The Extraordinary Cost of Lavish Love


Valentine’s Day can feel unnecessary when you’ve been married awhile. But when your spouse dies, you want every day to be Valentine’s.

During high school, I [Clarissa] often worked the Valentine’s Day shift at my town’s grocery store. Assigned to the quick checkout register, I rung up purchases for a steady stream of men, their arms overflowing with roses, stuffed animals, and champagne. Every once and awhile, a bashful gentleman would slide a gigantic red heart of chocolates onto the conveyor belt—no doubt “I hope she forgives me” chocolate—to make up for another missed special day.

I easily noticed that the flow of customers looked very different on Valentine’s—their purchases so extravagant, their intentions so ardent. I wondered how these demonstrations of affection jived with their behavior the other 364 days of the year. Did they always express themselves so generously? Was their love always this lavish?

Less than a decade later, I found myself on the receiving end of those Valentine’s gifts. My cynicism about this “Hallmark holiday” prompted me to ask my new husband, Rob, to buy me cheaper carnations instead of roses and discount candy marked down the day after. I reasoned that lavish displays of love were silly and unnecessary. Sure, I’d worked in a bridal store during graduate school, and I loved a romantic comedy just as much as any other young woman my age. But love, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, wasn’t “diamond sunbursts or marble halls.” Real love, my church had always taught me, was an act of the will. Reasonable, unemotional, steady, determined. Love loved the unattractive, the unlovable. Anything else was frivolity.

I found that steady, faithful, nonfrivolous kind of love in my marriage, and for 17 years I rested secure inside it. No couples’ …

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