My husband of 14 years called me for the first time on Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t there to take the call. Instead, I was eating steak, chocolate, and lemon cookies at my mom’s house with my two single sisters.
When I got home that night and listened to his message, I didn’t recognize his voice. I had only met him once, but I did remember him, and I liked the fact he was wondering what I was doing that evening. I looked at the clock. It was after 10, still early enough to make a call for someone in their early 20s. I didn’t wait a day or two — I picked up the phone and dialed his number.
We talked for a few hours and agreed to go out with friends the following Tuesday. It was just two days away, and I had trouble sleeping for two nights.
Even thought we didn’t have an official date on Valentine’s Day, we always treated it as our anniversary while we were dating. It was so much more exciting than honoring it two days after the most romantic holiday of the year.
We have been together ever since that day. After our third date, we decided we would be exclusive, and we fell in love in less than a month. He met my whole family that Easter, and we spent every weekend together for two years before he moved in with me.
I got into a canoe for the first time with him, we dined at fancy restaurants, went camping and skinny-dipping. After three years, we got engaged, bought a house, and the following year we were married. After three months of wedded bliss, we were pregnant with our first, then came the second, then the third.
And here we sit, 17 years later, on the brink of divorce, hanging on by a thread, both wondering if we have anything left or if the water has run dry.
Valentine’s Day has always been a special day for us even though celebrating it has faded like many things have in our marriage. What was once a day planned out with great care was downgraded to putting the kids to bed early and making a nice dinner, which was lovely, until it soon became an afterthought, the fault of both of us. And then, it wasn’t even a thought.
This year, we will both spend it alone. Our marriage is slipping away, but I refuse to be sad about it.
I won’t mourn the day of love. I like it too much. It doesn’t just remind me of my husband; it reminds of little candy hearts with sweet messages. It makes me think about the endless hours I spent making Valentine’s Day cards for classmates in elementary school. I have always loved this holiday because my mom made it special for us when we were kids by preparing a delicious candlelit dinner. She would set the table with nice dishes and tiny gifts wrapped up in red tissue paper, even the year that she was going through a divorce herself.
And it does make me think about that night my husband called me for the first time and how it was the start of something wonderful. But it also reminds me that while driving home from an amazing night with my two favorite women in the world, I was happy and content to be single. I had so many things to be grateful for then, and I have even more blessing to count today.
I have no desire to burn my husband’s belongings or cry into a pint of chocolate ice cream. I am not saying I haven’t had those feelings. I am just not going to have them on Valentine’s Day. I want to enjoy the day with my kids just as much as I would if there were a romantic evening planned. We are going out for Chinese food, I will buy them little candy treats and wrap them in red tissue paper, and I have no problem treating myself to flowers and chocolate because I like that shit and I will enjoy it just as much as if it were coming from someone else.
I refuse to be sad on Valentine’s Day just because my marriage is falling apart. There is too much love to be had in this world, especially self-love, and I need to feel it this year more than ever.