As today is Valentine's Day, many of us are either celebrating with our partners or spending too much time on TikTok wishing we had a special someone to surprise us with the perfect gift or date. Gen-Z is constantly being bombarded with visuals of perfect relationships, either through TikToks from girls showing off the lavish presents they received from their boyfriends, or videos of hot takes about love and the toxicity of relationships nowadays.
This holiday often perpetuates unrealistic expectations for romantic relationships, and can lead to feelings of loneliness and sadness for those who are single or don't have a partner that is classically "romantic". More importantly, the commercialisation of the holiday can add pressure to spend money on gifts and experiences, which can be particularly challenging during a cost of living crisis.
Nowadays, Valentine's Day expectations are guided by the views young people develop on relationships through the monolithic lens of social media. These ideals stem from the unattainable, heteronormative standards society sets for romantic relationships in the first place.
Seeing as it is Valentine's Day, let's examine a few popular online takes on love and what they mean for relationships nowadays.
"If he wanted to, he would"
First of all, if you're not familiar with the expression, it basically means that if your partner wanted to treat you in a special way, they would do so automatically, without need for any indication.
This is problematic for several reasons. First of all, it implies that our partners are supposed to know exactly what we want and feel without us communicating it. Although it would be nice to live in a world where people anticipate our needs and expectations before we verbalise them, this is simply unrealistic. Imagine a couple where one person feels like they need more physical attention. Without specifically asking for it, how is your partner supposed to know what you need?
As much as it can feel awkward to ask your partner for what you want, especially on Valentine's Day, it is important not to assess your partner's worth based on whether they give you exactly what you want, but on the value both of you bring to the relationship.
The need for constant texting
Many of us have, at least once in our lives, dated a terrible texter. They go hours without responding, never start a conversation and even watch our stories without replying to our texts. It is true that this could be an issue in a relationship if it changes the dynamic, but a lot of us have the expectation that our partners should reply to them instantly no matter what they are doing. It is true that if someone is busy it takes barely any time to send a quick text saying that they’re busy for the day and won't be able to talk, but is this expectation syptomatic of an unhealthy need for constant communication and reassurance? Is there a need for your partner to text you that they can't talk when you know they're at work or with their friends? Why is it that basic trust in your relationship is simply not enough? I honestly wish I knew how to answer this one because I still get annoyed if my partner doesn't pick up when I call them, even though I know they're busy working on something. I guess the expectation is that our partners should put us above anything else in their lives, but that is in no way fair to them, or us.
"Divine feminine energy"
I have seen countless posts online about how a woman should present herself in order to get the perfect guy and how important 'divine' feminine energy is. Besides the fact that it is extremely reductive to the heterosexual and cisgender experience, why does gender define a relationship? Why is it that a woman needs to constantly exude insane amounts of 'feminine energy' in order to be considered desirable? Our generation has become so obsessed with finding love that we reduce ourselves to simplistic gender standards in order to appeal to the masses, instead of embracing who we really are as individuals. Playing the game has become more important than showing your feelings or having an emotional conversation.
V-Day - Why so toxic?
I believe that Gen-Z's toxic approach to Valentine's Day is actually rooted in an unconcious sense of frustration with and the excessive commercialisation of the holiday unrealistic expectation. By examining the negative impact that this holiday can have on the emotions and relationships of young people, we can better understand why it's important to challenge traditional notions of love and romance.
Whether it's through rejecting the materialism associated with the holiday, or celebrating alternative forms of love and affection, there are many ways for individuals and communities to create a more positive and inclusive version of Valentine's Day.
Ioana is a student studying BA Arabic and Linguistics at the University of Leeds. She is interested in writing, journalism, and foreign languages. Her Instagram handle is @ioanahahaha.