I was surprised by my sadness right after the birth of my only child. Such a beautiful moment, but I felt like I had lost something.
My husband and I had no preference for a girl or a boy, so we did not ask which it would be in advance. However, in those last two weeks of waiting, we both became convinced it was a girl, and we began calling our overripe belly bump Sara. When our gorgeous, healthy son emerged, we briefly experienced a loss, a loss of the girl we had been expecting.
That’s all it takes to create sadness or anger, a dashed expectation. And creating Valentine’s Day expectations is a multi-million dollar business. It’s not just the jewelers, the florists, the chocolate sellers, it’s also rom-coms and the Hallmark Channel and even our elementary school teachers. If you’re married, and especially if you’re married to a woman, your spouse just might have been affected.
You give flowers, she expected dinner. Or chocolates. Or lingerie. Or something else. You skip the day, knowing she would be offended by limiting your love for her to just one day, but today she had something in mind. You give him a gift, but he was hoping for a night off from cooking. Whether it’s for a brief moment or hours, whether it’s warranted or not, your spouse just might feel the pain of a dashed expectation. And if you are perceptive, or if your spouse reacts strongly to a shift in emotions, you will probably want to go away and lick your wounds.
Don’t. This is the moment when you lean into a marriage. You don’t need to take any responsibility for the expectation. All you need to do is acknowledge the pain driving the sadness or anger and show this person you love some kindness, some interest, some reassurance while they sort themself out.
Even when we get something as good as or better than we expected, a dashed expectation affects us. Even when we’re bright enough to understand that our expectation comes from a TV ad or a TikTok or a YouTube video, we wince when it’s ripped away from us. If you take your spouse’s reflexive wince personally, you just might miss out on a chance to strengthen your marriage and make sure it lasts. It’s Valentine’s Day. Lean in.