In high school, I had a boyfriend who showered me with heart shaped chocolates and public serenades. It was silly and sweet and fun, and he promised to love and cherish me forever. I felt on top of the world and so incredibly lucky to have found someone who was willing to share his love for me loudly for all to hear.
My college boyfriend hated Valentine’s Day. He made his disdain known, and we made no plans for February 14th. I zombied my way through the day, staring longingly at the girls walking to class with their armfuls of flowers, wondering if I’d done something wrong. Late that evening, he showed up at my dorm room with an oil drawing and a poem he’d written for me, acknowledging that if other women got to feel special, so should I.
My forever boyfriend also despises Valentine’s Day. He refuses to celebrate it. It also happens to be the day we met —February 14th, 2011. So every year, on the weekend of Valentine’s Day, we rent a cabin in the woods, cook and eat indulgent food and plan our travel for the year. Occasionally, we exchange gifts.
So, if their responses aren’t a reflection of me and their love for me, what is it?
It’s a reflection of them.
HS BF was a showman. He was a go-with-the-crowd-but-to-the-beat-of-your-own-drum kind of guy, and all of his actions showed it. Valentine’s Day gave him the opportunity to get attention and be over the top. I just so happened to be the recipient once or twice.
College BF was an academic and a cynic. He was constantly armchair philosophizing and analyzing society. He was the first person to teach me about the commercialization of the holidays and rejected it outright. He did, though, recognize its personal importance to me and believed that if others got to feel special, I should, too. He was willing to put aside beliefs about society for the sake of his beliefs about me.
Forever BF doesn’t like to be told what to do. He doesn’t believe we should be told how or when to demonstrate affection, or what it should look like. He believes in showing affection when he feels it, celebrating actual relationship milestones, and cultivating a relationship wherein love is seen as a verb, meaning he is constantly loving me. After nine years, we’ve maintained weekly date nights, regular words of affirmation, and daily acts of service to one another.
And I’ve been the same deserving-of-love me the whole time.
My wish for you, as Valentine’s Day comes around, is a nontraditional, powerfully love (v.)-filled day.
If you are in a relationship, I wish for you a heartfelt conversation about the status of that relationship and each partner’s level of satisfaction in it, whether that’s over an expensive dinner or homebrewed coffee. What’s vital is that each person comes away knowing how they want to be loved, how they want to love (v.) the other person, and knowing that they were validated and truly heard.
If you’re not in a relationship, I wish for you a bit of quiet contemplation for you to consider how you are loving and being loved by the important people in your life, however you define it. Which relationships are filling you with love and joy? Which are draining? How would you like to love and be loved in the year ahead?
And then, if it turns out that chocolate and flowers are the way for you and or others, then go and clear out the seasonal aisle at CVS on February 15th when everything is 75% off, even if it’s just for yourself.
Most importantly, this Valentine’s Day, and every holiday, I wish you the gift of release and non-attachment to outcomes.
Release the need to be shown love in prescribed, superficial ways. Determine what love language you are most fluent in speaking to others and which you are most fluent and comfortable receiving, and commit to loving yourself and others in a way that feels authentic to you.
Release the belief that love is shown in a handful of heart-shaped, chocolate-coated ways. In the early 1940s, one company paid billions of dollars on a marketing campaign. Now almost our entire culture believes that diamonds represent everlasting love and faith. And you can apply that model to almost any commercial good that accompanies a holiday.
Finally, release the archaic definition of love as between two people in a romantic relationship. There’s a hell of a lot more to love than what happens in a couple’s relationship, and a hell of a lot of creative forms that relationships can take on. Love is accessible to all of us: the coupled, the singled, the intentionally singled, and those of us who just don’t like flowers.
Remind yourself that whatever happens, Valentine’s Day is not, and never was, a reflection of your worthiness or lovability.