A Confusing Valentine's Day
Our first married Valentine’s was a bust. Let me rephrase that. Our first married Valentine’s didn’t go as I expected. And in turn, I found myself disappointed and let down in a pretty significant way. When I look back on that day eight years ago, I smile at how much could have been avoided with clear communication. But in the moment, the feelings of disappointment and unmet expectations made it hard to think clearly.
I’ll set the scene a little. My husband and I had been married about six months when February 14 drew near. We shared a car and lived in a small apartment, on an even smaller budget. He was very busy at work that February, so I thought I’d give him a pass on the plans.
“You don’t have to plan anything for Valentine’s Day—I’ll handle everything. Don’t worry about a thing,” I said ever so valiantly. I planned a wonderful night. The evening consisted of a favorite dinner and dessert made at home, a handful of carefully selected and perfectly wrapped presents, followed by an outing to see Casablanca at a local theater. My husband is a filmmaker so this was a hit!
The Morning Of
That morning I got up early to make breakfast and coffee. I sent sweet texts throughout the day. After all, this was our first married Valentine’s Day—I was smitten and wanted it to be special! By dinnertime, my plans were in full swing. Still, I couldn’t shake the nagging disappointment that I hadn’t received so much as a card. No chocolate, no gift, nothing. I held out hope that maybe he was saving his gift for later, a surprise to say, “Gotcha! You thought I forgot, didn’t you?!”
But friends, that moment never rolled around. As it started to sink in that he didn’t forget, he just didn’t get me a thing, my anger was rising. Was I not worth the effort, the thought of a kind gift on our first married Valentine’s Day?! We ended the evening with full-on silent treatment. I was furious at this point, and not even trying to hide it. We went to bed in a room full of tension and I cried quietly into my pillow.
A Dreary February 15
The next morning I woke up with the bitter hangover of anger, and I was taking it out on him in my words and actions. By breakfast, he looked at me and said, “What on earth is going on with you?” I glared at him, annoyed that he didn’t know what he had done to make me this angry. “You didn’t do anything for me for Valentine’s Day! Not a card, not a note, nothing!” I snapped sharply, so self-righteous in my good plans that I could barely get the words out without raising my voice.
He looked at me, dumbfounded, and walked over to his phone. As he scrolled through messages, I was thinking about what to say next. Then, it happened. A combination of guilt, embarrassment, and shame. He showed me the text I had sent just a week earlier: “Don’t worry about a thing, and you don’t even need to get me anything, I know you don’t have time to go out.”
My heart sank. Did I say that? I had completely forgotten that I told him not to get me anything. Blame it on emotions or busyness, but that fact had completely slipped my mind. Things were a bit blurry as I tried to backpedal and apologize for my anger, my tone, and my forgetfulness.
Somewhere along the way, I communicated one thing while I expected another. I hadn’t been honest about what I wanted, but I held on to an expectation that he would somehow read my mind and know what to do. There was a miscommunication of what I’d hoped for, and it led to immense disappointment.
Eight Valentine's Later
As Valentine’s Day has passed again, nearly a decade later, I can smile at how ridiculous this whole story sounds. I see now that my tendency toward people-pleasing caused me to hide how I really felt in an attempt to be an easygoing, laid-back wife. By trying to avoid confrontation, I didn’t convey what was really on my mind until I came to a breaking point. These habits had to be rooted out, worked through, and intentionally laid to rest in order for our marriage to thrive.
Expectations aren’t bad to have, but they can cause more harm than good if we don’t learn to communicate them clearly or hold them too tightly. Nothing good comes from making the people in our lives play guessing games and try to figure out what we want. It helps everyone to speak honestly and communicate clearly when we have hopes or plans for how we think something should go.
Shortly after that bumpy Valentine’s Day, I was reading through the book of Proverbs. I came across some verses that the Lord used to challenge my heart.
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble. The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” (Proverbs 12:19–22)
In a way, saying one thing but meaning another had been deceitful on my end. I had chosen to pretend I didn’t want or expect anything, but in reality, my heart longed to be surprised and showered with gifts. When my husband couldn’t read my mind, I held it against him rather than extending grace. Instead of promoting peace and enjoying one another, I had brought division and ruined what could have been a sweet evening together.
The Way of Peace and Joy
I wish I could tell you we never struggled again to communicate clearly or meet expectations. Insecurity often intervenes in my attempts at honesty, and I choose to avoid ruffling feathers or upsetting anyone. But there is a better, healthier, more honest way. A way that promotes peace and brings joy. It doesn’t mean that I insist on my own way every day, demanding I’m given whatever I want. We all know that would end poorly. However, I’ve learned to humbly and honestly communicate needs and express desires in a way that benefits everyone involved.
There is also great peace and joy in bringing my expectations to the Lord. His Word tells us He opens His hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing, is kind in all His works, is near to those who call on Him, and fulfills the desire of those who fear him (Psalm 145:16–19). While this doesn’t mean every expectation will be fulfilled in earthly relationships, it does mean our greatest need is fulfilled in God alone. We can truly find satisfaction in Christ and rest in His unfailing love.
If you’ve experienced the frustration of unmet expectations, take time and be honest with the Lord, with yourself, and with those around you. How can you communicate clearly what you need and let go of the rest? What hidden hopes have been promoting frustration where honesty could bring joy? Be intentional not to say one thing when you mean another. In doing so, others are set up to fail and you are set up for disappointment. Look to Jesus first and let your hopes flow out of His unfailing love.
If you find your expectations are more about yourself than those around you, use this opportunity to ask the Lord for a heart of contentment and peace. Rest in Him, and let go of the things that aren’t essential to make room for what matters most.