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It’s hard to imagine that when Saint Valentine performed illegal marriages for prisoners who were forbidden to marry that he would have thought that his acts would lead to a tradition of sending flowers, cards, and candy to loved ones. Well, this actually is not the case. In fact, the sending of such tokens of love is really a Western Culture tradition that is not necessarily an International way of expressing love. For example, in Latin America, there are no flowers, cards, and candy. Instead, the tradition is to perform acts of love and kindness for loved ones on their day of celebration. I like this tradition because being loving to the one a person cares for ought to be a healthy daily activity and not just restricted to a particular day. Love notes, kind acts, even flowers can be given to someone whenever the heart desires.
But, here in the Western part of the world, the stereotype is that sending flowers, cards, and candy is the way lovers are “suppose to” express “love” for their significant other on a particular day, February 14th. Therefore, there is a sense of “obligation” or “pressure” that if they do not express their love in this particular fashion, they are not fulfilling the expectations of “love” according to the tradition of Valentine’s Day the way we have defined it. The problem is that once “expectation” becomes part of the equation, the essence of one’s personal means of expressing love and admiration to their mate becomes more of a task than an expression of unique love. Has Valentine’s Day been another example of “keeping up with the Jones’s”? How sad is that.
Each couple’s experience of love should be unique and celebrated by the particular knowledge of what makes each person feel loved by the other. Saint Valentine married people out of love, not expectation. If cards, flowers, and candy are your way of showing love to your partner, then buy and give. However, if you think some other means of sharing your love with your mate would be more significant, then show them in this “special” way. After all, if you have true love with your partner, he or she will be more taken by your own way of expression then some stock card and some flowers. Love between people is unique and should be celebrated in special ways that make your relationship special, not just based on some outside force.
Dr. Keith Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst. In addition to a full-time private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego where he teaches both human development and also trains medical students how to better understand and relate to their patients. He also serves as the Director of Clinical Counseling for La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, and is a Clinical Professor at The San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Kanner also sits on the National Board of Directors for Kids Korps USA, which is the largest organization in the country that teaches children and adolescents the importance of volunteering to help the community at large. As a father of three children, he is also a dedicated baseball, football, and soccer coach.