February is known as the month of love because of Valentine’s Day. Holidays and observances are wonderful and exciting for those they pertain to, but what if it isn’t for you? The holiday …
February is known as the month of love because of Valentine’s Day. Holidays and observances are wonderful and exciting for those they pertain to, but what if it isn’t for you? The holiday season that closes out each year is associated with a higher suicide rate, theoretically because when others are celebrating their holidays with loved ones, those who are estranged from theirs realize just how lonely they are. Mother’s and Father’s Days can be excruciating for those with absent or deceased parents, for parents whose children have died and for those who are unable to have children. Valentine’s Day is no exception. For people who are not in a relationship on this day, Valentine’s Day can be painful.
Even if you are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day may garner mixed reviews. Some use it as a day to celebrate their loving relationship, as if the holiday is a reminder to appreciate your significant other in a special way. Others resent being told by the calendar that they must do something for their loved one, perhaps feeling they already do every day.
Valentine’s Day leaves some people disappointed and others confused. Typically, the disappointed person has romantic ideas of Valentine’s Day plans and neglects to meaningfully communicate them. The confused person, unfortunately not a mind reader, doesn’t pick up on the obscure hints and misses the mark on what his or her partner really wanted.
If there is something you want from your partner on Valentine’s Day, let him or her know what it is. Communication is the best way to get what you want; don’t expect your partner to just know, and ditch the idea that asking for what you want lessens or ruins it in any way.
If you are in a relationship with someone who resents being told by a calendar to do something nice for you, then you have some choices, based on the premise that you can’t change your partner. You can ask for what you want and hope this will be the year your partner turns into the romantic person you want him or her to be. You could think about all the ways your partner demonstrates their love throughout the year and be grateful for that. You can decide to spend the day doing special things for your partner with no expectation of reciprocation. You could attempt to forget there’s anything special about Valentine’s Day and treat it like any other day. You can spend the day either mad at your partner or feeling sorry for yourself. Which option will you choose?
Those who are single on Valentine’s Day, whether you’re longing for a relationship or happy about your single status, also have choices. You can be sad and unhappy because you’re alone. You can organize your single friends for a night out on Galentine’s Day, an observance scheduled for February 13 to celebrate friendship. (Even though this day was named Galentine’s for the ladies, men can also take advantage of this holiday to celebrate time with their guy pals). You could choose to spend the day loving someone else who needs it—a parent, a child or a recent widow or widower. You could volunteer at a personal care home for the day. You might want to spend the time making a list of the things you’re grateful for or writing thank you notes to people who have helped you out through the years.
Another day to celebrate is February 15, National Singles Awareness Day. Some celebrate this in jest, to send their single friends gifts or even flowers. Others use it seriously to celebrate love in forms other than romantic—love of friends, family and yourself.
Everyone needs to love and be loved in return. Without that, people become depressed, anxious and, in prolonged cases, physically ill. Love really does “make the world go around.” If you believe you are unloved and want more love in your life, you need to start with yourself and become more loving. Help others who need something you can give.
Self-care is so much more than eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. It’s about learning your basic need- strengths (safety, security, connection, freedom, signifigance and joy) and figuring out how to satisfy those needs without preventing others from meeting their own. Take time to self-evaluate and work toward building that ever-elusive relationship with yourself.
And if you are in a romantic relationship and you find yourself wondering if this is as good as it gets, there are things you can do, too. Learn about your need-strengths and the need-strengths of your partner. When you prioritize your relationship over your individual needs, you consider what you want, what your partner wants and what would be best for your relationship.
And remember, no matter how much better your life would be if your partner would just change, you are only able to control your own behavior. Trying to change your loved one by complaining, criticizing, blaming, guilting, nagging, withholding, or bribing is destructive to the foundation of your relationship. These attempts to make your life easier by controlling the people you love will only serve to alienate your partner, erode your relationship and frustrate yourself.
It is so much better to ask for what you want. You might get it, but if you don’t, figure out how you can get what you want by yourself, how you can get it from someone else without threatening your relationship, or how you can decide it isn’t as important as your relationship and focus on something else.
If you are interested in more information from counselor, author and coach Kim Olver, visit www.bit.ly/TRC-vday to download The Relationship Center’s free Valentine’s Day bundle. The bundle includes tips on what men and women can do differently to improve their relationships, an article describing 52 free things to do on date night (with ideas divided by season), the “Relationship ABCs” (26 ways you can improve your relationship from A to Z) and a tip sheet about the concept of strategic self-care: a practice that helps you build that important relationship with Self. River Reporter readers can enjoy more than 30 pages of content with ideas, inspiration and advice for improving your relationship with a significant other, as well as strategies for building a great relationship with yourself.