It is neither random nor accidental that stores begin filling their shelves with red and pink hearts, fluffy stuffed animals, all manner of provocative and suggestive undergarments, boxes of chocolates, and candy hearts inscribed with cutesy little messages before the last of the Christmas clearance sales are over.

By early January, TV commercials bombard the air waves with phrases as “enjoy a Hallmark moment”, “diamonds-are-forever”, “he went to Jared”, “promise her anything, but give her …” etc.  On the internet, pop-ups advertising roses, jewelry, expensive imported wines and extravagant get-away week-end begin to multiply like rabbits.

These ads are aimed at making one partner in a relationship (usually the male) feel guilty for not devoting enough attention to the romantic side of a relationship on a regular basis.  The recommended solution to this actual or perceived failure is to buy an extravagant Valentine’s gift. Ads cleverly equate an extravagant gift with atonement. Then, take the quilt trip one step further and equate extravagance with one’s the level of caring.  Finally, they imply that it’s alright for the receiver of the gift to analyze, evaluate and compare the gift with those received by friends.

Comparing gifts sets up a dangerous situation.  Anyone who doesn’t purchase an extravagant gift is romantically dead.  Even presenting a nice gift does not remove the giver from romantic danger.  If the cost, brand name, number of roses in the bouquet or exact carat weight of the diamond does not compare favorably with the expectation, the receiver may spend a couple of days pouting and giving the cold shoulder to the giver.

Sadly, the Valentine’s Day frenzy nothing to do with true romance.  True romance is doing something special or unexpected for someone you love when you don’t have to do so.  It is expressing your feelings even if it requires extra effort on your part.  It isn’t a greeting card, it isn’t a box of chocolates and it isn’t a dozen roses.  It isn’t anything expected.  It isn’t done just because it’s Valentine’s Day, an anniversary or any other specific day.  True romance isn’t what business gurus or modern society want you to believe. It isn’t phony, make-believe or forced.   It’s not an atonement.  True romance isn’t manufactured, doesn’t conform and isn’t one-size-fits-all.  It is completely individual. It’s showing the person you love that you’re thinking about them. It knows no limits.  It can be extravagant, but, it doesn’t need to be.  It can be expressed in a handwritten note, by going for a walk, or making someone a sandwich. Romance consists of sweet, simple things that remind your partner why they fell in love with you in the first place.

I strongly support true romance and recommend that each of us spend time contemplating creative ways to ensure our partner feels loved, cherished and appreciated all year long.  Go ahead and buy that Valentine.  But, unless you back it up by a bit of effort and attention all year long – it is just pretty words on a piece of paper.

Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV.  Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.comShare your thoughts and opinions with her at