Valentine’s Day, the day of love, can actually sometimes suck (and not in a good way).
In my world, it seems that everyone is in a serious relationship these days, or getting engaged or married, or having babies. Their Saturday nights are now date nights, Sundays are couple adventure days. A night out ends at 10, occasionally midnight, let alone anything later. Social media is of their romantic getaways, or anniversaries. Time they once had is very much limited. Things have changed.
Don’t get me wrong, knowing how happy my friends are in their relationships is great, I wish them all the happiness in the world. However, being the single friend can get interesting. After all, there are only so many times you can get away with being a third, fifth, or seventh wheel. Then there are the questions, ‘any girls at the moment?’, ‘how’s tinder going?’, ‘when are you going to find someone?’, etc. Sometimes I think they care more about me being single than I do.
Now, I love love, well at least the idea of it. If there’s anything I believe it’s that the world could always use more of it. Not just romantic love (which what today seems to focus on) but love between friends, family, strangers. Love of each other, and of ourselves. We tend to use the word love a lot more, maybe it’s lost some of its meaning, or maybe it’s just easier to express our love, maybe it’s a little of both.
The reality is I would be lying if I said today had always been easy, because it hasn’t been.
In fact, I think for a lot of people they would be able to say that today isn’t always the easiest of days. It took me awhile to realise that my sadness, loneliness, negativity, frustration, and so on, was more a reflection of me rather than anything else. It was the views I had developed about myself that made today harder than it ought to be.
‘I don’t deserve to be happy’
‘What is so wrong with me?’
‘How ugly am I that I still can’t find anyone?’
‘I’m dying alone’
These, as well as many other thoughts have crossed my mind over the years. They tended to increase around birthdays, Christmas, New Years, and finally Valentine’s Day; the times of the year where relationships are in your face, whether you like it or not. It was a stark reminder of how single I was.
For the record I still am very much single, and have been for every birthday, Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day. And guess what? I’m doing pretty well. Why? Because single doesn’t mean alone, or unhappy, or desperate. It doesn’t mean that I’m afraid of commitment, or that I can’t find someone, or that something’s wrong with me, or whatever other beliefs people have about being single. Despite my singleness, I actually really enjoy Valentine's Day.
In saying that, it hasn’t always been this way.
There are two main parts to this, the first was the belief that ‘if I was in a relationship, I would be happy’, or ‘if I could find love, if someone could love me, everything would be okay’. This I felt, I believed, throughout my teenage years. It was the idea of love being all powerful, something that could conquer all. I suppose it’s what I saw on TV and movies; that no matter how bad any situation was, love would lead to a happy ending. Combine this with the underlying, and then eventual crippling episode of depression, I looked to love as a ‘cure’. If I could find love, I could be happy again.
This carried on to the point where I started to exercise, and change my life because I had the belief that if I looked good, someone would find me attractive enough to love me. I wasn’t going to the gym to be healthy; it was to look a certain way so someone would like me. It got to a point that even after losing 35kgs, being fit, healthy and strong, I was still single and started to seriously contemplate plastic surgery.
Fortunately, I was seeing a psychologist after the depression to help me recover, and get back into life. He helped me break bad patterns, as well as generally just support me navigating the world I hadn’t been able to do on my own. Eventually we got onto love, relationships, how I saw myself, self-esteem, confidence, etc. Even though my depression had gone, I was fit and healthy, and positive again, yet I was still seeing the world through the same eyes. The beliefs I’d developed when I was unwell, still carried on.
After working on it, and resolving those beliefs and developing new, healthy ones, my entire world changed. For the first time in years I would look in the mirror and be happy with who I saw looking back at me. The desire for surgery vanished. The motivation for exercising changed, from being for someone else, to being for me. The notion that my life was unfulfilled without a partner went. The belief that I needed someone to be happy, that someone else could make me happy, disappeared.
I must admit I sometimes roll my eyes at how I used to be (I also sometimes roll my eyes at how I am now too), and have to admit that if anyone said to me that they believed finding someone, finding love would be able to ‘fix’ whatever they may be experiencing; I would sit them down and have a very long conversation as to why and how unhealthy, as well as untrue that belief is.
The second part to this is somewhat ironic considering the first. I went from believing love would ‘fix’ everything, to being scared of it. I wasn’t afraid of commitment, or even love it turns out. I was afraid of heartbreak, of being hurt. That if I fell in love and it subsequently ended, would I be okay? My fear was that the pain of heartbreak would send me back into a depression; and so, I avoided it.
Much like with most things in life, you can’t avoid anything or anyone forever. I fell in love, and it was scary. It eventually ended, and that was hard. To be fair, it wasn’t a great relationship, but it certainly wasn’t my worst. The best part of it all, the part I am most grateful for, is that it showed me it was okay to love again. I didn’t need to be scared of heartbreak. It was the final big hurdle, the final test, I needed to go through to realise just how strong I was. That I had worked so hard to get this far and if I can get through what I had, I’m strong enough to get through anything.
Fast forward 6 years, now being 26, having had several loves, heartbreaks, lots of singleness, as well as a lot more experience and perspective, what have I learned?
40 Things I think I know about love...
- Sex and love are two very different things. Although they can work very well together, neither require the other to exist or be true.
- A great thing about falling in love the second time, is realising that there is more than ‘one true love’.
- Time really does heal all wounds, even those of the heart.
- Learning to be content whilst single is one of the greatest ways to self-discovery.
- Being alone, doesn’t mean you’re lonely.
- Love is addictive.
- Love is unconditional, yet relationships need conditions.
- Be careful of falling in love with someone’s potential, rather than who they actually are, or want to be.
- Heartbreak will never be easy. The silver lining about it breaking for a second time? Knowing that it is possible to love this deeply again.
- Trust, respect, mutuality, and communication are all essential.
- Unrequited love sucks, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.
- It really is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
- Just because everyone else plays games, doesn’t mean you have to.
- A partner should complement your life, not complete it.
- Happiness takes work, and comes from within.
- Friends and family can be wrong, but they’re usually right.
- Changing your appearance won’t change who you are.
- Make time to work on accepting and loving yourself.
- Falling in love with your friend doesn’t make you a bad person. However, starting a friendship whilst hoping they will one day fall in love with you, is risky business.
- Your relationship doesn’t define who you are.
- The only person worth changing for is yourself.
- There is a difference between lust and love.
- Always forgive, but never forget. Easier said than done.
- Unwanted nudes are never a good idea. If you’re unsure, ask.
- If you’re going to send nudes, keep your face out of the picture.
- Love isn’t always enough.
- Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay.
- The harder it is, the more there is to learn.
- Always better to be single than with the wrong person, or in an unhealthy relationship.
- Rejection only means your one step closer to finding a connection with the right person.
- Things usually seem scarier than what they actually are.
- Cultivate friendships, as if they’re family.
- Don’t feel pressured. When you’re ready, you’ll be ready. You just do you.
- If it no longer feels right, and working on it doesn’t change anything, maybe it’s time to move on. As one year can turn into two, or two into five, or five into a lifetime.
- Love comes in many shapes, colours, sizes, ages, genders, religions, and orientations.
- No matter what you do, there will always be someone who ends up hurting you, but that doesn’t mean everyone is bad.
- Kindness is a strength. Although people may try to take advantage of that.
- Not ALL guys, and not ALL girls are the same.
- Take responsibility for who you are, as well as your actions.
- Follow your heart, but don’t ignore your head.
I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough for today. I know today can be hard for some of you, if it’s a regular occurrence, there might be some underlying things that can be worked on. If you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one, seek help, or check out my resource page.
For whatever it’s worth, at least there’s a big break before the next round of holidays!
Nonetheless, remember today is about love, love yourself, love your family, love your friends, and (if you have) love your partner.
Love is one of the best aspects of being human. Treasure it, enjoy it.
Happy Valentine’s Day.