Love Cover Image

John R York

February 14, 2024


You might find it odd that Valentine's Day originated as a feast day in tribute to two murdered saints named Valentine. Both were executed during the Roman persecution of Christians during the third century CE. So how did the commemoration of two martyrs turn into a day dedicated to the celebration of love?

Legend tells us that Valentine of Rome (there was also a Valentine of Terni) was imprisoned for being a Christian. While in jail, he cured his jailer's daughter, Julia, of blindness. On the evening before his execution, Valentine sent Julia a card, signing it "Your Valentine". By the 18th century, sending Valentines was very popular, as well as giving gifts as a way of expressing love.

Today, in the United States, Valentine's Day is an occasion to purchase flowers, candy, cards, and nice dinners for the person commanding our romantic interest. I still give my Valentine, Paula, white roses, candy, and a card each year. Indeed, Americans spend billions (with a 'b') each year on such things.

In 2018, we collectively spent $18.2 billion. This year, people who sit around calculating things like this have estimated that we will spend an average of $200 per person on Valentine related purchases. Now THAT is a lot of love! 

I must confess that I spent considerably less than $200, but there are those who spare no expense. 


As I'm sure most of you know, love is complicated. You all have your own experiences with the complexity of love, I'm sure. I certainly have had some disasters in my love life, but I've also enjoyed the joy and beauty of love.

For me, it's always been all too easy to fall in love. Well, it seemed like love at the time, and a few times it was genuine. But keeping the flames of love burning bright can be challenging especially as time passes.

It's important to note that there are several kinds of love that we all experience. The word 'love' is applied to many types of relationships, including love of family, friends, yourself, God, country, possessions, memories, and much more. Although all of these types of love can be complicated, I think we most often think about romantic love as being particularly challenging.

When we first 'fall in love', we're motivated by a relatively narrow set of criteria. If new love grows into a formal relationship, such as marriage or some other long term arrangement, our love needs to mature. Unfortunately, that often doesn't happen and there are volumes of stories about love gone wrong, broken hearts, broken vows, and relationship disasters. I've been involved in a few myself.

I put these plane-crash relationships into two categories:

  1.  Poor judgement
  2.  Failure to understand what's happening

Sometimes we just make bad decisions in picking someone for a partner. Some people are bad actors and we usually don't figure that out until something unpleasant or even harmful happens. These situations are very difficult to sort out or to get out of. Unfortunately, I don't have any words of wisdom for how to avoid this.

For most of the other good-love-gone-bad relationships, I have a theory which explains why the shine of new love seems to dull over time. I believe it can be summed up in one word: expectations.

When we first meet someone and become attracted to them enough to want to enter into a serious relationship, we are focused on the obvious drivers of our desire to be with this person: physical attractiveness, personality, charm, financial stability, mutual interests. Romantic love is typically rooted in sexual allure, which often obscures many other aspects of your partner's character. 

In every relationship, there are expectations about how the other person should behave, or react, or think, or believe. The closer we become to another person, whether it's a lover or a friend or business associate, the more we project and interject our belief system and our personality onto that person. It took me many years to understand that this was happening in my relationships.

The closer we get to someone, the more we want them - expect them - to feel the same way we do about many, perhaps most things. In the beginning of our relationships, we overlook disagreements about even trivial things: how we feel about pets, certain foods, home decor, movies, vacations, politics, sex, our dreams, on and on. But over time, these little things become more disappointing to us. They become more hurtful, more like betrayals. They wear down the glow of our love. At some point, there's a blow up, or maybe somebody else comes along who fills in some of those gaps we've allowed to form.

The way to avoid this problem is allow your love to mature. It's not easy. It requires sincere effort, like better communication, compromise. You've got to grow up, especially men, and deal with the changes. Everybody is unique, so there's no way two people are going to agree on everything or feel the same way about everything. You need to respect each other's feelings and opinions. True love is based on feelings that go deeper than the physical love that may have originally attracted you. True love requires friendship.


I heard something on television last Sunday that I thought was worth sharing, the sort of thing we should all think about once in a while.

It seems that we are all inundated these days with bad news about conflict, animosity, disrespect, and hatred. But there is still a lot of love in this old world. In this age of fast cars, fast foods, immediate gratification, social media, and instant communication, we often don't take the time to stop and notice the little expressions of love for each other that happen all the time. They do occur though. 

Love isn't always the passionate kind. There's plenty of that, thank God. But love also comes in small packages, small acts of love and kindness. They go on all the time and all around us. It's not unusual to hear people say 'please' and 'thank you', like at the grocery store, the cleaners, or the drug store. I see people holding a door for someone else. The other day, a guy let me merge into heavy traffic. I waved and he waved back -  a simple expression of love for a fellow human.

At the grocery store today, as I was about to put my grocery cart in the place they provide, a young employee came up and said, "I'll that that for you, sir." I thanked him. I saw a neighbor pick up another neighbor's trash that a wild animal had knocked over before the trash truck came to take it away. When a man pulls out a chair for a woman at a restaurant, when someone offers a homeless person a sandwich, when someone brings a box of donuts to the office, or when someone brings little bags of chocolate for everyone at a Rotary meeting on Valentine's Day, these are all little expression of love for each other.

Maybe we should remember to tell our spouse, our children, bothers and sisters, and parents "I love you" more often.  When we ask somebody "how are you?" we could take the time to really listen to their answer. Or, just say "good morning" to someone you pass in the parking lot or in the hallway. Helping a friend in need is a genuine expression of kindness and brotherly love.

Yeah, I see love going on all the time and it's reassuring.