40-Somethings Look Back on Valentine’s Day


I reached out to some 40-something women to recall their favorite Valentine’s Day gift or reflect on how the importance of Valentine’s Day has changed over the years.

No surprise, it’s significance has little to do with the commercialized holiday that we see everywhere around us. Many women recall what a simple and sweet thing it was when they were young and it was just a nice way to say “purr-fect” or “puppy love” and get lost in construction paper and glue. Everyone got a Valentine’s Day card and they were truly sweet nothings.

Now the famed candy hearts include bon mots such as “bite me” and “top chef”.  Indeed more 40-something women enjoy a home cooked meal, or taking a cooking class together than fighting the hoards in the restaurants.  If in a long-term relationship, it’s a subtle gesture rather than proof of love. If single and 40-something, it’s just noise.

But there is a phase where it becomes for some women either a symbol that you aren’t attached or a symbol of how much your boyfriend or partner loves you. It’s like “bridzillas”, everyone says, “I’m not that person. It’s not important to me”, but then something happens.

You go to work and there are big “ooh and ahs” for the flowers that get delivered and you can’t help but like you are missing out on something if it’s not you. Or you get disappointed when the boyfriend didn’t read your mind on that dinner place you wanted to go or the little bracelet you wanted. Or he just calls b-shit on the whole thing and you can’t help but feel…”I can see that…but”.  The tension or negative thoughts build. If you are not one of those people, yeah! If you are, believe me it will pass.

This woman reflects on how Valentine’s Day has changed from twenty to forty-something – from a big deal to anything but a deal-breaker, but also from possibilities to appreciation.

“Valentines Day had a lot more importance to me in my twenties than it does in my forties.  I suppose it represented a possibility for a boyfriend, a husband and love when I was younger.  Most often I was single and wishing!  Once I had long-term relationships, the importance of a Valentine’s Day gift or card was not as important.  It is always nice for someone to acknowledge that they care for you and appreciate you, but it does not have to always come on February 14th.  My husband usually buys me flowers and I appreciate the gesture, but if he forgot it would not cause a fight.

If you are single, get together with a bunch of friends and toast the evening with some champagne and fondue!  Make a great time of it.  Have a dinner party and serve everything with a theme of love or the color red – be creative.  Think of it as an excuse to have a celebration and have fun.  And don’t sweat it too much, really.”

These women reflect on what Valentine’s gifts were important to them or that they wish had been more important:

Being kind to yourself

“Valentine’s Day. I wish I’d focused more in my 20s on SELF-love rather than desperately seeking romantic partnership. I wouldn’t have married at 26 — and divorced at 32.” – 40-something, life coach, yoga instructor, writer, recently remarried and loving herself


“I learned experiences are always the best Valentine’s Day gift. For me it was a ski trip. Some other ideas? A pair of concert tickets to your partners favorite band or a show.  A gift certificate to do trapeze flying together.

And if you are single on Valentines Day. So what? Go out with your friends. Everyone out who is not on a date is usually single so it’s a great time to meet people. – 40-something, wellness coach, fitness guru, enjoying single-dom

Social Good/ Community/Personal Cause

“My best valentine’s day gift was a brick! No question. I was in charge of fundraising for a new playground/park in our community. We were selling bricks that could be engraved. This was prior to email so everything was on phone, paper and on person.  The forms and paperwork to donate your “brick” were taking over our home. On Valentines day I got out of the shower and on my pillow was a filled out form, and a check for the correct amount. I will never forget that thoughtful gift! What did the brick say? Always and forever!  The same thing engraved on my wedding band.” – 40-something, married 20-something years.

I’m guilty of not being able to answer my own question of what was my best Valentine’s Day gift.  I have to say, I have had a balance of single and partnered Valentine’s Days and none of them particularly stands out more than the everyday moments that add up to define a relationship or the internally-motivated turning points. I do remember one boyfriend in my twenties who gave me some flowers and I was disappointed they weren’t something else. Perhaps they were off the street or the wrong color. I questioned, “How much does he care if he just picked them up off the street?”

Later, getting extravagant, gorgeous flowers from a guy who didn’t care half as much about me as he did about himself, I realized that when you put the bells and whistles aside, it’s the person underneath and what they contribute to your well-being that’s important rather than how well they pick out presents or present themselves externally.

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