In the 90s, relationship issues author Michael Webb faced an issue many of us who write about love have grappled with at some time or other: Valentine’s Day. This holiday, while full of good intention, was created by companies who stood to gain a lot from people who purchased their products to show one another their love.
Webb worried that the emphasis had a tendency to be placed on things as opposed to the relationships themselves, and on 1995, he decided to begin campaigning for a seven-day celebration six months after Valentine’s that shifted the focus back to where it should be: the people in the relationship. Resurrect Romance Week, which begins on the second full week of August, is a time for couples to consider their affection in terms of time and attention, not things.
Photo by Julien Haler.
Webb’s suggestion for couples is to try to do romantic, but inexpensive things every day of the week to grow closer together. If you are wondering why people need a holiday to do what they should be doing every day anyway, consider how rarely we put work and personal goals on the back-burner for our significant others and our friends. They’re the ones who have to understand when something comes up at work, when we’re inspired and writing, when we have to go to this conference and that.
Lovers and friends make all the concessions. It’s not this way at the beginning, when we bend even the laws of gravity for a new flame, and certainly every once in a blue moon, during an emergency, we have proved that we are more than fair-weather friends. But these tend to be the exception, not the rule.
Most of us don’t pencil friends and lovers into our planners. We don’t take their calls when we’re busy. Why do clients get to interrupt dinner when the people who love us most have to understand we’re just going to have to reschedule because a project’s come up?
Holidays like these, like anniversaries, impose themselves on our lives and planners to remind us that we have to make that time for the people who matter the most, the ones who are there to pick up the pieces when a deal falls through, the ones who stand by in escrow or foreclosure. You can call these holidays silly if you want, or you can smile at the brave attempt to bring the focus back.
I used to think such holidays were ridiculous myself, as I wrote in my defense of Valentine's Day last year. When I was married, my ex-husband and I made a point to discuss our disdain in regard to Valentine’s Day, effectively banning it. There would no pressure to make a mockery of our union by selecting a single day to commemorate it -- not with Valentine's and not with an anniversary, either. We were living those things every day, were we not?
Such holidays were an affront to the obvious joy we experienced just being together, and flew in the face of personal and mutual efficiency. After all, the time we spent stressing about what to get each other could be better spent doing something else -- like working to move our personal success forward, and therefore our union. And the resources spent on gifts could be better suited to things we really wanted -- like the down payment on another home or another car. You can't have too many of those, you know.
Fast forward two years. You have a relationship that is fairly efficient. Everyone knows what to expect and when. The frills had been cut away. We were the bare bones and organs of love: no fat, no bullshit. I didn't tolerate dinner parties, so I often skipped Sunday dinner at his aunt's. He didn't "understand" my friends, so he passed on that. We made each other nuts traveling together, so we took separate planes. He worked better in the day and I worked best at night, so we cleaved our life together into separate shifts.
We made time to be together, of course. Breakfast before I went to bed and he went to work, dinner when he got home and I was getting ready to start writing. Sometimes I would curl up in bed with him until he fell asleep, then sneaked out to go write. Sometimes he turned off his phone when we drove out to our second home in the desert. Little things to show it was important to have each other in our lives.
Crumbs. That's what it was. I'll be the first to admit it. We starved the living hell out of our relationship.
Toward the end of things, I couldn't believe how much we were fighting. In retrospect, I realize that fighting was the only way we could sustain interaction for any prolonged period. We may or may not really had issues with the things we were arguing about, but what we were actually doing was trying to get something, some kind of emotional response from each other and hold it there. Even if it was ugly and only there for a couple of hours.
We had no real emotion outside of that. Efficiency doesn't fare well with that warm fuzziness. Efficiency is cold, collected and always in control. You tell me about your day, I'll center you. I'll tell you about my day and you'll neutralize me. If one of us doesn't understand or really care, we'll nod and smile and take the time to make a mental list of things we each need to get done next while the other is talking.
As a result, the only way to really express ourselves emotionally was to go to war over perceived infractions of our cherished efficiency. I suppose screaming during orgasm is a more socially-acceptable form of emotional expression, but no desire can grow on a landscape so sterile. We were emaciated.
This is an extreme case, of course. What I want to illustrate is that from the get-go, we trained ourselves to believe that our partnership could make manifest these displays of appreciation on its own, that every day could be a celebration of how much we cherished one another. Let me tell you something about real life: that's not how it works.
Valentine's Day may be a farce of a holiday, hijacked by companies to force you to buy things you don't need, but you know what? It's a reminder -- not just for couples, but for everyone -- that relationships need feeding and in this fast-paced world, we do need reminders.
A man I adore once told me that romance isn't innate, that it must be inspired. This shook me to my core and I still wrestle with the notion sometimes. Romance isn't simply born of the moment? But I am a fount of explosive emotions, incredible acts of devotion, a door of passion that opens into a roaring fire... No, actually, I'm not. I mean, I am. But mostly, I am capable of incredible precision. Left to my devices, I will find the quickest, most effective way to do anything. I can streamline everything from an incredible workload to a relationship. That is what our culture values and what's been inculcated in me: put in as little as possible, get out as much as you can.
Well, I say: enough. Since my divorce, I've made the decision to welcome the complicated, clunky, and time-consuming, to cherish the frills and allow for real soul feeding. I will not indulge myself when work allows. I will put work on hold to satisfy my soul and fill it to overflowing.
As a result, I celebrate anniversaries for everything. I celebrate Valentine’s Day. And now that there is a week-long holiday that focuses less on stuff and more on time, effort and all that inefficient stuff that once made my skin crawl, I’m going to celebrate that, too.
And so this week, we’re going to be running pieces to inspire you with ideas about how to resurrect the romance, how to bring the spark back, and how to bond again. We invite you to write about it as well, so we can share your ideas with the rest of the web. This is important, and we need all the help we can get!