SAN DIEGO, February 14, 2017 – After weeks of pressure, maybe you decided to go for it and buy that engagement ring for Valentine’s Day. You’re planning the grand reveal in a romantic way. Maybe you’re even planning on videotaping it and sharing it with the world on YouTube.
Let me be the first to congratulate you and wish you well. But I would be remiss in my role as a divorce attorney if I didn’t give you a little advice about your plans.
It’s hard not to worry about letting that special someone in your life down on February 14. If you don’t get the “right” gift, celebrate in the “proper” way, or propose to your sweetheart with a flourish including capturing it all for everyone to see, you are a loser.
If you think this is an exaggeration, you aren’t paying attention to the enormous social pressure put on couples by marketers eager to cash in on Valentine’s Day. The National Retail Federation estimates total spending including flowers, candy, jewelry, clothing, and a special night out at $18.2 billion for 2017, actually down slightly from 2016. This works out to $136.57 per person in the U.S.
That will buy a lot of red roses.
This figure includes $4.3 billion in spending on jewelry by one in five people surveyed. Ninety percent of people plan to buy their significant other a gift. One-third say they’ll buy jewelry. $1.7 billion will go to chocolate or sweets. And $700 million will be spent on pets.
Societal expectations might make retailers giddy, but it places tremendous pressure on couples, especially men. Many men find themselves in a bind, feeling forced to make promises they aren’t ready to keep, including marriage proposals.
It’s really not a great idea to propose on Valentine’s Day just because you think it’s expected. But don’t blame men for caving in. Blame women who are buying into these marketing messages and putting someone they love (in theory) under this sort of pressure to come through. Why would you want someone to propose when he feels like he has a gun to his head? If the proposal isn’t truly at the right time of free will, it isn’t worth much.
While it might be thrilling to get that sparkling, expensive ring and post a photo of it on Facebook to dazzle friends and family, the shine will come off fast when reality hits. Starting your lifetime together this way does not help you beat the divorce odds. Marriage is difficult enough and this puts any couple at a disadvantage. Marriage is something best done deliberately after a lot of practical discussion about your lifestyle, your finances, your family history, your expectations for raising children, religion, pets, you name it. Premarital counseling is never a bad idea. Prenuptial agreements might seem pessimistic and negative to some, but especially when couples have their own assets or have children or property from a previous marriage, prenups signify the willingness to deal fairly with each other even if the worst happens some day in the future and the marriage doesn’t work out.
In the meantime, rethink February 14 for a proposal. Choose another day that isn’t so loaded with stress and anxiety, and make it your own.
Whether you are married or not, part of a couple or not, lighten up and put Valentine’s Day in its proper context. If it truly comes from the heart, making Valentine’s Day a celebration of love is sweet. But too many others feel obligated to “come through” with the grand gesture. When you “fail” in your loved one’s eye to meet expectations, it can hurt the relationship.
It is a common symptom among couples who end up in my office seeking a divorce: the big show of affection limited to Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthdays. The rest of the year? Not much. You can’t come up with flowers on Valentine’s Day and think your relationship is “taken care of” until same time next year. When couples forget to make each other feel important the other 364 days of the year, the relationship is in big trouble.
With billions of dollars being spent, it’s no wonder for most people it has become nearly impossible to live up to the hearts and flowers hype of Valentine’s Day. Men in particular will do nearly anything to stay out of trouble, sending flowers only because their girlfriend or wife will be angry if they don’t. This is ridiculous and it’s a little bit sad.
The message: Value your relationship every day because of the simple pleasures, not the big gifts on the big occasions. When couples fail to value their relationships, they get divorced because they grow apart. How many times have you heard someone say he or she is getting a divorce because the couple “fell out of love” or “grew apart.” These divorces happen in large part because people take their relationships for granted.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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