I have a shocking revelation: I don't like chocolate. At all.
Oh sure, I eat candy, but I have a strict chocolate to other flavor ratio requirement (preferrably peanut butter or carmel). For example, peanut butter M&Ms are a-OK, but regular M&Ms are gross.
Perhaps my dislike of chocolate has contributed to my barf-reflex when it comes to the whole lovey-dovey, box-of-chocolates, hearts, and flowers thing. I've just always felt really uncomfortable with grandiose getures of affection.
So instead of all that chocolate and flower hoopla for Valentines' Day, Adam and I … talk. Specifically, we talk through The Commitment Conversation.
This didn't start as a purposeful tradition as much as good timing. My last semester of college/grad school, I was taking a class on female sexuality and one of our assignments was to read and think through The Commitment Conversation. Adam and I were about to both move in and move across the country together. It was a big transition, and since we were moving for my job, I wanted to make sure he wouldn't feel stuck in our relationship.
In a world where we spend so much time researching and making agreements with everyone from the phone company to the bank, we are still often entering the most important commitment of our lives, marriage or long-term partnerships, without defining that relationship and building a strong foundation for the future.
– from the introduction to the Commitment Conversation
Over the years, our attempts to do The Commitment Conversation regularly have evolved into a Valentine's Day tradition.
The Commitment Conversation is essentially a guided counseling session. Because, really, when do you have the time or energy or space to bring up finances or your sex life or how you can help each other reach your goals or who should do the dishes. And by bring up, I don't mean “get pissed that your partner bought something that you don't feel you can afford and yell at them.” I mean sit down and say “What's up with our financial situation?”
It's recommended that you set aside a specific place and time to have the conversation. For me, a key part of this is discussing these tricky topics without a trigger.
The Conversation is divided into six sections: Goals, Lifestyle, Finance, Children, Health and Wellness, and Legality, which includes getting legally married and pre-nups, as well as a section on special circumstances (second marriages, etc) and a financial worksheet. It ends with a contract you both sign. Full disclosure: we've never technically signed the contract.
Even though I think that Adam and I communicate well, going through the Commitment Conversation always brings up unexpected issues from cleaning to expectations for whose family we visit for holidays. It gets emotional and intense, even after five years.
I think of it as “spring cleaning” for our relationship: we get into those nooks and crannies so that nothing builds up and overwhelms us.
I think that says “I love you” way better than a box of chocolates. How about you? What are your offbeat Valentine's Day traditions?