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Giving New Meaning to Valentine's Day

Image of a young girl choosing a stuffed bear. Valentine's Day, Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway, MDiv, LPC

“I hate Valentine’s Day. It is nothing but a Hallmark holiday designed to make money...and to make people feel bad if they are not in a marriage or some kind of couple. I wish there was some way to call it off.”

I have heard this in one way or another for years. In fact, I've probably said something like that myself at some point in my personal history. Here's something to consider: Valentine’s Day comes every year, so why not create a positive meaning for yourself?

The Beatles sang, “All we need is love.” That is not the whole truth, but the world could do with a lot more expressions of love. We have a nationally-recognized holiday designate to celebrate love. Rather than feeling left, out, why shouldn't we revise what it is all about and make it meaningful to each of us?

What else can Valentine's Day celebrate?

To limit Valentine's Day to a celebration of romantic love is to miss a great opportunity to appreciate all types of love. So let's step back and consider a few things we may overlook.

Holidays in general are a time to celebrate and make connections. We can be cynical, in this case focusing on the negative aspects of commercialism associated with the day, or we can rewrite the meaning we assign to Valentine's Day. Think of the connections you have in your life, not only to people, but to places, to your pets, to your favorite book or a thread-bare sweater. Think about how those make you feel.

Consider your relationships, and don't limit yourself to your romantic ones (or lack thereof). I know a woman who has worked with a particular co-worker for years. These two women love each other dearly. They have laughed together, cried together, and helped one another make it through the ups and downs of life. They never see one another socially, but consider this relationship one of the most important they have. That is a relationship to recognize and celebrate.

There are other relationships where the people involved love one another deeply, yet are struggling and in conflict. This happens between husband and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and children, good friends and co-workers. Are those relationships to be forgotten and ignored on the day designed to celebrate love?

We do not throw people and relationships away because of disappointment, pain and hurt. Conflict is part of love. You cannot love someone and avoid conflict. The more you love, the more important the conflict is. It is vitally important to celebrate that love in the good times and in the painful, angry times.

Showing Love and Feeling Loved

Now that you are starting to expand your definition of what you can recognize on Valentine's Day, how will you celebrate it? Will that happen alone or with friends? At home or out on the town?

Here are three suggestions to help you show love and feel loved on Valentine's Day and all year long.

1. Make a list of all the people, pets, places and things you love.

Do you have a pet? Think how much your love for your pet and how its love for you enriches your life.

Do you have a place you love? A place that makes you feel better to think about or when you are there? Take the time to go visit that place. If that's not possible, take time to reminisce about why it makes you feel so good.

What are the special relationships in your life? A grandchild, a dear friend, a coworker who has helped you, a minister or someone in the helping professions? Take time to remember how fortunate you are to have that person in your life.

Are you in a romantic relationship in conflict? Celebrate it anyway. You may not feel it now but you have love for that person.

Are you in conflict with a family member? Remember the love you have for that person. If you cannot express your love directly, in some way celebrate their life.

2. Keep your expressions of love and appreciation simple.

A simple expression of love is powerful and will lower the anxiety of getting it right. Talk to the important people in your life and agree to keep it simple this year. Concentrate more on the person than the gift.

3.Write a note.

Instead of buying a card, use a simple note card to say how you feel. You do not have to fill up the whole card. Writing simple sentences on a 5×7 card with a hand-drawn heart means a lot. A few examples:

“I love you.”

“You're important to me.”

“I am glad you are in my life.”

“You make me laugh. Thank you.”

I once knew a woman who wrote all the qualities and attributes she loved about her friend in a birthday card. Why not do something like that for someone you love? It makes a great gift.

If you feel so inclined write a longer message and read it aloud. Expressing your love and gratitude for the people in your life gives Valentine's Day meaning, the day does not make the meaning.

Some consider February the month of love. Certainly, a month is a short time to ponder and reflect on what love means to you, what it means to love another, and how we show people that we love them. Even so, that doesn't mean it's a simple process. Are you struggling with your feelings around relationships and Valentine's Day? Call me I can help. (919-881-2001)


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