Valentine’s Day can be an extremely difficult day for many people. For survivors of domestic abuse, it can trigger trauma responses relating to past abusive relationships. For those who are currently single it can heighten feelings of loneliness, insecurity, and sadness.
This year Valentine’s Day may also be difficult for those who are in relationships, with many people finding themselves separated from partners due to lockdown restrictions. Not being able to be close to your loved one on a day all about love may also leave people feeling lonely and upset. If you find yourself feeling like this, please remember that you and your partner have supported each other every day through a horrible and turbulent year. That is the ultimate act of love.
One way that we can make ourselves feel better about Valentine’s Day fast approaching is by reminding ourselves that February 14th is just another day. If you’re in a relationship, it’s no more important to show your love on Valentine’s Day than it is on any other day of the year. If you’re not in a relationship, it’s important to remember that we shouldn’t tie our sense of self-worth to whether or not we have a partner, and we especially shouldn’t tie our sense of self-worth to whether or not we have a partner on one specific day of February.
However, I know this is easier said than done. When we’re bombarded with pictures of extravagant gifts and grand gestures on our social media, films detailing ‘perfect’ love stories on our screens, and even big giant displays of red hearts when we’re out doing our essential food shop, it can be hard to get away from the Valentine’s Day narrative. But one way we can take control of the day is by taking ownership of this narrative and using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate all the different types of love in our lives.
Healthy relationships are an important source of comfort, love, and security for many of us, but these don’t just include our romantic relationships. We must also celebrate our relationships with our families, our friends and, perhaps most importantly, ourselves. Here are three types of love and the ways we can celebrate them this Valentine’s Day.
Celebrating familial love:
Familial love refers to the love that we have for our families, whether that be our love for our parents, our siblings, our grandparents, our children etc. For those of us who are fortunate to have a healthy relationship with our families, our familial relationships are a really important source of unconditional love and care. The Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have seen many of us separated from some of our family members for an extended period of time. Not being able to see elderly relatives, parents or siblings has reminded us of the importance of family and the joys of being able to spend time with one another.
One way that we could celebrate our family relationships this year is by setting up a family Zoom call or planning to do a virtual activity together — you could cook a meal together over FaceTime and all sit on camera whilst you eat, you could do a virtual quiz or, if you live close enough to family members, you could go for a socially distanced walk together. You could even just set aside a moment in the day to give them a call and remind them how much you love them and how excited you are to be reunited.
Others are currently spending lockdown at home with their families. Although spending such an extended amount of time together can be intense, it can also be a really important source of comfort and company. If you’re currently in this situation, you could celebrate by having a family evening. You could order a takeaway, watch a family favourite film together, reminisce with old home movies and photos, or you could play a board game together.
Celebrating platonic love:
Some people may have difficult relationships with their families and find their sense of family comes from their friendships, or their platonic loved ones. Platonic love is the emotional and spiritual bond that we have with our friends. Unless you live together, many of us have only been able to see our friends in a limited capacity this year. Our friends are the family that we choose and are a really important source of light, fun and support in our lives.
We could celebrate platonic love this year by celebrating our friends as we would a romantic partner. You could send your friends a card each with a message about how much their friendship means to you. You could order flowers or a small gift to arrive at their house. You could have a virtual movie night or catch up over Zoom. Or you could make cocktails together virtually and pretend that you’re out for drinks. Whatever you choose to do, it will just be nice to spend time together and acknowledge the constancy and importance of their presence in your life.
Perhaps the most important love we should consider celebrating this Valentine’s Day (and every Valentine’s Day going forward) is self-love. Self-love is the love that we have for ourselves. The relationship that you have with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. Being in a healthy romantic relationship is lovely and can enhance an already happy life, but it’s so important that we learn to love, appreciate and care for ourselves on our own. In a healthy relationship your partner will understand and advocate for this too. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, it’s important to remember that you have all the tools within you to create and enjoy a bright, happy, fulfilled life. Whilst we’ve all received support from others this year and our external relationships have been a vital source of support and connection, ultimately, we have each carried ourselves through an extremely challenging year and shown up for ourselves everyday — that is an act of self-love that deserves to be celebrated.
There are lots of ways we can celebrate self-love this year. You could cook your favourite meal, order your favourite take-away or watch your favourite film or TV show. You could take yourself for a walk and grab a takeaway coffee and cake. You could also carve out some time to practice some self-care. You could have a relaxing bath with candles, you could do a facemask or give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Or you could do all of these things!
Whatever you do, just take time to do something that you enjoy and to appreciate and care for yourself. Valentine’s Day can be difficult for lots of us, and an important act of self-love is to extend some compassion to ourselves. Be gentle with yourself, treat yourself with kindness and allow yourself to get through the day however you need to.
Bethan Gilson (CWA Volunteer)