A few days ago I was standing in front of one of those Hallmark Card stands staring at a saccharine sea of hearts, roses and teddy bears. Depending on your viewpoint (or your relationship status) these Valentines Day card stands are either a commercial load of bullshit or a reminder that romance isn’t dead.
Instinctively I started flicking through them with every intention of buying one for my love. The more I flicked the more I smirked. 16 years together, 10 years of marriage, one successful yet intensely hard-worked-for business, many years of IVF, the usual extended family mayhem and raising a four year old when most of our friends have teenagers meant that I couldn’t quite find the right Valentines Day card that spoke to me and spoke of our reality.
There were Valentines Day cards that said lots of lovely things. You complete me, you make me whole, you are my rock, my soul mate, my reason. Cards that said I love you to the moon, the stars, the sea and back again.
Cards that say you are beautiful and wonderful and absolute.
Cards that make me feel like everyone else must have a perfect relationship if this is the benchmark.
Unless I am the only one who thinks that?
I think these display stands are the equivalent of the immaculately curated Facebook highlight reel. That there is truth in the message but there is also a few missing pieces. You know, like the facts.
There is no Valentines Day card for a marriage that has moved beyond “blissful” to one that has experienced many highs and lots of lows and has come out older, wiser and still in love. There is no card for two people who found each other, fell in love, found their way through some difficult days but have kept it together and who still love each other.
When something bad has happened to someone I love and I am upset and crying hot ugly tears and essentially losing my shit and you slowly and calmly say that it is okay and we will find a solution. I couldn’t find a Valentines Day card for that.
There is no card that says anything about the eye rolling that occurs when I leave all the lights on and when I aimlessly stack the dishwasher because my mental load can only go so far and that there are probably a dozens more surface level annoyances I have, flaws that you don’t love but have chosen to accept. Vulnerability isn’t romantic and our weaknesses don’t fit in within the images of the perfect candlelit dinner with the white chocolate panna cotta.
There will never be an appropriate card for the romance of parenting a pre schooler when you are in your 40’s (me) and 50’s (you). Enough said.
There are Valentines Day cards that would suit because you are gentle and kind but none that refer to your tendency to get really shitty at incompetent drivers.
When, after 16 years, I ask “why do you love me?” (because sometimes I feel like I’m still 15) and you say “just because” and I get frustrated because my love language is words of affirmation, but instead you fill my love tank not because you buy me roses but because you grow me a herb garden. Who needs roses when I have rosemary?
Crazy, stupid love is not built but is found and then it has to be nourished and supported. There is no card that says sometimes we both need support at the same time and that can be annoying and frustrating. I couldn’t find a card that said “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME????” Also, for the times when I need you to do/say/be something but I don’t actually tell you what that is and then I get upset when you can’t read my mind.
Or again, is it just me who does that?
There are so many cards that say “you fulfil me” but there are none that say we aren’t actually meant to fulfil each other and that’s okay because it does not mean we can live without each other. It means we are two independent people who choose to be together. Two people who acknowledge that marriage is hard work but equally worth it. There isn’t a Valentines Day card that says all great things require work.
Just because I love words it doesn’t mean I’m always great with them. So these are the words that I couldn’t find in a Hallmark card. I’ll just hand it over to Dave Grohl and we can leave it at that.
Happy Valentines Day