The season of love sometimes feels so overwhelming now. Valentine's Day was just glorious when I was a kid. Trying to pick the perfect valentine message to match with my friends and crushes, while also feeling panicked when the flimsy paper ripped instead of following the perforations. It was sugar. It was making boxes to collect compliments and having a fun afternoon. It was was red and pink and white and paper doilies and, did I mention sugar?
Teen angst took away some of the fun, but even with early love, Valentine's Day was still sweet. We didn't have money, so expectations were low, and it was more like it was a big deal if there SOMETHING, not necessarily what that something was.
Valentine's Day as an adult is stressful: Are we a Valentine's Couple? Are we not? What about Galentine's Day, or Palentine's Day?
Can we go back to boxes, and "RAWR means I LOVE YOU?"
Now in my mid 30's I've had enough therapy and hurt feelings to understand what has to happen around this holiday to stop an unhealthy spirial. And I'm so thankful!
I used to wait and see what my partner would do, and then feel my feelings, and see if it lived up to my unspoken rules about how the Day should go. (Same with my birthday and Christmas, just so we're clear.). It typically didn't end well for me. Both because I was a jerk, and I was a jerk with hurt feelings. Not a good look on anyone.
But. I had some heartbreak. A divorce. Some really awesome friends who helped me have new experiences around Valentine's Day that weren't at all about romantic love, and finally, that therapy I mentioned above.
Unlearning behavior is hard. We are raised by imperfect people, and unfortunately, there is a trickle of pain that travels through the generations. Learning how to regulate emotions, speak them clearly, and live inside healthy boundaries sounds so great. But we have to work at that stuff if we didn't have good teachers early on. And most of us don't.
So as adults, we get to make choices about how we act in our relationships and what we tolerate from our partners and friendships. Do you do that - do you choose how you love your people? Do you take the time to learn how they like to be seen? Do you know how you want to be nurtured?
This isn't even about that Love Languages stuff. This is about honest transparency. Are you in relationships where you can show your tender underbelly? Or is it all pent up beliefs of how you SHOULD be treated and you aren't quite sure how those got there?
Is it really about flowers, or chocolate, or dinner out? Or is it about what you think those things mean about your relationship?
I'm just asking some questions here, because, if anything, I know I don't have it all figured out.
But what I know about me, and what I have learned to express is an openness about what I want, and a willingness to hear what my partner wants too. It's pretty great.
And we're still working on it. Nothing is perfect, but we're in it together, and neither of us is going anywhere.
Hopefully, as our kids see us talking, being direct, expressing our needs, sharing our thoughts, and asking for feedback, we're slowing that trickle of pain they will heal as they grow.
Will they see we're doing the best that we can? *sigh*
Ariel Swift (she/her) does most of the writing around this blog, but we love having guest writers and visits!