The Valentine’s Day Card Dilemma

Todd and Betsy Stone

My husband makes me happy. He gets me, even though I am a complex person. I get him, even though he is about as straightforward as a human being can be. The relationship between us is a reaction. We are better and more interesting together than either of us is alone. Even after thirty-one years of marriage and thirty-three years of couple-hood.

But I hate shopping for Valentine’s Day cards.

“You are my soul mate,” one read, in loopy script.

I have never felt that my husband is my soul mate. I’ve never told him, “You complete me,” movie-style, because it isn’t true.

I look at the racks of cards and mostly want to vomit. These are the sentiments that are supposed to express our hearts. There are the “big-strong-man” hubby cards that ooze with compliments about how virile and protective and kind he is. There are the “you’ve still got it, baby” cards that wink at continuing sexual attraction. There are the “old reliable” cards that speak of gratitude for years of steadfastness.

Valentine’s Day cards always make me wonder: is the problem me?

An article published by Aeon provided an explanation that made sense to me:

“…(I)dentities are not fused — they are shared. Profound romantic satisfaction is not about possession but about flourishing; the other person is not an extension of you, but a partner for a dynamic and fulfilling way of life….(T)he partners’ personal characteristics do not have to be the best in town — they just need to be in harmony.”

That rings true.

In the end, I chose a card with an up-close picture of a cow with a baying bull reflected in its eyeglasses, a jokey card. My husband got it, though: a reference to a funny, horny dream I had a long time ago that included a man sidling up to me and suggesting his secret fantasy. “I like to moo,” he whispered to me.

One of the most romantic things I ever saw written said very little. It was a photo of a plane, underneath which my mother wrote, “The plane that brought him home.”

Maybe the perfect card for my husband would say, simply, “It’s you I want.”

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