Happy Valentine’s Day… now RUN!

Let me explain. One of the lessons of getting old, and I am, is that aging doesn’t necessarily lead to wisdom. Far from it. Look at me, I’m at an age where you’d think that I’d be doling out a constant stream of sage “Life is like…” advice when, in fact, I still go through my days employing all the good judgment of a man who leased a Lexus. Twice.

Still, one doesn’t have to be wise, only paying attention, to know that Valentine’s Day is the single most dangerous day for any relationship and should be avoided like a three-year, end-of-lease balloon payment.

Just think about your own circle of friends. How many times have you been shocked, SHOCKED, when a couple within that circle break up in, around or ON Valentine’s Day? And you and your friends talk about how odd or ironic the timing is when, in fact, the entire Valentine season is set up to create such breakups, so much so that it would appear the fake holiday was created by divorce attorneys and moving companies.

So why is this? Actually, it’s quite simple. First, for a manufactured holiday, Valentine’s is rather ill-defined. If you buy into the narrative that it is all about hot, romantic love, what are we to think when the Valentine’s Day card with the come-hither teddy bear shows up from Aunt Barbara? Complicated.

Next, there is no way for you to win at Valentine’s Day. Because the day is actually a creation of Hallmark and Dow Chemical, how to celebrate it has already been defined, leading to the supposition that no one is ever more ready for romance than after having consumed colossal chocolate-covered fruit on pikes. Rose petals and romantic dinners—wherever you can get that last-minute reservation—are all part of the manufactured love map that one must follow, ensuring that the best you can hope for on Valentine’s Day is to not screw it up.

But the real damage Valentine’s Day does, what makes it extra-sinister, is this:

For most of us in a relationship, the first six months or so are spent in a kind of idyllic wonderland rife with adoring looks and honey-dripped words about how no other two people have ever been this deeply connected, this much in love.

Then you kind of settle into what we will call “life,” which means you are now more likely to have deep, passionate discussions about what toppings you want on that evening’s pizza than the state of your relationship.

And then, all of a sudden, here comes Valentine’s Day demanding that you state, in a very real, tangible, concrete way, what you think your relationship is and where it is going.

Let me give you an example of this minefield. Someone very close to me—to protect their privacy, we’ll call them “Me”—was in a nine-month relationship with a wonderful person. Things were going great. All the gooey things had been said in the first six months and they had settled into what appeared to be a strong, long-term relationship with each party preferring ham and pineapple on their pizza.

Then Valentine’s Day bum-rushed its way into things and Me thought it would be lovely idea to give this wonderful person a racing bike. Me had heard their significant other mention that they wanted to start riding and figured this would be a wonderful way to show they listened to them and wanted to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

When Me presented the bike, they were quite proud that they had thought outside the box with the gift choice, and a sense of pride washed over them for literally seconds until their special someone burst into tears and said that they had every expectation that they would be receiving something within the box, that something being an engagement ring. Oh, and was Me sending a message that the special someone needed to be exercising?

Therein followed a flinty silence for several days, accompanied by the placement of the bike in the corner of the bedroom where it lived out its days as a highly engineered clothes hanger. Valentine’s Day had made clear that these two people had two very different views of their relationship, a fact that led to Me’s present singleness.

Now, I know there are some of you who are saying none of this affects you because you and your loved one are always open with each other, always working on your relationship. Well, isn’t that just wonderful for you, Mr. and Ms. Unicorn?

The rest of us are left to deal with this thug called Valentine’s. So what can we do? Well, as with all relationship matters, I suggest a healthy dose of avoidance. Perhaps a nice long bike ride.

Wait, maybe not.