It is that time of year again. Everything is bathed in pink and red, and stores are lined with teddy bears, and foil-wrapped heart-shaped chocolates. Everywhere we turn there are reminders—commercials, ads on social media, people discussing their plans, and cupid decorations plastered on walls. As sweet as it all can seem, it also is a source of extreme distress and heartbreak for many. February always makes me cringe, because I know what primary concern clients will be calling about, and I witness the harsh emotional toll so many experience. Unfortunately, many people put a lot of stressful focus on the big heart day. They sometimes feel that not having a “valentine” reflects on their worth, and that no one loves them. They cry when they see commercials, and even sometimes take desperate harmful actions in hopes that they will be with someone (anyone) when that day lands. People often have unrealistic hopes of someone magically appearing for that day (exes, complicated situations resolving etc…). It is all just a natural response when people are lonely, and feel excluded on a day that they believe is about being loved. It is sad to see the destructive affect that this particular holiday has on people.
I have a secret. I have never had a “valentine”. No romantic v-day dates, no roses or chocolates…no declarations of love, or silly teddy bears wearing t-shirts. I think the closest that I came to it was a torn square of notebook paper in grade school from a “secret admir”. However, it really does not bother me. It did when I was younger, but I have gained a different perspective over the years. Some may say, “Well since you have never had it, you don’t understand why it is so important.” I can see some possibility in that, but I also think that looking at it from the outside perhaps reveals things others may overlook.
Firstly, it is a day. A single day. In particular, it is a day created by candy and card companies to push for sales. “You must buy your sweetheart candy and gifts on this date to prove your love.” Essentially, they were able to generate sales via creating the very expectations that also are so harmful. People anticipate attention, gifts, and romantic gestures. They see it as a way to prove, and validate not only that someone loves them, but some also see it as a means to prove to others how loved, and thus special they are (social media will light-up with young girls/ women wanting to show off their v-day prezzies and activities primarily for that reason). People feel pressed into gifting, and going to great measures, and are made to feel guilty if they do not. I have even experienced multiple incidences of young women in tearful rages because they felt what their boyfriends did do for them was not enough—sometimes out of concern that other people would not be impressed, or think that the man loves them enough. A lot of pressure is created on that single day, and the result is, that sometimes what is done, and given…is executed to fulfill the expectation, rather than truly being something driven by the heart.
Anyone can wine and dine for a day, gift sparkly trinkets, recite lovey sentiments…and essentially pull things from the typical Valentine’s day playbook. It can almost be like “play acting” a big show of love—staging things, and playing parts. Is it sweet? Can people truly do it out of love? Sure…but in reality, love is not about a single day. Additionally, it often is the unexpected gifts, and genuine small thoughtful acts that we value the most, and which reveal what someone truly feels for us. Thus, in a way… Valentine’s day is a little backwards. It is a big day of expectation, and performing…and though it may be fun, and romantic…in the end, it is still just a single day. It almost cheapens love, and makes it a farce of sorts due to the pressure to put on big displays coated in glitter.
Love does not need Valentine’s day to be celebrated, or proved. Love certainly does not need to be shown-off, or used to gain status and validation. Love is not exclusive to one day a year, nor does it exist in a box of chocolates, or kissy-selfies. True love exists every day. It is revealed the most when people do unexpected selfless acts of giving, and put the needs of others before their own without any expectation of anything in return, or as a means of creating material to exhibit to others. Love is tenderly caring for someone who is sick, even at the risk of getting sick yourself. Love is easing someone’s burdens….via helping them with tasks, and giving of time without complaint. Love is providing support, comfort, and holding hands when others are struggling. Love endures through hardships, losses, and dark times when people are broken, and unable to provide much themselves. Love does not give with the intent to guilt, or trap someone into giving, or loving. Love is revealed by those who remain loyal, without the need of big glittery displays, and constant idealistic attention and notions of love. Real love, is messy, because life is messy. However, when it is real, and strong, it can withstand the storms, and be found in the everyday thoughtful gestures and acts that demonstrate someone cares, and pays attention. So, anyone can “play at” love for a day (or even a short period), but only true love can last through every day, and beyond.
So, for myself? I do not feel sad on Valentine’s Day. I do not feel desperate to find a date, nor do I feel like I am missing-out on something special. I would rather experience genuine love…. someone who simply is there every day, and who is able to truly see me. I do not need (and certainly do not require) big stereotypical demonstrations of what card and jewelry companies say prove the existence of love. I would find more beauty in someone who just wants to share life with me—messy, broken bits and all. They do not need to shout from roof-tops, or buyout florist shops…..but rather just offer some cuddles and laughter. It comes down to what is truly important, and what actually creates love that sustains.
However, I am painfully aware that many people put great importance on Valentine’s Day. It especially is hard on those who are in the midst of, or have recently experienced break-ups (rubs salt into the wound). Even people who normally do not feel sad about being single, can discover that v-day creates a sudden, lonely awareness. I think perhaps, the word that many people are most afraid of is…. “alone”. We tend to fear it, dread it….and do anything to avoid it. We impatiently rush into relationships that do not fit us, and cling to people that even hurt us…. all because we fear that word. Thus, why the awareness that Valentine’s Day creates for people can be so devastating. In reality, we first have to love our own selves, in order to truly love, and be loved…. especially in healthy, authentic ways. Being able to be alone without fear, or intense need for someone else to fill and provide…is actually something crucial to gain.
So, for all those singles out there….celebrate your love of self! Treat yourself to something special, or do something that physically pampers, or makes you feel good about yourself. Love truly starts with us, so it is healthy to remember to give our own selves love…and V-day is a great day for that important reminder.
Additionally, Valentine’s day is not just about romantic love. Love can be felt, and shared with everyone—family members, children, friends, co-workers etc… So if you feel bummed that you are single, it may be helpful to shift the focus of the day to being about giving/ expressing love, rather than receiving. Bake cookies to hand-out, or invite a group of friends to a fun activity so that the day can be reclaimed as a fun day to create memories with friends. Additionally, consider those who you know have recently experienced break-ups, or who have expressed how difficult the day is for them. You can make a huge positive impact on someone by doing/ giving something that shows that you care about them….and it will be all the more special to them due to not being expected.
Love one Another. Love Yourself. Every day.