People usually assume that because I am a relationship expert that Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Actually, the opposite is true. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, but I do hate the effects it can have on some people and their relationships.
For some singles (key word: “some,” not all), February 14 is an annual day of self-defeating messages that reminds them: “You aren’t chosen! You aren’t worthy! You are not enough! Your clock is still ticking and you are still alone! You may always be alone!” For some couples, Valentine’s Day is also a grim reminder of the dilapidated state of their relationship. Statistics show that more breakups and divorce inquiries happen the day after Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year. For some men, it is a day of stress and anxiety. They dislike the holiday because it’s too much pressure. Many feel like they’re under a social media spotlight to produce a “wow moment” that is beyond their skills and budget.
Many of the “VDay Anxieties” stem from the unreasonable expectations about love that we have conditioned our girls to expect. Messages include, “You can be happily single, but marriage will make you happier.” Or, “Be good, wait, and your soulmate will find you.” And then there’s, “If he’s a real man, he’ll know how to do what it takes to make you happy.”
To add insult to injury, we proceed to give our girls their grandest celebrations when their accomplishments happen due to being coupled up: prom, wedding, bridal shower, baby shower. All of these lies create a deep pool of disappointment, waiting patiently to drown them in.
It saddens me that a day to celebrate love is often reduced to focusing on only romantic love (eros). Love is huge and life changing. There are so many more varieties of love experiences to celebrate. Here are a few.
We should joyfully celebrate self-love. Our love for ourselves comes under attack from the moment we come out of the womb, and sometimes while still inside. Harsh critiques from ourselves and others concerning past rejection, abandonment, our mistakes, our physical appearance, lagging careers, and failed relationships can all convince us we are not worthy of love. February 14 should be an annual declaration that we choose to love, unconditionally accept, and forgive ourselves. It should be a celebration of “Whew…how I got over!” It should be a joyful reminder that we possess the foundational ingredient that will determine the depth and width of all of our other love experiences. The truth is, self-love is the only love that we can control. Don’t deprive yourself of it. After all, we can’t expect someone to love us if we don’t generously show it to ourselves.
Another love experience that we can celebrate on Valentine’s Day is the ability to give and receive love. Don’t take that skill for granted. Some have suffered so much heartbreak, trauma and abuse under the guise of love that it becomes something more feared than celebrated. If your heart is not cold, guarded, or hard, and you’re able to receive and give love to others, it’s a thing to celebrate. If you don’t have this ability, then seek help to begin your healing journey. Give yourself grace during your process, and celebrate every small milestone of success.
Finally, Valentine’s Day should be a day to celebrate the ones we love. Celebrate our children, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, mentors, and those who have encouraged us in some way. I’m not talking about just handing out a rose, teddy bear, or a card, I’m talking about actually expressing your love in a letter, a handwritten card, by phone, or in person. Growing up, my mother would write us an individual letter every Christmas that expressed her love and prayers for us. I cherished my letters and now that she lives in heaven, I cherish them even more. I have continued that tradition with my family. I love to see them cuddled up enjoying their letters. This year, take time to create a personal expression of love for someone on Valentine’s Day. It just might be the most precious gift they receive.
As for me, I anticipate that my husband will faithfully show up with an expression of love as he always does on Valentine’s Day. I will be grateful, but I will not judge or celebrate his love for me based on his Valentine’s Day performance. I will celebrate his decades of selfless sacrifices, his loving encouragement and support, his loyalty to our marriage, and his devotion to our daughters. I will celebrate the totality of both our efforts to ride the sometimes emotionally turbulent waves of love and make it safely back to shore. Lastly, I will remind myself to celebrate all kinds of love every day of the year. I encourage you to do the same. Remember, never give up on love, because relationships may fail, but love never does.
Love McPherson is a certified marriage and family counselor and relationship expert based in Chicago. She is the founder of the relationship coaching company, Love Infinity, Inc