I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, whether I’m in a relationship or not.
In the former scenario, it usually makes me feel like I should be doing something special on that day and put unnecessary pressure on myself and my partner, forgetting that what really counts is how we treat one another every day of the year, not just on the 14th of February.
And when I’m single, well… it just makes me feel shit to be single.
As newly single, I’d lie if I said that I didn’t find this year’s Valentine’s Day difficult. Nothing rubs salt into the wound like the omnipresent heart-shaped redness of shop displays.
But as opposed to previous years, this year I’ve decided to approach Valentine’s Day slightly differently.
I’ve been wrestling with the concepts of self-love and self-acceptance for a while now. I’m extremely loving toward others, almost to a fault; but I struggle to give myself what I endeavour to give to others.
And as cliché as it may sound, without self-love and self-acceptance, we’re bound to struggle to attract and maintain a healthy romantic relationship.
Not because we’d come across as lacking in confidence and self-respect — and there’s nothing more attractive in the eyes of the other than these two qualities.
But more so because without those qualities, we’re likely to settle for less than we deserve and what’s truly good for us and the other person as well.
Too many of my friends seem to be stuck in relationships that overall bring them more misery than happiness, and it’s a real conundrum for a caring observer to understand. I’m sure my friends looked at some of my previous relationships and felt equally perplexed.
Why would anyone choose to be in a relationship that overall chips into their happiness?
Maybe because our society places so much emphasis on being in a relationship, just any relationship, as the ultimate sign that we’re healthy, functional individuals?
Maybe because we don’t value ourselves to such an extent that any semblance of love from another seems like a favour we should be eternally grateful for?
Or maybe, just maybe, because the prospect of being ‘on our own’ seems so unbearable that we’d rather fill that void by spending time with the first available candidate?
Whatever your reason might be, I think Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to evaluate whether the love you give yourself is the love that you would accept from a significant other. Or the love that you would wish for your best friend.
Take an honest look on how you treat yourself and if the answer is ‘no’, there’s some work to be done, my Dear.
To be honest, I have no idea how to get to a point when you can tell yourself with full conviction that you love, accept, and respect yourself. But I’ve been told by people far wiser than me who seem to have got there, that it comes from practice and ‘behaving as if’.
So this Valentine’s Day, list three things that would make you happy should you receive/experience them from/with a potential romantic partner.
Would you love to receive a bouquet of red roses today? Go an buy the goddamn flowers! Do you fancy a heart-shaped chocolate brownie? Get it and enjoy every single bite. Have you been craving a relaxing massage for a while? You deserve it too.
By that I don’t mean to imply that love is shown through material gestures alone, but it’s often the most straightforward way to show others that they’re ‘worth the effort’. If the way you communicate love is through ‘quality time’, ‘acts of service’, or any other of the five love languages, find a way to communicate love to yourself in that particular language. Assembling an IKEA chest-of-drawers or taking yourself for a long walk in a park can be an act of love too.
At the end of the day, if you cannot show yourself the love you want from others, how can you expect others to give it to you?
As contrived as this may seem, single or not, be your own Valentine this year and show yourself that you deserve the love that you so deeply desire.
Show love to others.
Valentine’s Day can also make you feel like the loneliest person in the whole wide world, even if you’re surrounded by loving and caring friends and family.
The messages out there seem to suggest that non-romantic relationships are secondary to romantic ones, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I’d argue that it’s impossible to maintain a healthy romantic relationship without friends, family, acquaintances, and even work colleagues who’d share our joy and support us through our sorrows on a day-to-day basis.
Often, it’s our friends and family who will hold us when something goes wrong between us and our partners.
Without them, we automatically put all our hopes and expectations on that one person who holds the badge of our ‘romantic partner’. And according to Esther Perel, a world-famous relationship psychotherapist, that kind of burden is one of the main factors that can eventually kill a romantic relationship.
When we’re in love with someone, it often seems that our world revolves around that person, but it’s actually ourselves and all others that we care about that ultimately hold our world together. Our significant other can eventually become a part of that foundation, but certainly not its epicentre.
So this year make an effort to spread the love among those you love in a non-romantic way as well.
Buy your mum flowers, if you know that the gesture would make her happy. Give Valentine’s cards to your closest friends. Bring your colleagues at work a treat to show them your appreciation. Or simply, tell those who matter to you that you love them and appreciate their continuous support.
It for sure will make them happy, but importantly it’s bound to disperse the illusion that if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you lack love in your life altogether.
Take a step back.
Now, the aforementioned tips will probably resonate with those who are somehow sceptical about the whole Valentine’s Day extravaganza, but who secretly wish they were in a happy romantic relationship with someone they could celebrate the day with — even if on the sofa watching their favourite TV show.
But there are, of course, people who generally don’t care much about this day at all.
At the end of the day, it’s a made-up holiday (although deriving from age-old Roman traditions) and a vehicle for restaurants and companies to make some extra money. Besides, we should show love to others on any day, not just today.
Those who do not pay much attention to Valentine’s Day — single or not, also seem to be a little bit happier than those who do, quite likely for the reasons that I mentioned at the very beginning of this article.
So perhaps we could all take a tiny step back from the implicit pressure imposed by all-present red heart-shaped cards and cheesy captions, and treat this day as any other. Yet another Friday night when we can do our own thing, hang out with friends or have a cosy night in.
Tomorrow is another day. And who knows, maybe it will be the day when you finally meet the person whose lack is depriving you of the joy of today. If that’s the case, you will be much better equipped to invite them into your life, if you devote today to appreciating yourself and all those you’re lucky to have in your life already.