Know Your Valentine's Day Expectations
By Megan Muñoz, IMH
Every relationship struggles with expectations, whether it is an expectation that is unspoken, unmet or out of our present awareness. Underneath the surface of frustration, sadness and hurt is an expectation that was not met. Another way to think of an expectation is as a belief, and a belief that drives an expectation can be positive or negative. When we expect something to go wrong, it is because we have an internal belief that wrong is likely to happen. If we expect something to go well, it is because our internal thoughts are tied to the belief that what we are about to experience will go well. The beliefs that drive our expectations are also tied to our past experiences that have shaped those beliefs. We are not always aware of our internal expectations because sometimes we are not consciously aware of what we believe about an approaching event or situation.
Valentine’s Day is a day loaded with internal and external expectations. First let’s talk about external expectations. According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers are expected to spend an average of $140 on Valentine’s Day this year with total spending at $19.6 billion. Advertisements do their best to persuade us to buy their product with the goal to form a belief that this kind of expenditure is normal and done by everyone. These external expectations tend to wrap themselves around our internal expectations and blur the two together. As with every holiday, there are two sides to the expectation story. The first is the one projected onto the holiday through media and the second is what you uniquely expect. When these two blur together, they can cause significant disappointment and feelings of frustration and sadness.
So what do you expect/believe about celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? It may take some time to separate the pieces of external expectations from your true internal ones. Perhaps a better and more vulnerable way to ask the question would be to consider what you hope to do this Valentine’s Day. You might discover that, while you do not buy into the consumerism, you do still like the idea of doing something to acknowledge the affection and love you have for a significant person in your life. You may hope that person also wants to acknowledge it on the holiday as well. Others may realize that they don’t expect to celebrate at all. Whatever your expectations, it is important to communicate them to your significant other once you have discerned them for yourself. It might be helpful to have a pre-Valentine conversation to get on the same page with one another. Doing this will not only be helpful for your relationship as you decide how to spend Valentine’s Day, but will also help you practice being aware of and communicating your expectations in the future.
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