Valentine’s Day is epic here in the United States. According to the American Association of Florists, almost 200 million roses will be grown for the occasion. An estimated 151 million cards will be purchased and CNN reports that the average adult will spend $130 on gifts. (This confirms that Christopher and I are below average.)

But why does this day result in such extravagant spending and in our case, so much conflict? We’re certainly not honoring the third-century Roman saint who was reportedly martyred for his faith. (At least I’ve never seen that on a Hallmark card.)

This single day has more expectations connected to it than any other holiday. There’s an inherent pressure to find a meaningful gift, to say just the right words, in effect, to prove one’s affection. If you are anything like my husband, you recoil in the face of such expectations. If you are anything like me, you ramp up your expectations, assuming that at least on this day, it’s acceptable to want more more more. (Hence, the merry-go-round of our conflict.)

After twenty-five years of bracing myself for February 14th, I’ve come to the conclusion that if nothing else, Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to explore the non-negotiable components of our relationship. Though you might not agree with me, here’s my short list:

  1. Fidelity. Need I say more?
  2. Honest communication. When we keep secrets, we prevent our spouse from fully knowing us. If we aren’t fully known, we can’t be fully loved.
  3. Forgiveness and grace. It’s pretty tough to consistently confess our sins and admit our flaws if we don’t know that we’ll be forgiven.
  4. To be valued and affirmed. This is a difficult itch to scratch. We need to know in the depths of our being that our spouse (or significant other) values not only what we do for them (bringing home a paycheck or cooking dinner every night), but who we are in relationship to them. If we don’t feel valued, our soul withers. When we affirm our spouse, we help to silence their doubts and insecurities.
  5. Affection and intimacy. Touch is the first sense to develop in utero and the last one that we lose in the aging process. Meaningful touch is a form of ministry that we can extend to one another.
  6. Purpose. Our lives should be about more than simply making it through the work week until Friday comes. (OK. Some weeks that’s as good as it gets.) Whether you volunteer at the local food bank, tutor refugees, host a small group, or just create a welcoming place for teenagers to hang out, we need to look beyond our four walls and be missional together. (And just a thought. Consider having a few singles over for dinner. Valentine’s Day can feel mighty lonely for some of them.)
  7. Community. Surprised by this one? The older I get, the more convinced I am that we cannot expect our marriages or friendships to flourish apart from being sewn into meaningful, healthy communities. (Chapter 10 in Making Marriage Beautiful is devoted to this.)

By all means, find or make a card that communicates your love and appreciation. Buy those flowers or create a special evening to celebrate. But do yourselves a favor—don’t limit such expressions to a single day and don’t forget to explore how you are doing with these deeper relational needs.

I want to encourage you to grab a copy of Making Marriage Beautiful and go through it together. Slowly. You can download the first chapter by clicking the link above. Starting Feb. 13, Christianity Today will be featuring excerpts from my book for five straight days. (I would LOVE help in getting these out to the world. Here’s the link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/devotions/2017/redemptive-power-of-sacrificial-love/everyday-choices.html)

I’m also in the middle of a weekly series where guest writers are sharing how they make their marriages beautiful. It’s diverse. It’s honest. It’s encouraging. Here’s the most recent post. (If you subscribe to receive my blog, you won’t miss a single story. Go to the bottom left side of this page and pop in your email. You’ll receive a confirmation link within a few minutes.)

Thanks for stopping by.