Who says that this day should be restricted only to romantic love? No other day can conjure such powerful imagination of love. It is a commercially driven day that provokes strongly divided reactions to the perplex display of hearts, and fanciful wishes of romance. For those in stable, loving relationships, the day offers a wonderful opportunity to express or reaffirm their love. For those who are recently bereaved, divorced, or single, this is a day that can trigger feelings of overwhelming loneliness and grief.
While Valentine’s Day is merely an arbitrary day that we use as a light hearted way to express our feelings to our partners, it is also true that this day sustains the myth that all couples are happy. With divorce rates where they are in Nigeria, it is apparent that not all couples are “loving”. Without intending to bash this “feel-good” day, after all, we can all benefit from an expression of love, it seems that Valentine’s Day may be more widely accepted if it was truly a day for love. Not just romantic love between couples, but love in all of its forms.
Many people who find themselves alone on this day, struggle with past hurts, grief, and feelings of inadequacy. While they are bombarded with images of happy couples, it is important that they remember that their identity is not defined by their relationship status. A person’s worth comes from who they are, not who they are with. While most would agree that this is true, it doesn’t dull the inevitable feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy that arise when surrounded by the existing love heart at every turn.
So how to deal with these feelings when colleagues receive flowers, lovers seem to be everywhere and romantic cards take over every store front? While some may choose to avoid the day by staying at home, or just take steps to avoid “happy couples”, it seems that a different approach might offer a more gratifying result.
What about a perspective change? What if we were to adopt the idea that Valentine’s Day is not just for couples, but for everybody? While your friends might be buying flowers for their partners, consider the people in your world that you love, and that love you back. Something special for your mother and a telephone call to your father, perhaps your daughter including siblings will appreciate flowers as much as any lover will. Maybe spending the evening with your son watching a game would be one way to express your particular brand of love. Random acts of kindness can bring a surprisingly wonderful sense of well-being.
For those who struggle with this day, it might be helpful to spend time with friends or family - people with whom you have already established positive, loving relationships. It could be a time to focus on what you have, rather than on what you feel you are missing. Create new traditions. Invite your single friends over for dinner and take foods to your neighbors who are always there for you.
As with anything in life, being prepared for a challenging situation can make all the difference in the world. Do not let another Valentine’s Day sneak up on you and leave you feeling badly. Take control. Plan how you want to spend it. Plan how you can create a day that actually makes you feel good. Incorporate all the normal, healthy coping strategies that are useful in all situations. Get enough sleep, maintain your normal routines of diet and regular exercise draw upon your inner strengths, and above all, surround yourself with people who comfort and sustain you.
Valentine’s Day offers us a unique opportunity to undertake a new perspective on how we choose to celebrate love. The traditional approach with flowers, cards, and romance works beautifully for some. For others, a display of love towards children, parents, or friends can be equally rewarding. But in the midst of all the various means of displaying love to others, let us not forget the benefits of looking after our own needs. This Valentine’s Day, offer yourself the same thing you give to all of the loved ones in your life, and make the effort to show yourself a little love!
Somebody said the difference between courtship and marriage is like the difference between the pictures in a seed catalog and what actually comes up in your garden. But it does not have to be that way.