From food to emotion to personal interactions, our culture prizes authenticity, even in instances like social media when that same culture places the authentic just out of reach. Yet authenticity does carry real weight when it comes to truth and self-knowledge. Knowing yourself is a way of understanding truth: the more you come to know God, the more he, the source of all truth, reveals you to yourself.
My husband and I have our differences when it comes to special occasions. Until recently, I’d find myself scrambling around at this time of year, trying to think of a creative gift and out-of-the-ordinary date to share with my husband, wanting to share with him something original that I myself would enjoy receiving. That I would enjoy.
In my eagerness, I tended to ignore or forget the fact that my husband simply isn't interested in many bells and whistles. He is quick to communicate his appreciation when I give him a present or propose a different way to spend our time, but I’ve ultimately come to realize those aren’t as meaningful gestures to him as others. Gift-giving is not my husband’s love language, and he is true-blue to his favorite hobbies.
What’s more, even without the threat of a single Instagram post in sight, he sometimes struggles to feel at ease with things that, on the surface, seem more like something fun a couple should do, rather than what they actually want to do. I admit that I used to perceive this as disagreeable, a sentiment purely for the sake of making a statement against the falseness that can accompany social media.
In reality, the only statement my husband expresses in these preferences is who he is. And who he is is someone I have chosen, someone who fascinates me and about whom I still love learning something new. With time, I have found more and more contentment in our different viewpoints about Valentine’s Day and other celebrations, because joy is a fruit of putting another before yourself.
We have grown in self-knowledge, and from that knowledge flows peace. As a spouse, I’ve grown increasingly aware that the best gestures are the ones that feel most authentically us. It’s my responsibility to honor and fulfill my husband’s preferences when it comes to holidays and celebrations, just as it’s his responsibility to do the same for me. We are specific. We are known. We are loved.
It's an ongoing refinement, and I still struggle. Gift giving is one of my love languages, for instance, and as young parents I truly love the rare opportunities we get to vary our routine with a date night that’s not at home. But now it actually makes me happy not giving my husband extravagant gifts or planning elaborate nights out, choosing to do extra chores around the house and carve out time to spend together instead. In turn, he finds happiness in the occasions where we do go out for something fancier, knowing that I enjoy it.
The more I know and love my husband, the more I know myself. Our lives are so shared that it doesn't feel possible to know one of us better without knowing the other. I am blessed by a man so intentional and discerning in his choices, and so comfortable and un-self-conscious in them, because that’s who he is. Like in the fact that for one anniversary, we got burritos from Baja Fresh and then stayed home for the night. My husband wrote a beautiful poem that made me cry. I love his quiet creativity and I loved the entire day. There are certainly times I wish we took advantage of more photo ops for our future selves, or that we documented some of the recipes we've tried or places we've gone. But on the whole, this is our life and these are our celebrations, and they feel peaceful and perfectly suited to us because they’ve brought us into deeper knowledge of each other.
And that’s the point. It’s not about whether it’s more praiseworthy to share a quiet Valentine’s date at home or a more photogenic evening out. The best Valentine’s Day for you and your beloved is the one best suited to your particular personalities and love languages. It’s about about how special occasions--and what they look like for each person’s heart--are telling. Revelations. You are specific. You are known. You are loved.