Ahhh Valentine’s day! Here I am typing towards the end of another one and I’m left with an old familiar feeling of – to do or not to do? I have to admit, I’m generally not a big fan. Every year the date roll’s around and every year I rub up against this tension. Of course, as a hopeless romantic, there’s a part of me that loves the idea of a special day for lovers and can immerse myself in the idealised fantasy of romantic love. Bliss! Yet the cynic in me struggles with the cheeseball, commercialised aspects of the day that have been vandalised in our modern culture.
Historically, Valentine’s day has its roots in a roman-pagan festival of fertility, Lupercalia, which idealised the Roman god of agriculture. Festivities celebrated both an abundant agricultural season and families the conception of healthy babies… and lots of them. There is some conjecture around the Christianised version of Valentine’s day, with the likely scenario being that the church decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianise” the pagan celebration.
Regardless, here we are again at February 14th and I am struggling with my own ambivalence. I decided to write up my pros and cons for the day to see if this would help me with this impasse.
- It sharpens a focus on the virtues of love and relationship
- It is a ritual and a celebration. We sorely need these in our current times
- The day often includes gift-giving or time together and those two love languages (gifts and quality time) are important expressions of valuing the other
- It can be an elixir for apathy, supporting lovers to connect, share and express feelings
- It can feel like a pressure or expectation in how love should be celebrated
- It can highlight negatively, different meanings of love between partners, leading to tension and disappointment
- It can become about the ‘glam’, the ‘image’ or the ‘event’, rather than an authentic expression of love and care
- It only happens once a year!
In reflection on these minimal lists, the idea of expressing love and care in relationships comes down to the desires and values of each couple. If Valentine’s day is where it’s at for you, then that’s a good thing. If it’s in the every day and other moments, then I suggest rolling with that. Perhaps, a combo deal feels like a solid fit for you?
Watching other couples who celebrate Valentine’s day has added a real sweetness to my day. I have had my parents staying with me recently. They have been married for 58 years, and every year my father had given my mother Valentine’s card. Its always been written and signed from an ‘anonymous lover’, and dad gets to ham this up as a playful interlude between them. It’s a tender moment of familiarity and care term that is very moving. Dropping in at a friend’s home this evening, a was able to witness a partner arriving with flowers and a bottle of wine. Again, a blessing to see their expression of ‘im in this with you’.
I guess what’s relevant, is that love creates the ingredients for expansion and growth, and if the celebrating is authentic, from the heart and held in equality, it builds the ingredients for a safe and secure connection. Whether on Valentine’s day or any other, its these that are the cornerstone of everything intimate.
Sean Tonnet is the Clinical Director Thrive Clinic in Mullumbimby. A centre specialising in relationships. You can reach Sean on 0415 919 123