Even in a committed relationship, Valentine’s Day can be stressful, but early in a new dating relationship, the whole specter of Valentine’s Day can be really, really uncomfortable.
A bunch of years ago, before the beau was on the scene, I dated a fella named Tim for a few months. He had kids and a dog, I had kids and a dog. I liked hiking and craft beer, he liked hiking and craft beer. Dating at middle-age is not easy, but all was going well and we were taking it slowly.
We had just started dating exclusively when Valentine’s Day loomed around the corner and was poised to create so many ways to feel insecure.
Will he want to get together on Valentine’s Day?
Is it weird to go out on Valentine’s Day when you are just starting to date?
Is it worth the hassle of getting a reservation and awkwardness of being around all of the lovey-dovey couples?
Should I pretend I don’t even know it is Valentine’s Day?
Instead of putting me through even a moment of insecurity, Tim took the lead. He said he hadn’t had a good Valentine’s Day in a long time and wanted to enjoy this one with me – and he asked me out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
He showed up wearing a spiffy suit, offering me a large bouquet of flowers and a lovely handmade card. He took me to a romantic restaurant, even though it was a weeknight and he knew I had to be home early for my kids. It was the best Valentine’s Day I had ever had. He made it fun, when it easily could have been awkward between us.
Seeing him solidly show up and take the lead was so attractive. He wasn’t hedging or holding back to see what I expected. He didn’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day because he had to or because he wanted to move the relationship along faster – he just wanted to do a nice thing for me. Even though our future together was undefined, he jumped in, took the pressure off, and made Valentine’s Day feel good for both of us.
He took the chance that I might ridicule or reject him – and seeing his confidence and generosity made me like him all the more.
This grand gesture made a big impression on me. Of course, it wasn’t a big enough impression to make me keep dating him when I found out that Tim was “technically” still married. That was a deal-breaker and quite disappointing, but the Valentine’s Day he gave me was a gift. He showed me the kind of partner I need to be with – someone who is brave and generous enough to be vulnerable. This experience made it really easy for me to spot this quality in the beau when I met him a few years later.
The willingness to put yourself forward, bravely and without expectation, is so important to creating intimacy. If you are willing to show up and make yourself a little vulnerable, it makes your partner feel safe enough to make herself a little vulnerable too, and, inch by inch, you get closer, feel safer, take risks being vulnerable, and build trust.
Men who play games and make women wonder where they stand are bound to find themselves in the unfulfilling, insecure relationships they probably deserve. In marriage or dating, women who experience this will end up backing away and protecting themselves. I suspect that these are the men who complain about never getting any lovin’ from their wives.
Men who take the lead and create a connected, transparent relationship environment where it is safe to feel intimate and attached, end up with women who love them passionately and find their foibles and idiosyncracies endearing, rather than infuriating.
Intimacy may be experienced differently by men and women, but both partners are responsible for creating a relationship safe-zone if they want to grow together. The hard part is that someone has to take the first risk being vulnerable.
Of course, intimacy is so much more complex than this post can encompass, but I firmly believe that growing together requires two people who are willing to show up and put themselves in danger of being hurt.
I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with all of the dangerous, brave, and generous kindness you can handle.