I’m Jewish and have dated my non-Jewish boyfriend since August. He was completely understanding about how busy I was during the September holidays. We navigated Chanukah and Christmas without any issues (which helped that they didn’t overlap this year). He regularly joins me for Shabbat dinner. So I was completely thrown off to find out that Valentine’s Day has created a conflict for us! He wants to celebrate and doesn’t understand why it’s a holiday that, as a Jew, I avoid. Any suggestions for navigating this totally unexpected flashpoint?
I Love You, But …
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but relationships are full of unexpected flashpoints. If it wasn’t going to be Valentine’s Day, it might have been a disagreement about whose family to go to for Mother’s Day, or how to make financial decisions as a couple, or even just what to have for dinner. I’m not advocating that people look for things to fight about, just providing the context that, in any relationship, disagreements inevitably happen. How you handle them is really what matters.
Invite your boyfriend to tell you about why Valentine’s Day is important to him. Is it because he wants a societally-sanctioned way to show you how much he loves you? Is it because he’s seen important couples in his life express their love to each other on Valentine’s Day, and he wants to emulate that? Did he already buy you a gift and now feels embarrassed knowing it won’t be reciprocated? Listen, and I mean really listen, to his answers.
Then, when he feels ready to listen, tell him how you feel. Tell him that Valentine’s Day’s Christian origins make you uncomfortable, or that you don’t need a Hallmark holiday to express how much you care about each other, or that it’s just never been a meaningful day to you. Share with him about Tu B’Av, a Jewish love-filled holiday that takes place in the late summer, and ask if you can plan to celebrate that together. Tell him that not celebrating Valentine’s Day together isn’t an indication of not caring about him.
Maybe this year’s Valentine’s Day is already a bust for both of you, and maybe Valentine’s Days for years to come will be tainted with the memories of this argument. Or maybe you can spend today genuinely learning something new about each other, sharing deeply about what really matters to you and how to listen to and respect each other’s opinions. Maybe this can be a meaningful turning point in your relationship, and Valentine’s Day or not, that’s worth celebrating.