Valentine’s Day is a day that evokes a variety of emotions. Some look forward to it with excitement about celebrating their love. Others dread it because they are alone and this day is a reminder of this. And then there are those who are in a relationship but hate Valentine’s Day because of the pressure to make some great romantic gesture.
Ironically, the origins of St. Valentine’s Day have more to do with martyrdom than romance. The legend states that St. Valentine was imprisoned and later executed for illegally marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted Christians. This is a beautiful picture of love–a sacrificial act that helped bring others together.
What is love?
Fictional stories also teach us about love. In a time of great social change right at the turn of the 19th century, E.M. Forster wrote a book called Howard’s End. In this story, the main characters have very conflicting views on radical ideas such as social justice, the women’s vote, and other topics. The two main families, though very different, end up connecting in a way that brings these viewpoints into conflict. The Wilcoxes are rich capitalists with an aversion to emotion and a belief in a strong work ethic. The Schlegels consist of three orphaned adults in their twenties. They are creative and progressive, relishing an intellectual life.
Through a turn of events, the father of the Wilcox family (the most opinionated and loud of the Wilcox clan) is widowed and falls in love with Margaret Schlegel (the eldest of the Schlegel family). Margaret’s younger sister, Helen, is horrified. Here is this man who speaks against the women’s vote, who shuts down emotions, and who has little sympathy for those who suffer. What could Margaret possibly see in him?
Connecting, Instead of Changing
In a touching scene in the BBC’s rendition of the novel, Margaret explains that she is not marrying him to change him–she only wants to make a connection.
Though the novel goes into much more detail concerning their odd and complicated relationship, the movie ends showing them both happy, though both still different. It is not your traditional love story. He is much older than her, and they seem to have little in common. She is bold and authentic, surprising him constantly. They have totally different worldviews that neither is willing to bend on. And, yet, a connection is made.
This is, of course, a fictional account, but it hits on something important that is often overlooked when considering relationships. Sometimes, the best way to love someone is to come with the purpose of connection instead of transformation. What if we didn’t approach our spouse or loved one with the intent to change them but instead came to them simply to connect in some way?
Addicted to Improvement
I will confess that I am a self-improvement junkie. I am always reading books about improving myself and trying to implement healthy changes. If I am aware of a negative fault, I will try to improve it. I think this is a fairly common trait with women though not as much with men. At least in our marriage, we were constantly coming to a point where I was pushing him to change in the same way I was willing to change for him. He resisted and resented my suggestions, and I took his reluctance as a measurement of his lack of love for me.
When we love someone we want to please them, right?
Yes and no. Somewhere between the extremes of constantly changing to please someone (so much so that you lose your own identity) and of being so firm in your ways that you are unwilling to budge, there must be a middle place. A place where there is an unconditional acceptance but with a gentle desire to see your partner grow. The challenge though is in not trying to orchestrate this change. Instead, this is where we trust God to do the work that only He can do–the work of transformation.
Differences Are Okay
In the meantime, it’s ok for you to be different, even when the differences are difficult. Love doesn’t need to be stymied by different views or different personalities. Love is deeper than uniformity of thought. It is a chosen unity within the differences.
These different approaches can become very obvious in the realm of romance. Movies and novels give us grand ideas of what romance could and should look like–basically, an event to remember. Instead, romance should be about a connection between two people who really speak different languages. Romance seeks to bridge that gap, finding a way to communicate the love that is shared even if it is enjoyed in totally different ways.True romance will not imitate what is seen on a screen--it will instead express an understanding of your unique relationship.Click To Tweet
True romance will not imitate what is seen on a screen–it will instead express an understanding of your unique relationship. In love, we should not bring our expectations to the table expecting our loved ones to understand. We both have to meet in the middle, finding the point of connection. Romance is not just the man’s domain, nor should it look the same for every couple. Removing these expectations frees us to truly connect with one another, valuing each other for the unique contributions we bring.
To have a great Valentine’s Day, remember the following:
- Value connection over your expectation of romance.
- Find what makes your relationship unique and celebrate that!
- Where change is needed, trust God to do the work of transformation.