Got a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day? We get it… Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays can be tough when it comes to managing our loved one’s expectations.
When we don’t manage our expectations, we buy into the lie that our husbands and wives are responsible for meeting all of our wants and needs, and that they should automatically know exactly how to do that.
Have you ever had this thought: “I really wish my spouse would do ______ for me for Valentine’s Day…,” but then you never told them what _______ was?!?
I have been guilty of this on many occasions in our marriage, not just on Valentine’s Day…. I tend to dream up perfection and assume that Jeremy will just be able to read my mind and know exactly how to fulfill my ideals. It never turns out pretty… Specifically, there was a birthday where I allowed my unarticulated expectations to ruin the day completely.
This is because one of my love languages is “receiving gifts.” Meaning, one of the greatest ways that I receive love is through thoughtful gifts that take time and effort. This is what the love languages test says about people whose love language is receiving gifts:
“A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.”
Giving gifts has always been a big thing in my family, among my friends, and on my sports teams. My mom was always giving little thoughtful gifts to everyone she knew. Coaches, teachers at our school, receptionists at the orthodontist, the girls on my cross country team, our neighbors, and even my school bus driver! She modeled what it looked like to give creative thoughtful little gifts as a way of showing appreciation for the people in her life. Watching her do this made me want to show love to my friends and family in the same creative and thoughtful little ways. I love coming up with super creative surprise gifts for the people I love. Especially Jeremy.
During our first year of marriage, I wanted to do something extra special for Jeremy’s birthday. To set the stage… we were living in Los Angeles, and we were in Portland to film for LPBW on the weekend of Jeremy’s birthday. I felt bad that we had to spend Jeremy’s birthday filming, and then on an airplane back to LA. I wanted to surprise him in a special way upon our return home. I decided to see if I could pull off throwing him a surprise party.
Some of our good friends in LA have this rad office space in the arts district that they call “The Boxcar.” It’s basically a giant loft in a beautiful historic building (if you’ve seen the show New Girl, it’s where they filmed that).
I asked if we could host the surprise party there, and our friends said yes! Then I invited all ofJeremy’s friends. I even invited his college buddies from Santa Barbara who commited to making the drive up to LA! His college roommate, James, owns an epic photo-booth and I asked if he would bring it for the party. All our friends in LA rallied to help bring food and drinks since I couldn’t be there the day of to help set up! I somehow convinced Jeremy that we had to go pick something up from our friends at The Boxcar upon landing in LAX. While waiting for our ride at the airport, I frantically texted everyone to let them know we were on our way!
It was a great party with food, laughter, praising Jeremy, and gifts. I put a lot of time and effort into the party to make Jeremy’s brithday special. Jeremy was very appreciative, but he would have been just as pleased with going to a simple dinner with me, and maybe opening a gift. *heavy sigh* This is because Jeremy’s love language is physical touch and words of affirmation, not receiving gifts. (However, for someone whose love language is not “gifts,” Jeremy has been extraordinarily good at building, creating, and giving me thoughtful and special gifts throughout our relationship! So much so, that my expectations got a little out of control…)
Flash forward three months later, it’s my birthday… A few weeks before my birthday we had decided to move to from LA to Bend, Oregon. The day of my birthday was our last night in LA. We went to breakfast in the morning, and on the way home, Jeremy wanted to make a stop (to get my birthday gift). We had spent nearly all day packing our stuff into the u-haul in the Southern California heat…. At the end of the day, Jeremy handed me my gift in the same plastic bag it was purchased in… Trying to decide if I should yell at him or burst into tears, I took the gift out of the bag. A pair of baseball mitts….
In Jeremy’s mind, this was a heroic gesture! He was giving himself brownie points for the fact that he even got me a gift in the midst of our moving insanity. Plus, we had been talking about wanting to play catch for months! It was a thoughtful and sweet gift that was meant to foster future enjoyable moments.
On the flip side…..
In my mind, I was thinking of how horrible Jeremy was for making me go with him to get my gift on the day of my birthday. I was mad at him for not thinking to somehow wrap it up and make it a little more special for me. The lack of effort and time put into my gift really hurt my feelings and made me feel unloved. He didn’t even write me a card or plan to take me to dinner… I was bummed, angry, and hurt.
So, who is in the wrong here?
Although you might be slightly cringing for me (maybe you’ve experienced something similar), I am the one in wrong.
For two reasons:
1) I didn’t communicate my expectations or make my love language known to Jeremy.
2) I gave love to get love, rather than loving without expecting a return. I resented Jeremy for not doing something “as special” as I did for his birthday…
It took the circumstances of each of these birthdays in order for Jeremy and me to really understand the importance of knowing each others’ love languages.
Did this story resonate with you at all? If so, we hope it encourages you to use these kinds of circumstances as learning opportunities. We hope that you learn your spouse’s love language, and are willing to communicate your expectations. I could have continued to resent Jeremy and harbored bitterness against him after my birthday, but instead, I chose to recognize my fault, and forgive him (but don’t make me out to be a saint, there was a solid 24-hours of pouting involved….)
I’ve learned that if I’m not willing to communicate my expectations, I’m not even giving Jeremy a chance to meet them. So, as silly as it sometimes feels, I communicate my wants and desires on these significant days of the year (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays).
Jeremy and I are continuing to learn how to communicate our needs and wants in light of our love languages. For example, on Valentine’s Day, Jeremy would be completely fine just spending time with me and disregarding the holiday, gifts, and romance side of things…. on the other hand, I want to feel romanced and receive something that took time and effort. So we’ve learned to meet in the middle, and be honest about our expectations.
- Know each other’s love languages and get creative in how you can love them well in light of their specific love language. Here are some great ideas >> 52 Ways To Bless Your Spouse
- Communicate your expectations for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries, and holidays.
- Don’t expect to receive love in the same way you give love. Love without expecting return.
- This Valentine’s Day, love your spouse how THEY need/want to be loved. If you’re not sure how to do that, take the Love Language test.
Are you struggling to come up with a creative and meaningful Valentine’s Day gift for your spouse? Here are a few of our ideas: