Advice from the Trenches: Valentine’s Day massacre


Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW.

In this month’s column, writer Cathren Housley addresses a timely question about the lies and commercialism of Valentine’s Day.

Housley uses practical knowledge and wisdom from the school of hard-knocks, combined with advice counseling for medical problems from a chiropractic physician and medical doctor to answer your burning questions.

Do you have a question for the column? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to [email protected].

Mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here!

Dear C and Dr. B.;

Valentine’s Day is approaching and everywhere I look someone is shoving hearts in my face. I’m not really a romantic guy but I’m feeling the pressure so I figured I should look for a card for my girlfriend Judy. Bad idea. After half an hour in a gift shop, I got so angry I had to walk out. Every card in there had some message to the effect of: “You’re my everything. I’m nothing without you.”

I don’t want to say anything like that! I promised myself that Judy and I would never be one of those nauseating couples. In fact, I think the whole idea of Valentine’s Day is just a plot to promote codependent relationships. Why aren’t there any other choices? Something like: “You mean a lot to me, but you’re not my everything.” It’s all just emotional drivel and lies.    

– Honest Abe

Dr. B. Says:

We live in a country where celebrations of Easter, the American Flag, and Santa Claus are all based on over-hyped embellishment or even complete non-truths. Valentine’s Day is no exception, but it’s a socially acceptable lie, the sort that can be fun to play along with. That kind of deception is a part of our mainstream culture. Other lies aren’t tolerated as well, for instance – cheating on your girlfriend is not part of the US cultural norm. Interestingly, in some countries it is. I’m not sure what their Valentine’s Day cards would say.

But the important thing here is how does your girlfriend feel? She may agree with your idea of a non-clingy relationship, but could still find it fun to believe in the romance of the holiday. If romance makes her vomit, then do something else.

I came up with a Romance Status Guide that may help you to find the appropriate message. Which of the descriptions below best suits your girlfriend?

Optimistic: You’re my everything.

Realist: You’re a lot, but you’re not my everything.

Pessimist: You’re going to disappoint me, but please not too bad.

Masochist: You’re not much, but I don’t deserve better.

C says:

Are you looking to get a card for your girlfriend, or make a political speech, Abe? The US isn’t one big cultural group with a single set of values. There’s a lot of other stuff out there if you bothered to look. Go online! There are tons of V-Day cards now for people who don’t want to send sugar-coated garbage to each other. Check out this collection from Bored Panda: 

And these days, even Hallmark has a collection of off-the-wall greetings.

That much angst over a card is kind of nuts. Valentine’s Day isn’t a mass conspiracy to undermine your relationship or a plot to force you to lie to your girlfriend or agree to some ideology you don’t support. It is simply a nice, made-up day for couples to express their affection for each other in whatever way they choose. No one is holding a gun to your head.

Yes, businesses try to make money off of the holiday. Selling is what the gift industry is all about, and this is a fantastic opportunity to unload a huge amount of useless stuff they’d never get rid of otherwise. Celebrations aren’t necessarily about enlightened thinking. The main point is to have fun and take a break from everyday reality. V-Day gives us an excuse to create a little warmth in the merciless month of February.

But if the commercialism pisses you off that much, why don’t you make your own card? Ignore the commercial pap and tell Judy how you really feel, in your own words. Well, maybe not in your own words. “You’re not my everything,” is a little bleak. What if you simply told her that you really like being with her and that right now, in this moment, there’s no place else you’d rather be?

Keeping any relationship going is difficult, even for the most easy-going couples. If you get this stressed out and conflicted over choosing a card how are you going to handle the social expectations of a wedding, or deal with the constant cultural pressures of raising children? You may want to consider some self-evaluation before you storm out of another store in a fit over pink clouds and Cupid. 

Being rational and honest isn’t a bad thing, but it really is OK to suspend your disbelief for one day and be happy for no good reason.

– Cathren Housley 

You can visit Dr. B’s blog at

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