It’s Valentine’s Day…again. For most people this day makes them cringe, cry, mad, or lonely…oftentimes all of the above. Sometimes people who are equally yoked and motivated, get to feel loved and cherished on this day. But for most is a reminder of what is lost, what should have been, what they’re missing, or what they desperately want. For a holiday that is meant to be a celebration of love for your signifiacnt other, there are many people who experience the opposite. I think a lot of this is the result of unmet expectations. Men and women tend to have drastically different expectations when it comes to love, romance, and how to show those emotions.
Typically, women are the romantics waiting for their knight to show up and demonstrate love and men are less romantically motivated and are often hoping to make a good enough impression or get a good enough gift, that they get to end the day “in good standing,” hopefully having sex.
For women (and occasionally men), this day is usually one that brings hope for a day where they are valued, cherished, and loved. A reminder that they have value and matter to that one person in their life who was created to demonstrate that to them. So for women who are single or who are in relationships where they are not valued and cherished, this day is a crushing reminder of what is not. They deeply feel the pain and longing of the love Christ created for them. They hopefully expect that this time it will be different, even if they know it won’t be. This expectation is often fueled by romantic movies, stories, and media that lies about relationship expectations and distorts reality.
For a lot men (and occasionally women), this day tends to be the day they expect sex and will “do what they have to” in order to achieve that goal. They are less likely to want to embrace the pursuit and relationship, and rather have a means to an end. They often don’t care about their partners needs or deaires for this day or they don’t know how to be romatic.
These are distinct differences in goals and expectations for this day and relationships in general. When those differences collide, it’s a recipe for heartache, anger and usually an argument. This lustful and slefish expectation is often the result of compulsive and long term pornography use and lack of influence by other men who do not think or act like this. Pornography use is the greatest contributor to distorted and selfish thinking and behavior related to relationships and sex and is one od the biggest public health crisis in society right now.
Interstingly, though, the majority of these destructive interactions occur in relationships where one or both are motivated by lust and not love. Lust is the desire to have sex by anymeans possible, regardless of who you hurt or what you do to get that desire met. People motivated by lust tend to look at their partners or potential partners as a means to gratify their own needs. They are often intolerant and contemptuous of their partners humanity. Mistakes, forgetfulness, having a bad day, etc…are often seen as a justifiable reason to lash out in anger and passive aggressive behavior or comments. They dismiss their parters value and treat them with disgust and contempt. It validates their belief that their partner is not meeting their personal desires and selfish wants and that the partner is to blame for their behavior. People motivated by lust are often short tempered and lash out when they don’t get what they want or when their partner doesn’t do what they want, and will often violate the other persons boundaries and needs to meet their own. People motivated by lust destroy the things that matter and are toxic in relationships.
By contrast, people morivated by love are unselfish and they actively pursue their partner. They acknowledge and respect their partners personality and accept them for who they are, even with flaws and imperfections. They intentionally and willingly learn who their partner is and what matters most to them and act in a way that demonstrates that. They respond with kindness when their partner falls short or is going through something that changes their behavior. They typically do not violate the other persons boundaries and needs even when their partners needs are in conflict with their own. These people know their partners weaknesses and support rather than exploit and lash out at those weaknesses. People motivated by love are adaptable, respectful, selfless, and kind. These people build up their partner rather than tearing them down.
If you find yourself in the first category, realize that a lot of the conflict and unmet expectations in your relationships are the result of your feelings of entitlement and selfish pursuits rather than respecting and pursuing your partner’s needs. That doesn’t mean you have to stay in that place. Most people in that category have significant interpersonal difficulties that can be addressed with consistent counseling and hard work. You have to want to change and put in the hard work required to deal with your past and undo years of disordered thinking and behavior, especially when it is accompanied by use of pornography, and distorted expectations and beliefs about love, relationships and yourself.
If you find yourself in the second category, relaize that you will likely be hurt and disappointed in realtionships where your partner is not motivated by love. You may find yourself trying anything and everything to achieve the truly loving relationship only to fail at your attempts to fix the problem. For people motivated by love, self care is by far the most important way to work through the pain that accompanies being with someone not motivated the same way.
So how do you handle such mismatched relationships. First, realize that no matter what, you will never change the other, and the best way to get your needs met is to try and meet your own need and your partners needs even if they do not reciprocate. If you are selfishly motivated, get the help you need and don’t stop until you deal with what made you think and act that way in the first place. If you are love motivated, learn to take care of yourself and meet your own needs while you’re praying and waiting for God to convict your partner enough to elicit change.
If you are not married, evaluate whether or not you are willing to live this way for the rest of your life as they are unlikely to change. If you are married, get help yourself to deal with the destruction wrought by your spouse. If you are married, christian couples counseling can help, but if your partner is unwilling to go or actually do the things the counselor suggests, seek counseling for yourself.
One thing…if your partner is abusive, even if you are married, do not wait around to see if it gets better. Leave and save yourself and your children from irreparable harm and possibly death (selfishly motivated individuals are often abusive and the rages can be deadly). Never let someone put their hands on you or emotionally destroy you. That is not what God has designed for your life.
Finally, realize that valentine’s day is just one day. If you do not demonstrate selfless and pursuing love throughout the year, one day will not make up for the rest of the year. One day is not a good measure of the love or lust in your relationship, but consistent and persistent behavior is a better gauge. If you don’t pursue love in your relationship, true, selfless and romantic love, your relationship is destined to be extremely hard and possibly fail. Change behaviors that need to be changed and are destructive. Pursue your partner like you don’t have them rather than taking advantage of their commitment. Love like you will not get another chance to love them and you will have a healthier and happier relationship.