On my third worst Valentine’s Day, the cutest boy in seventh grade gave every girl in my class a Valentine except me.
On my second worst Valentine’s Day, one of my best friends asked out the guy I liked and he said yes.
And on my Worst Valentine’s Day Ever, I spent the evening on the couch in my apartment eating heart-shaped pizza with my best friend – wait for it – and her fiancé. I only had one couch in there at the time so all three of us sat on it, in a row: my friend in the middle, her fiancé and I on either side of her. I didn’t even have a TV. We just sat there.
Oh, my boyfriend would’ve been there, but we broke up the day before.
To their credit, my friend and her fiancé tried really hard not to make me feel like a third wheel. They didn’t use awkward love-based nicknames or sit all bunched up at one end of the couch whispering to each other, but every time they reached for pizza and their fingers touched, it sent sparks flying all over the room. By the end of the night, my hair was a frizzy mess and I was coughing out little puffs of black smoke. I reeked of eternal singleness.
I’d been planning on staying home alone that night and watching some awful chick flick with Mark Ruffalo in it. Maybe twice. Maybe eating an entire heart-shaped pizza all by myself. Instead, I was spending the night in a cloud of little pink cartoon hearts that didn’t belong to me (looking back, I’m sure my friend’s fiancé was equally thrilled by my presence).
That’s the kind of friend you stay friends with though – the kind who will give up a romantic Valentine’s Day with her man to make sure her best friend doesn’t drown her sorrows in a two-liter pail of chocolate ice cream. She lives down the street from me now, with that guy and their kids, and every once in a while we bring up that Valentine’s Day and laugh about it because, like most Worst Valentine’s Days, it’s funny now.
The reason I bring it up today, however, isn’t because it’s funny. I bring it up because I actually really like that mental picture now. I like seeing how it’s played out in real life over the years.
I used to think that marriage looked like that picture minus me – a young, happy, starry-eyed couple on a couch eating a heart-shaped pizza – and then, after a few years, an older, happy, starry-eyed couple on a couch eating a heart-shaped pizza with a baby (or two or three) playing contentedly at their feet. I pictured one person looking into the eyes of the other and proclaiming, “You are my everything! You’re all I need!”
That’s cute and all, but after a few years of marriage and motherhood, I’ve come to understand that this thinking is fatally flawed; that picture is incomplete. Mr. Right, no matter how Right he is, cannot also be Mr. Everything. No one person can fulfill every need in another person, and you’re doing a huge disservice to the one you’re with if you expect that of them. You’re still going to need that other weirdo you’ve grown to love in a different, but no less real, way. Especially when kids come along.
People always talk about how it takes a village to raise a child – I think the same could be said about a marriage. A good, healthy one should have a bunch of healthy secondary relationships feeding into it, encouraging it, holding it accountable and holding it up – mentors, role models, and good, solid friends.
This Valentine’s Day, while I am exceedingly thankful for my husband and our sweet relationship, I also kind of want to share a heart pizza with my friends. There’s something invaluable about their outside perspective, their constant encouragement, and their occasional reminders that I’ve found a really great thing in that guy over there.