The New Year has begun. For some, that new year’s resolution is to find Somebody. St Valentine’s Day, February 14, seems to be the kick-off day for couples of all types to express their passion, deepest feelings, and love for each other or at least their Lust. But for others, that set of folks, who are single or almost single, they may decide they need a Somebody and the Hunt is on.
When I was a young child in school, we celebrated Valentine’s Day by making cut-out red hearts using poster board and colored tissue paper for cards. We would share our Valentine cards with our friends in the class room, but we all hoped secretly to be special by getting the most cards from everybody (as if the number of cards determined how loved one was), or by getting special ones from our closest buddies.
Valentine’s Day is a poignant reminder of how far we’ve come today, far removed from that grade school notion of Valentine’s Day. Yet, as a culture at this time of year, we find our heart vulnerable, hoping for that special “other” someone. We want somebody else to recognize us and make us feel whole. Thus for some, the search is on - on the web and in the clubs - for that one special Valentine, that one person that will make their heart race and put a wide smile on their face. But does it ensure love?
I recently found out in idle party conversation that, for online dating companies, this is the most successful time of the year, with growth rates that move upwards to a peak of 60 percent in new clients (January to March of each year). For myself as a Mentor and Life Coach, I find people put themselves through a lot of stress during this time of year, trying to make something happen and / or to get Somebody. I guess it is good that they come to me and want to talk out some of their thinking before going forward. Some folks seem to stumble over performance issues, or being intimidated by feelings of being out of their league, or the need to find somebody in an arousal state to tell them they have sex appeal or that they are worth something. What’s worse is not having a sense of humor about it. There seems to be confusion in people’s mind about the difference between Love vs. Sex. In the back of my mind comes the phase “Sex is really the only interesting thing that some boring people do." And then they want to take the humor out of the equation. Really ???
Did You Know?
Valentine’s day is a pagan festival. February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. You can do your own research or trust me on this one. According to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Of course, Americans tone it down a lot, with just the exchanging of hand-made valentines in the 1700s (not as much fun as the Roman lotto). Then came Esther A. Howland in the 1840s, who introduced and sold the first mass-produced Valentine cards in America. Fast forward to today and, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.
Yeah, I know the V.D. card isn’t doing it for you. So let’s put aside everything you think you know about this Love-in-bloom day and approach it differently. For some, you are all involved with the motions of what you should be doing to find and express Love, and yet didn’t stop to think what does Love and relationship really mean to you. And then the billion-dollar question, “Can I sustain and have love last”?
So what do we know about the scene now? Well people are into hook-ups, and I’d say from my unscientific method of investigation that about half of young adults have had a one-night stand, and about half of those people were lucky enough to turn that one-night stand into some kind of long-term relationship. Now, that is not to say that young singles of today are any more promiscuous than their parents, maybe just a little more open about what and how they do things. I’ve even found more young men and women ages 21-34 proud to tell you that they are virgins and have never had sex.
Single women for generations were expected to be married young or face dire consequences. As late as 1970, college-educated women earned less, on average, than a male with a high school education. A survey poll of the time found that almost two-thirds of college women said they would consider marrying a man they didn’t love if he met their other criteria, most of which revolved around financial security.
Today, by contrast, women are far less likely to put financial security ahead of love, and they express far less anxiety about the prospect of remaining unmarried if they do not find someone they love and trust. In America, today, women are far more cautious about getting themselves into relationships than men are. It is interesting now that women are more likely than men to want to maintain their personal space, their own bank accounts, and their own interests, including regular nights out with girlfriends and vacations on their own. It raises some interesting questions about today’s man and his ability to create support systems for himself beyond spouse and children.
To choose to be single, well that was a dicey option, and much harder to carve out as a satisfying life back in the 1950s and 1960s, even for those who would want such a life. During that same time period, men who were still unmarried in their early 30s were considered questionable and often denied bank loans or promotions. Unlike today, that choice of bachelorhood was not considered an option.
Fashion, culture, mores: all change; even our words change meaning. "I love you" once implied a serious sexual commitment. It is in wider use today meaning “I care about you,” - “I want or am happy with you in my life” or as an acknowledgement of various relationship with the individuals in your life. In fact, LOVE can have many meanings and be expressed in many ways, to many people. The most important, however, is how it will be expressed and sustained by you in your life. There are various studies that show love can and does last, and it’s not just for a rare and privileged few. Yet it usually takes a change of perspective and some conscious effort to maintain a loving state, especially beyond the euphoria of Lust and Fixation. But it is possible to cut through the confusion, both for you and for the people who are earnestly attempting to connect with you.
Let’s start with the word Love. We have long been told that we must love our selves before we could truly love someone else. Therein is the key. To turn the key, we must narrow the aperture of the word Love, for Love can mean all sorts of things. But by using one of its older forms - Agape - we have a far more potent form of the word Love. The secret knowledge regarding lasting love lies within that word Agape, in achieving the elusive and alluring ideal of Love. Those reporting greatest romantic love and closeness with their partners have somehow stumbled onto using Agape in their life, resulting in the reward of a more revved-up relationship.
To summarize . . .
Sometimes, when people are hurting and feeling rejected it’s often fueled by anxiety and a desire to feel better about themselves given the box they have put themselves in. This results in them not moving towards something positive; rather, they are trying to get away from something painful. When you’re in this emotional place yourself it’s hard to authentically connect with a new person. As much as you want to connect, you just don’t have the emotional stamina. Your heart is still occupied. You must come to a new truth of yourself to be able to declutter and dislodge those feelings of not being worthy. Those feelings of needing the presence of Sombody else for you to be loved. Once you start your examination, you will find you have all sorts of options to have love and be loved.
As you allow yourself to be aware, flexible, and able to express your authentic desire according to circumstance, you gain freedom, insight, and can acknowledge Love in your Life. You see Agape (love’s) multifaceted capability within you for great feats of compassion, empathy, and passion. You are not bound by the expectations of past customs, or cultures, or by what you have been through: you have the ability to change all that within you. You are wired for change. That wiring consists of being conscious, being aware and moving towards the freedom to be yourself - to be love and the desire to share however and with whomever you choose. It all depends on you: your feelings and your truth. Take some time to do the work of releasing your attachments. Then know you are Love, Eros, Agape expressing, rather than having that Somebody stand in for you. Share yourself as Love.