The city seems smaller from the 10th floor of my motel room. A glass of Shiraz is my only company. And the peak-hour traffic noise my only comfort, in absence of the usual peak-hour ruckus at home this time of day. I watch people come and go with haste, and wonder where their busy lives will take them this afternoon. No doubt many of them are starry-eyed lovers on a mission to buy their hearts of pink and red.
Inwardly, I cringe at the thought.
Though a Cancerian and made for romance, you would be hard-pressed to find anything I detest more than Valentine's Day. It's not just my dislike of commercialism. Or that I've become somewhat bitter and cynical. But it's the thought of all that expectation which makes me shudder the most.
The expectation we place on our significant other simply because the date on the calendar has a red love heart drawn around it. Forget that there are 364 other days of the year. That doesn't matter. What matters is that this is Valentine's Day, for crying out loud, and you'd better get it right.
For this one day of the year, there's a pressure to perform. And God forbid if we fail to meet those expectations. I'm far from an expert at relationships. However, I've been married long enough to know one thing. Expectation is the silent killer of relationships. Or as Ann Lamott says, "Expectations are resentments waiting to happen."
We hold unspoken expectations of our partners close to our hearts but rarely do we voice those expectations. We wait for them to read our minds and attune to our wants, needs and desires without communicating them out loud. And then we feel justified to blame them for letting us down.
Every marriage I know has suffered under the weight of unmet expectation. Mine holds no exclusion. There are significant times I remember, like when I expected my husband to have made plans for my birthday dinner. And he hadn't. And we argued about it all day. Or anniversaries and special dates that had been put aside because of busy lives and lack of finances, which I said I was fine with at the time, of course, but my resentment proved otherwise.
But there have also been the smaller things -- uncooked dinners, unmade beds, dishwashers not emptied and rubbish not taken out -- which is a leaking tap in our marriage that has slowly worn us down and run us dry.
There is always a place for expectation of basic human rights and the expectation to be treated with respect, kindness, value and worth. But the dangerous expectations are the ones driven by our ego and our sense of entitlement. They represent how we deserve to be loved, not how we can display love to our partners.
These unmet expectations lead to disappointment and become resentment. And resentment is a cancer that that will blacken our hearts with bitterness and poison everything we touch. No relationship can survive it.
Yet we've somehow been fooled into believing that Hallmark has the answer to our relationships. That our annual Valentine's effort will appease our partner's expectations for another year.
But it's not the once a year obligatory over-the-top gesture of love that sustains a relationship. Relationships take hard work and commitment. An annual gesture of love won't cut it. It's the small things we do for each other every day that hold us together. Not because our partners expect it, but because we choose to show our love in whatever ways we can throughout the entire year.
And so this Valentine's Day, while lovers of the world wait in expectant hope, let's not wait with them. Let's not make it about expectations -- what our partners will buy for us or plan for us. Let's not allow a date on the calendar dictate our relationship.
Instead, let's find ways to love better and stop looking for ways in which people can better love us.
Let's depart from our egos and be more selfless in our relationships. Let's stop waiting for others to meet our expectations and, instead, meet them with the unexpected. Not just on Valentines Day. But every day. And let's watch how our relationships begin to transform.