Stefan Modrich

Until recently, I’d never thought of Valentine’s Day as a particularly family-oriented holiday. Nor, frankly, had I given it much consideration at all beyond the sugar-high I received after exchanging boxes of “conversation hearts” in elementary school. 

In my eyes, it had for years carried with it a stigma of being tacky, superficial and a “made-for-Hallmark” vibe that I’ve always found off-putting. 

Now, I’m not a parent nor am I married, so I may not have been fair with my prior characterization of Valentine’s Day. I recently did enter into a long-distance relationship with someone in another major Texas city, and in the most 2020 fashion, I used a dating app to meet her. So my relative inexperience is probably laughably cute and hopelessly naive to some of you. 

And perhaps it’s taken the eight months or so since I met my girlfriend, some of which was spent as friends. Once it became clear that we were more than that, much of the time we spent dating had an air of uncertainty overhanging it as I finalized preparing to accept the job offer that moved me to Houston and landed me with the Fort Bend Star from the Rio Grande Valley and a few months later, for her to move to her new situation which has allowed for more frequent visits. 

I consider myself fortunate to have parents who themselves have been married nearly 27 years, like the Missouri City couple I interviewed who had children aged 17, 20, and 26, very similar to the age difference between me and my siblings at 21, 23, and 24. I’m a few weeks from turning 26, though mentally I’ve considered myself an old soul for a while. 

And I’m equally grateful for my grandparents and for so many wonderful aunts and uncles on both sides of my family who have all demonstrated their own enduring love for their spouses in their own ways. Even if those people in your life aren’t related to you by blood (I have more than one “tía” who has adopted me as her “sobrino”) I know we can find them somewhere if we look closely enough.

I’ve heard it over and over again from the couples I’ve spoken to and from the couples in my life, that they’ve always had an innate ability to understand each other and be there for each other when the chips were down. I have even more respect for those who are balancing raising young children or guiding young adults into the next phase of their lives in an era of unprecedented economic uncertainty and an ongoing public health crisis. 

Not to toot my own horn, but I think my ability to listen and understand has allowed me to be both a good friend and a good partner in a relationship, and that’s one of the skills that I think has been learned more by observation than anything else. My dad never sat me down and told me why I needed to listen to others. I simply watched him do it. I may not exactly be a relationship guru as a result, but I am wholly transparent about my shortcomings and never overpromise with advice. I think it’s why my closest friends and I trust each other with sharing the important developments in our respective romantic relationships.  

One of the husbands I spoke with for my story about local couples asked me a fascinating question, and it was essentially this – Had I ever watched my parents interact with their in-laws? I certainly have, and I think I was endeared with how sweet my dad’s parents were with my mom and how my mom’s mother and my dad are eager to playfully tease one another. I’m sure my siblings and my other relatives would have much more to say about this. 

I’m no armchair psychologist, but I do feel it is healthy to have this level of self-awareness and the guts to be vulnerable to those whose respect and love you cherish above all others. 

So it’s no surprise to me that many of my relatives will be in the midst of celebrating their second or third or even fourth decade of Valentine’s Days together in a few days. For those who are celebrating their first together, as my girlfriend and I are about to, or for those who have been recently married, you’re just as important. In fact, I think it’s even more crucial that you take the time this weekend to not only show your appreciation for your spouse or your partner but to find a way to pay homage to all those who helped them become the person you fell in love with.  

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