Valentine’s Day When it Hurts

A friend of mine filed paperwork in court last week asking for a domestic violence protective order against her husband.
I know another person in an unhappy marriage but feels obliged to stick it out.
Another whose husband has dementia and only sometimes knows her.
Another whose wife just confessed to having an affair. 

These are just some of the disenfranchised who get assaulted with the heart balloons, flower bouquets, chocolate boxes, and pink, oversized teddy bears when they just came to the grocery store for toilet paper and a jar of mayonnaise. There’s no getting away from Valentine’s Day in modern American culture.

There’s been a pushback for some time now for those who are not in happy, committed relationships with events, memes, and support for singles. “Pamper yourself!” “Netflix and chill… alone!” And on. We are growing more open to the idea that people can live happy, contented lives while not necessarily needing to swipe right for companionship. I think this is healthy. While human beings are built for connection and wired for intimacy, learning to enjoy keeping company with one’s own self is an important part of mental health. But for now, I want to set the group of singles to the side—near the happy couples— when discussing Valentine’s Day.

This leaves us with one other demographic that tends to get forgotten in all the Cupid confetti: those who are in relationships that are painful, estranged, or lacking in emotional connection. One year, I spent the February 14th in the hospital for a minor surgery with an angry husband when we were barely on speaking terms. Romance here was not possible. And not wanted. 

The holiday varies in importance to everyone— and indeed it can be a dreaded time of the year for many folks regardless of their relationship status. Some couples have an understanding that they don’t need the pressure of a calendar day to “prove” their love to each other, so they ignore it altogether. Others have annual getaways, gifts, or rituals that they look forward to each year. Some, turn it into a family event or religious observance and exchange sweet mementos with their children. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate February 14th and its meaning sees the full spectrum of significance in our country.

But there are those who perhaps wish it meant something more than it did or who feel the sting of seeing happy couples when their own relationship is so fraught with drama. There’s Lovers. There’s Singles— and then there’s the Dysfunctionally Coupled. How do you celebrate a day dedicated to love when there’s nothing currently warm or fuzzy in your own relationship? Well, I’d be remiss to not suggest the gift of couple’s therapy, relationship workshops, or enrichment retreats for Valentine’s Day! After all, what says “You matter to me” more than wanting to invest in improving your relationship?!

But maybe things have deteriorated beyond that.  And for those… here is my message to you:

You deserve to be loved.

You deserved to FEEL loved.

This may not be your reality and the pain of this may be a long-lasting one. 

Importantly— it will pass. 

Either your circumstances will change…

Or your self will change. 

And you will learn to transform your pain into something beautiful and noble.

It may take time.

You will certainly stumble on your journey to yourself.

That’s ok…

Be patient with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Just put one foot in front of the other.

Do the next, right thing.

Slowly, slowly… you will arrive and you will marvel at the exquisite, unrepeatable being that you are.

*    *    *

Love is what remains when nothing remains. We all carry within us this memory when, beyond our failures, our separations, the words we survived, there arises from the depths of the night, like a song that is barely audible, the assurance that beyond the disasters in our lives, even beyond joy, suffering, birth, death, there exists a space where nothing threatens, that nothing has ever threatened and that runs no risk of destruction, an intact space, that of the love that was the foundation of our being.
–Christiane Singer