Someone’s Valentine (Even if it’s Your Own)
Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to
Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
Each of us has certain expectations and obligations
we must fulfill in our lives. As a person who claims to be an
expert in human relationships, one of the expectations that I
must meet is that every February I am obligated to write something
about Valentine’s Day.
I find this task rather challenging. When I write
articles, I always try to include everyone. Valentine’s Day, however,
is not an inclusive event. How we feel about (and experience)
Valentine’s Day depends entirely on whether or not we happen to
be in a romantic relationship at the time.
When couples read articles about Valentine’s Day,
they expect to learn about how to spice up their love life or
where to find unique and memorable gift. I can only guess about
what singles expect when they read articles about Valentine’s
Day, because I can’t think of a single article about Valentine’s
Day that even acknowledges the possibility that everyone in the
world isn’t happily partnered.
If you’re single, please keep reading: This may
be the first article ever written on Valentine’s Day that actually
speaks to you. If you’re in a romantic relationship, keep reading,
as well: You’re covered here, too.
I’m personally of two minds about Valentine’s Day.
It is not my favorite holiday by any stretch of the imagination.
Let me start with the good. I’m a very big fan
of romance. I think romance is one of the things that makes life
worth living, and therefore I completely support anything that
encourages us to set aside some time to be romantic with our partners.
Of course, I think we’d all be a lot happier if we spent more
than one day a year thinking about how to keep romance alive,
but one day a year is at least a start.
That about wraps up the good. Now, I’ll sum up
the bad. Valentine’s Day is the hardest day of the year to be
single. On Valentine’s Day, instead of the world merely implying
that there’s something wrong with being single (which it does
the rest of the year), it shouts it from the rooftops. Everywhere
you turn on Valentine’s Day, you’ll find some reminder that if
you’re not paired up in a romantic relationship, there’s no place
for you in the world.
The fear of being single on Valentine’s Day can
be overpowering. I know of many people who stayed in a bad romantic
relationship and put off breaking up with their partner, just
so that they wouldn’t be alone on Valentine’s Day.
If you don’t happen to be in a romantic relationship,
the build-up to Valentine’s Day is even more stressful. For many
singles, the annual relationship panic begins right around Christmas.
New Years Eve is only a week away, and there’s no time to waste
if they’re going to find someone to kiss at midnight. While a
kiss to start off the New Year is always nice, it’s not an institution.
Being single on New Year’s Eve isn’t a catastrophe, but it does
start the clock ticking—they only have six short weeks to find
a romantic partner so that they won’t be alone on Valentine’s
More of us can relate to this scenario than we’d
like to admit.
The fact that Valentine’s Day is also implicitly
heterosexist is a minor consideration. Same sex couples can still
view Valentine’s Day as a call to romance, even if they don’t
see themselves pictured in any of the advertising.
But I didn’t write this article to bash Valentine’s
Day. However we happen to feel about Valentine’s Day, it’s a fact
or life, at least in the Western culture. The purpose of this
article is to learn how to make the most of Valentine’s Day, whether
you have a romantic partner or not.
BEING SOMEONE’S VALENTINE
We’re told that Valentine’s Day is all about romance.
However, true romance is an endangered species. Valentine’s Day
is so commercial it’s practically sponsored by florists, chocolatiers,
jewelers, and greeting card manufacturers.
Romance is a tricky thing. Some people find the
traditional flowers, candy, champagne, candle-lit dinner for two
to be the epitome of romance—and these are certainly tried and
true options. But true romance comes from the heart and not from
If you’re in a romantic relationship (or would
like to start one with someone in particular), let your partner
know how you feel about him or her. (And remember that you don’t
have to wait until February 14th to share your feelings or create
a little romance.)
True romance requires intimacy, vulnerability,
honesty—and a tremendous amount of courage. This is why it’s such
a rare commodity. True romance requires writing one’s feelings
out (longhand—no typing or e-mails are permissible) and declaring
one’s true feelings for the object of one’s affection. It’s no
wonder that Hallmark does such a booming business around Valentine’s
Day. True romance takes a lot of effort.
However you choose to make your romantic gesture
on Valentine’s Day, it’s essential that you thoroughly understand
your partner’s Validation Language. You must do things that will
make your partner feel loved and appreciated—even if those things
don’t mean the same thing to you.
I had a young couple attend one of my weekend relationship
workshops. At the time, they had been married less than a year.
For the first few months of their marriage, the husband would
bring home flowers to his wife three or four times a week, in
what he thought was a romantic gesture. She, however, would get
frustrated and even angry with him for buying her flowers.
The issue was that they had very different Validation
Languages. He had a Fire Validation Checklist, and enjoyed making
grand gestures, such as buying flowers on impulse to show how
much he loved and appreciated his wife. She, on the other hand,
had an Earth Validation Checklist, and felt that the flowers were
simply a waste of money—they weren’t practical and they would
die in a few days. What she would have appreciated as a thoughtful
and romantic gesture was a power tool—something they could use
to make improvements to their home.
This new understanding completely transformed their
relationship. They each understood why the other had reacted in
the way that they did. She understood that he meant the flowers
to be an expression of affection. He understood that she valued
things that endured, and that she would much prefer that he express
his love with practical, sensible gifts that would be lasting
reminders of his affection.
Speaking a foreign language still takes practice,
however! I ran into the husband a few weeks ago, and he was sharing
that his wife was feeling very stressed and frustrated at work,
and had a series of big meetings coming up. He wanted to do something
nice for her, and of course, his first instinct was to have two
dozen roses delivered to her office. I gently reminded him that
he and his wife spoke different validation languages by asking,
“Do you enjoy sleeping on the sofa?”
He wanted to make a romantic gesture and show his
love and support. Flowers would definitely not have conveyed that
message to her. I suggested that what she would truly appreciate
would be a gift certificate to Home Depot, but I also recognized
that saying “I love you” with lumber would be too much to ask
of him. We compromised on a gift certificate to a high-end department
store. He could always pretend that he was giving her a nice piece
of jewelry, and she would be thrilled at the chance to buy a new
business suit or some expensive (yet practical) shoes.
Even if your partner appreciates the more traditional
Valentine’s Day gifts, find some way to make those gifts personal
and unique—something that shows that you put thought and consideration
into the gift. Gifts from the heart are always more romantic.
And remember to speak your partner’s Validation
Language! Fire Validation Checklists appreciate the impulsive,
grand gestures—a surprise romantic getaway, for example. Earth
Validation Checklists like things that will endure (jewelry is
always a nice choice—and it doesn’t have to be expensive). Air
Validation Checklists need to hear the words—tell your partner
how you feel about them. And Water Validation Checklists care
about the emotional and spiritual connections—whatever gift of
gesture you make, it must absolutely come from your heart.
BEING YOUR OWN VALENTINE
Let me say it again: Valentine’s Day is the hardest
day of the year to be single.
Being single in our society is no picnic the rest
of the year, of course. Practically from the day we were born,
we were exposed to the constant barrage of marketing designed
to sell us on the idea that the sole purpose of our lives is to
meet our heterosexual, monogamous life partner and get married.
Even if the partner that we want doesn’t fit this
mold—if we’re attracted to a same-sex partner, if we prefer fidelity
to monogamy, or if we have no interest in the institution of marriage—we
still carry the fundamental belief that life is about finding
a romantic partner.
Whether we haven’t found the right partner yet,
or we simply choose to be single, we still have to be aware of
our underlying beliefs and the subtle, subliminal messages we
receive every day. We must learn to embrace the truth that there
is nothing wrong with us—and more importantly, that there is nothing
wrong with being single.
If you’re single, don’t let Valentine’s Day pass
you by. Take some time to be your own Valentine. Do something
nice for yourself. Take a few moments to acknowledge and validate
yourself for the amazing and perfect being that you are.
If you deserve chocolate on Valentine’s Day (and
who doesn’t?) then treat yourself to some (and remember that the
heart-shaped boxes are strictly for amateurs—chocolate that’s
worth breaking a diet for never comes in a big red box).
Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that
while romantic relationships can certainly be wonderful, that
there is nothing wrong with being single.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every
Relationship in Your Life.
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