Pretty much everyone says that they love their mother. In fact, in 2014, $7.4 billion dollars more was spent on gifts for Mother's Day vs. Father's Day. And this makes sense. Mothers are generally the ones who spend more time with us as we grow up. They stay awake at night with us when we have a scary dream or don't feel well. They are, in general, more comforting.
Yet, despite the love felt for mothers, how much time and thought are invested into selecting a gift? You stop in a store and look through the card rack for something that doesn't sound too corny. Or, you look at the flowers and try to match what's available to your budget. How much active thinking is going on? I would suggest, not too much. And THAT is the problem.
The modern version of Mother's Day was started with a campaign by Anna Jarvis to honor her mother, a peace activist, who helped wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. She started campaigning in 1905, the year her mother died, for a day to honor all mothers. Although the US Congress rejected her proposal in 1908, by 1911 all states observed Mother's Day. Yet, despite great success, Anna Jarvis eventually became angered as the day was becoming increasingly commercialized and was quickly losing the sentiment that she tried to imbue it with. Of all people, Anna Jarvis started to organize boycotts of Mother's Day and in 1925, she was arrested for disturbing the peace. Wow!
So, how does this relate to us today? It does so by revealing the lack of creativity and thought that people put into their actions, even when that action is performed only once a year. If men and women don't think independently but rather just buy what they have been programmed by marketers to seek out when it comes to a pleasurable celebration of love, what can you expect of them when it comes to handling stressors and conflict? Will there be considered thought and effort? Probably not.
What we do for Mother's Day certainly applies to the other aspects of our lives. If we respond automatically when things go well imagine how we try to cope when we feel challenged or threatened. By default, we go on automatic. Ask anyone in a couple who have been together for a few years if they can sometimes see themselves falling into an argument yet don't do anything to avoid the fall. Much like someone suffering from migraines can tell you when one is coming on, the same applies to arguments. A reactive response to withdraw and defend is instinctual; a proactive, meaningful response to connect and understand takes conscious work and effort.
It takes thought to change how one handles stressful situations. Do you want to know what you should expect from a prospective partner when they will become upset with you? Check out how they respond when they are upset at someone else. Do they yell, speak disrespectfully, sulk or become menacing? Watch out. Their anger will visit you in the future.
That's why it is critically helpful to learn about someone you are interested in. How would their ex describe them? What would old friends say? What do you see as you observe them? How do they treat the person serving them at a restaurant? Are they appreciative or demanding? If they don't extend themselves when times are pleasurable and easy, how will they handle tougher times? All of this will come back on you.
Of course, if you really want a successful relationship, you should ask yourself the same questions. Are you always such a pleasure to be around? What could you do to improve yourself? So, as you see people running around this Mother's Day, stop and notice how much thought people put into a meaningful act. You can then perform an interesting experiment. Ask people who have been married for years how many of their partner's annoying habits were already on display before they married. And don't doubt that the people you ask have wanted their partners to stop these irritating behaviors. Although there are exceptions, not much truly comes as a surprise.
What should you do if either your partner or you need work? First of all you should realize that there is comfort in numbers. We all need work and improvement should be a lifelong endeavor in response to change and maturity. So, seek help. There is a lot out there. Blogs, books, podcasts, coaches, etc. Hopefully, you'll also find suggestions for improvement in my other posts.
Wishing you meaningful love this Mother's Day and beyond.