The Best Valentine's Gift: Another Chance
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).
Love is a many splendored thing when you’re first dating Mr. or Miss Right, and Valentine’s Day seems to have been invented just for the two of you to celebrate your very special love.
But after a few years of marriage (a few hours in some cases), when Miss Right has turned into “Mrs. Always Right” and Mr. Right has deteriorated into “Mr. Can’t Get it Right” (or vice versa), Valentine’s Day may seem like a trumped-up tradition of forced, and often expensive, displays of affection custom-made for commercialism, hyped-up expectations, and often disappointment.
The gift industry would have us believe that flowers, candy and oversized cards will have us all living happily ever after, but once you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ to disillusionment, the valentine season can seem like a minefield too perilous to cross.
While one spouse may be preparing a gourmet meal to serve with fresh flowers and a big sentimental card, the other spouse may be working late and then frantically driving from one gas station to another hunting for a leftover rose to function as a get-out-of-jail-free card rather than an expression of undying love and devotion.
Approximately one-half of American marriages end in divorce, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Those aren’t reassuring odds. Even marriages made in heaven can get bogged down in the earthly grind. Every married couple can testify to the cyclical nature of the relationship. Like the seasons of the year, marriages go through changes of seasons, and too often it’s the wintery cold and flu season.
This year for Valentine’s Day, perhaps married couples could start a new tradition, and give each other a gift that Hallmark can’t sell, florists can’t stock, and even Fannie May can’t package. This year for Valentine’s Day, try giving your love another chance.
Vow that you will deliberately forgive and forget all the offenses of the previous year, no matter how entitled you feel to hold a grudge. Resolve that you will consciously open your heart to your spouse again and love him or her unconditionally. This will do more for your love life than all the flowers, candy, lingerie and cards in the world.
This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of a big red greeting card, give your spouse a hand-written list of things you love about him or her. Instead of a box of expensive chocolates, present a priceless list of sweet things you appreciate about your spouse. Come up with several ways you will try to change to better meet your spouse’s needs. Ask your spouse what he or she needs from you to be happier in the relationship. Apologize for any outstanding offenses you can recall and promise to do better in the coming year. Seek couples counseling together to help work through any unresolved issues and learn new ways of improving your relationship.
And if you happen to find a gas-station rose on the way home from work, or manage to share a romantic meal together, that probably won’t hurt either.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).
Blessings to you!
M. Catherine (Cathy) Downen, MA, MA, LPC, NCC
Founder, Christian Counseling Connection, LLC