Forget about “love is in the air” this February and don’t you dare go sniffing around trying to find it either. Because you and I both know with the current trend, it’s only the novel coronavirus that’s in the air these days. So this year with catastrophes big and small hitting us from all directions, I was reminded again and again how temporary this time on earth is. As I gazed lovingly at my husband while he adjusted my face mask I decided, this valentine’s I am going to put new love birds to shame. It’s 2020 after all. Yes. You heard it right. I am gonna celebrate Vday with such passion as if it’s the last thing I am going to do! (while fervently praying that it isn’t of course!)
This year quite a number of young mothers in my circle are trying their hardest to actually “celebrate” Valentine’s day too. They are exhausted. Have already run out of ideas. And to be honest are feeling the need for a little TLC, let alone give it to someone else. With me being out of the loop for so long and trying to figure out what couples these days are doing on Vday, I turned to my nieces for help. And in turn, they heaped all their marital woes on me! Oh my oh my oh my!!! The list of grievances was a foot long. My husband has changed, he is not the same as he was during the first few months of marriage, he doesn’t have time for us any more, he never appreciates what I do, after having the baby I feel he doesn’t need me anymore, I cook, clean, take care of the family and wait on hand and foot as everyone advised but still he just takes me for granted, he doesn’t do anything spontaneous, our lives have become so boring and mundane, Aunty you seem to be having more fun than we do! (ha ha)but after talking to them, some with children and others yet to have, I realized that marriages from time immemorial have the same issue over and over again. Communication!
So I told them a story. Almost 15 years ago when I was a new bride I had an in-law who would give me sermons on how to be a good wife. She was a good two decades older than me, so I would listen. Not necessarily obey. But listen. She would tell me all the dos and don’ts. What to expect and what not to expect. When to pay attention and when to ignore. It was a detailed life lesson. She would tell me that all these stories of love, romance, fun and happiness everyone talks about is just made up. As long as you can tolerate your husband and he can tolerate you, then appreciate what you have and get on with your life.
And now 15 years later, I am happy to let you all know I blissfully break all of those rules and maybe more too. Just like the people who enter into marriage, each marriage also has a unique personality. There is no one size fits all. Don't get carried away by Instagram romances and fairy tale Facebook posts. Create your own feeling of what love is supposed to be. And work with each other to arrive at a place when you don't need to work anymore. Hang on to each other through enough ups and downs to know you built your foundation strong and your roots are steady. But know when to let go too, because marriage is a two-way street. Contrary to popular belief, it is not 50/50. It is 100% from both the spouses.
I have friends who after 20 years of marriage still find time and commitment to go on romantic getaways, who went through storms and came out stronger, who found love in second chances life gave them, who are shining examples of what relationships are and some who are celebrating decades of love and loyalty without pomp or pageant, just another normal day of contentment. What do you think is their secret? If you ask me what the secret to a happy marriage is, my answer is that it is knowing there is no such thing as a happy marriage. Because life itself is unpredictable with its emotions. Marriage, just like any other relationship needs constant care and attention if you want to make a success out of it. To me, being married is being a good friend. Period. A lot of us don’t realize that after we get married there is no such thing as “his family” or “her family”. There is just one family and that’s the one you are building together. The rest are third parties. Yes, they are important to us. But give priority to your spouse. Let him be the first person you turn to when you are happy. Let him be the one to console you. Help him be the one to help you (that’s a frustrating process, but trust me you can get them trained after a decade or so), share responsibilities, parent your children together. Always communicate openly. If your side of the family is wrong, be brave enough to admit they are wrong and be humble enough to praise his side of the family if they do something nice. Don’t hold on to petty things and walk around with that wound festering. Forgive (forgivable offences) and move on. Don’t dig it up and post mortem the whole issue years down the road. Let it rest in peace.
Love for me is not grand romantic gestures, elaborate schemes or expensive gifts. Love for me is a comfortable state of predictability. Of knowing there is someone who cares for you even when you don't care enough for yourself. Knowing that there is always someone who has your back. Knowing that there is a special person out there who knows I prefer ice cream over flowers any day. Who will bring home that piece of chocolate cake he got as a treat at office.
And now back to my burning issue. I have been boycotting this festival of love for quite a number of years. So in the middle of a busy day, while pretending to research immunity enhancing food to save the human race from the deadly Corona I sat down to figure out Valentine’s day. I used to think that it was a cheesy overrated marketing ploy. And to be perfectly honest, I still do. So I embarked on a challenge of finding ways to say “I love you” without being conventional. I decided to go off the beaten track. So this year as I decided to re-launch VDay in my life, I compiled a list of unconventional gift ideas in no particular order for that virus that melted your heart.
- Camping trip - imagine this. A warm cosy tent, with wilderness surrounding you. Not a soul in sight. Just you and the love of your life under the clear night sky. Gazing at the bright blinking stars whispering sweet nothings. Nuff said!
- Hiking trip - if your honey bunch sugar plum is a nature enthusiast, then plan a hiking trip that you think he might enjoy. Plan the trek and pack the essentials. Don’t reveal the destination until you have to. Imagine the surprise. And if you don’t want to climb rocks, scrape knees and huff and puff and sweat and sob, then put it together for him so that he can go with friends. Sit back and watch as his friends go green with envy thanks to your husband’s perfect wife.
- Couple spa date - no explanation needed. I am slipping in to oblivion just dreaming of it!
- Couple gym membership or get matching fit bits and start working out - you know what they say. A couple who gets fit together stays together. (no one said it, I just made it up. But sounds pretty accurate me thinks. So repeat after me and get moving. I like to move it move it!
- A subscription to learn something new. - Has he been talking about taking up archery, tennis, robotics, martial arts, cookery or maybe bonsai since forever? Bring out his hidden talents. Help him live up to his full potential. Enrol him in a course of his choice and watch a new man emerge.
- Road trip - Plan a road trip. Be it from point Pedro to dondra head or wind your way through the lush green hill country. Clear skies and endless roads, adventure and romance await.
- Netflix membership with a binge-watching survival kit - Indulge your lovable couch potato. Get a Netflix subscription and sit down to binge-watch his favourite shows. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks and go ahead and invest in that bean bag. He will surely love you more for it.
- Naughty love coupons with pre-filled and blank coupons.- Let your imagination go wild. I mean WAAAIIIIIIILD!!
- Make a bucket list of adventures big and small and help him complete it - I think hands down this is my favourite. You can stretch valentine’s day to cover the whole year. Make the bucket list well in advance, so that he doesn’t suspect it’s for VDay. And then pick one and kick off the adventure over a romantic candlelit dinner. I am positive it will be a Vday to remember.
- Hot air balloon ride - with great hotel offers and tour packages galore all you have to do is pick a destination. Be it Dambulla, Sigiriya or Kandalama imagine experiencing the beautiful sunrise a hundred feet in the air with the love of your life.
- Whale watching, surfing, kite surfing, zip-lining, bungee jumping - now this Vday plan is not for the faint-hearted. February is a great time for blue whale watching in the seas of Galle and Mirissa. Throw in kite surfing or windsurfing, do your research, plan and scheme. I am sure you can give your partner in crime a trip to remember. If you want to zip line or bungee jump, check out spots around Ella.
- Put together a mystery box - this is another one of my favourites and it’s truly awesome. Get a cardboard box or maybe even a wooden crate, decorate it and get started. Let your imagination soar. Pack in a range of things from clothing, accessories, books, CDs to foodstuff or self-care items. Make it thoughtful and make it fun. There is absolutely no limit. With the amount of thought and time you put in if he doesn’t realize its true love, I don’t know what will!
Finally, I am all set to sweep my sweetheart off his feet. I am glad I decided to celebrate Valentine’s day again. It made me realize that if you want your love to blossom, you have to make sure you plant it right and spend time nurturing it. So plant love well, let it’s roots reach the depths of your heart and let the branches shade everyone around you. Happy Valentine’s day everyone.