you big box of chocolates, you” stuff as well. But I’m also a wife and the mom of a ridiculously busybody little 1 year old. And I’m here to tell you that despite my psychological and commercial foray into the backstages of V-Day land, I subscribe to Valentine’s Day. Yeah. You heard me.
I. Believe. In. Valentine’s. Day.
I want the flowers, the card, the calls, the sweet texts, the giggling flirting, the extra special love energy, dinner- the works! You can keep the chocolates and I will NOT wear Red. But to absolutely everything else ascribed unto this holy day of love, I verily say unto thee: yes please.
But whyyyyy? I hear some of my friends wailing to themselves. It’s not just because I’m a hopeless romantic (though I am). It’s not just because I subscribe strongly to chick flick magic (I totally do). It’s not just because I’ve always been obsessed with flowers (and I mean ALWAYS). It’s because I find that many of us as couples, as parents, as workaholics, (and I’m one of everything above) do not actually prioritize each other and the concentrated effort it takes to make a relationship really work and keep its sparkle. For some, we’d settle for a half hearted glow. Some of us would even take just an occasional shimmer.
Marriage is work. I subscribe heavily to a theory made popular by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which touches on how long it takes to truly master a thing. And that number my friends is 10,000 hours. Ten. Thousand. Hours. Granted it’s not really like with Marriage you can cram in them hrs, cash it in for a certificate and go make crazy Microsoft or Apple money. No. But what you CAN do with those hours is gain a marriage that is confident enough to breeze through fat days, bald days, gassy days ,etc. You can find a marriage flexible enough to bend around and through toughies like unemployment, financial worries, children worries and even infidelity (tough one, I know, but it IS possible). It’s about developing the kind of marriage strong enough to make it, to get you gasping across the great Til Death Do Us Part line, still sure that you made the right decision that fateful [insert your wedding date here]. And that’s a big deal in the world of climbing divorce rates right across the boards of race, religion and income brackets.
But the thing about this 10,000 hour theory is not that it’s just 10,000 hours; it’s that it’s 10,000 of dedicated, deliberate practice that does it. That means that me simply waking up in the same general vicinity, and falling asleep in the environs of my husband does not actually contribute to this time count. It can’t be passive. It must be focused, active participation in this joint venture called marriage in order to really ‘count’ as I try to become my very best Wife self (and mother, sure, but this is about the wife part). And yes- marriage is more than lovey-dovey-ness. Surely the hours we put into raising the kids and finding the mortgage payments, and enduring Those Neighbours and That Friend and splitting chores- surviving life in tandem, essentially- do absolutely count towards our marriage. But you still need some zoom-zoom-zoom. We need the love, the romance, the reminder of the heady early days. We need to stay in touch so that as we change, we continue to recognize each other. We need to be able to adjust and adapt our needs, our demands, the way we support each other, etc in accordance with where the tides of life and change take us. I want to always be in love with the husband beside me, and not the version of him that I remember from 3 or so years ago when I last checked in emotionally; I want to be able to support him in the way he needs at any given time. I mean, my 50 year old self will need very different things from husband than my 30 year old self and I’d love to imagine that it won’t be a total shock out of clear blue sky for him, as a result of us actively and deliberately staying abreast of each other.
And so if a portion of my 10,000 hours (and I mean the theory of mastering a thing, not literal time tracking- I suck at numbers. And time management.) has to come from the romance department, I then begin examining the year. There’s my birthday. His birthday. Our anniversary. And then any other day not circled on the calendar is a bonus. Let’s be honest…how many of us commit to painstakingly carving out the time from our jobs, kids and house to be a couple? And the time we do snatch…is it enough to count towards a deliberate move to LOVING our partner?
For me, the honest answer is “not too easily”, certainly not without conscious effort and practice. On the list of priorities it would be easy to admit that falling asleep holding hands might be about the most I can consistently commit to without actively trying to re-prioritize everything in my head. But having accepted this challenge to not be a passive spouse, I delight in any opportunity to bust out my girlie giggles and sparkly lipgloss; to send a dirty text or feel giddy butterflies at the thought of extra special Us Time. We will continue to create those occasions “just because it’s Tuesday”. Or Friday. Or whatever. But in the meantime, why the heck wouldn’t I seize a ready-made Day of Love?!? I’m seizing it, I tell you! It doesn’t always have to be a big splashy hoopla, and it’s not because I feel ordered to, by some great Cosmic/Corporate mandate. It’s because it’s a Day of LOVE, people- and you know who’s in love? ME. It’s a match made in Heaven!
So Hallmark, Cupid, Ferrero Rocher, Actual Saint Named Valentino Who Saved Young Love…whoever you are that created this day, put in on the international calendar and gave me another reason to remember the romance: THANK YOU. I salute you.
As far as I’m concerned I’m putting in my 10,000 hours one Monday, Thursday, Anniversary, Birthday and Valentine’s Day at a time.