Relationship 101 or; Valentine's Day is for Beginners

As I sit here, rifling through Facebook and engaging in similar Internet debauchery; wondering how the hell I'm supposed to introduce the topic of love and relationships in an "advice" setting -- considering the chance that I may be way out of my league, overreaching, or generally "out of line" -- I somehow rifled my way to this image:

Unless you've sustained a lasting head injury in the past week or so, you're likely to be aware of the pending holiday. It's time once again for us experience the excitement and inevitable despair of Valentine's Day. Allah help us all.

The above image might elicit a well of tears in some, a shower of rage in others, a long-standing tradition of apathy in a select few. I tend to vacillate between the former two, depending on how annoyed with Buddy Holly I feel at the current moment or how close I am to my period. Luckily for him, both Valentine's Day and the monthly tear-storm fall in the same week. You'll be sure to hear of the aftermath on Friday.

But I couldn't ask for a more perfect opening than this. The sickeningly sweet story of one man's ethereal devotion to his widow? You've got to be shitting me. Way to kill the aspirations of Every Other Man (or Woman) on the planet and their inevitably disappointed partners, guys. You've just ensured no one's getting laid this Thursday.

Forgive me, I don't mean to disrespect the dead or anything. Or my elders, which would send The Mother storming to change her will. What I mean to point out is, relationships like this take a long time to develop. 46 years, to quote Sue's tale. And anyone that's pining at their computers right now over all they have and have not -- the faults and flaws in their relationships, be them old or new or non-existent -- should take heart (pun intended) in the great tragedy and simultaneous blessing in this sentiment.

The good part is that there's always room for improvement. The bad part is that the improvement is up to you to initiate. Good luck.

A few years ago, shortly after Valentine's Day, The Mother was telling me about what my stepfather had gotten her. I was jealous and despondent that someone might have the foresight to think of me in such a careful manner, with all the flowers from her favorite place and the gifts and whatnot. But then -- and this is the best thing that's ever been done, ever -- she told me how she had secured her Valentine's Day be as awesome as it panned out. She had emailed my stepfather, with a list containing no more or less than a Google map of directions to said florist, instructions to accompany this gift with another at their shared favorite boutique and -- so as not to miss any detail and curtail any anxiety on the other party -- a copy of their bank statement and budget that would ensure the plan entirely feasible. You guys? My mother is fucking awesome.

I've shared this story with a few friends. A few have actually followed it up by sharing with their partners exactly what would make them feel good, to wildly successful results. It seems entirely unromantic, I'll give you that. But at the end of the day, my mother got exactly what she wanted and her husband felt fantastic being able to provide it.

Because look, here's the thing: the bottom line of a successful relationship is communication. That's not a new concept, it's fairly standard protocol. Or at the very least, we all know it but may have a harder time practicing it. The extent to which your relationship requires communication is on you -- it's on you to understand what needs discussing and what needs leaving alone. It's on you to dissect what needs dissecting, and let go of what you're unnecessarily holding onto. And until you can come to the place that values communication for both its talking and listening parts, you're probably not going to get what you want -- both on Thursday's impending disappointment or otherwise.

Laura and I have been talking about Valentine's Day intermittently in the last few days. We both understand that the holiday is absolutely a corporate-backed fraudulence. It exists to sell shit and to make you feel shitty. But as two women currently engaged in Serious Relationships, we both feel our partner's distaste for it while simultaneously desiring their participation. For those of you guys (or girls) that think your girlfriend is "one of the cool ones" that doesn't care about Valentine's Day: she's full of shit. You've been warned.

We shared the discussion with our boss. He's a guy that buys his wife flowers just because but forgot her birthday last year. Meaning, he's pretty typical. Laura explained it like this:

"I just want to be treated like he likes me at least as much as those girls that get stuff on Valentine's Day."

To which Dave responded:

"You've got to tell him in a way that makes him think you're nice."

I couldn't have said it any better myself. We all want to be wanted, and shown that this is the case. But we all need a little nudging, sometimes. And when you need to nudge, make sure it is done with as much care and attention as you know the relationship deserves. So tell your partner what you want. But make sure that when you do, you're also willing to listen.

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