Counselling, support and information for all relationships 
We discuss this years unique Valentine's Day situation and it's affect on ourselves and our relationships. 
A little bit of History 
 
St Valentine’s Day celebratory nature dates back to the Roman times; originally a fertility festival. The connection to love however, didn’t develop until later with Christianity putting its stamp on the date. This was still a far cry from the modern consumerism of Valentine's Day we are more familiar with today. This year particularly, it seems like there are more television advertisements, programme features and marketing campaigns geared towards Valentine’s Day than ever before. Or perhaps it’s because we’re living more quietly in lockdown that we notice? Business as usual for society has far from returned to normal, with work permitting us to do so from home and time with family and friends still being limited. Our ‘normal’ hectic lives may have made occasions like Valentine’s Day much easier to ignore. But, however much you have observed the signs that the 14th of February is approaching, it is anything but compulsory for us to get involved in. Many of us feel forced to buy gifts and a sense of obligation to spend our money on material things. We all know of course, there is more to expressions of love than red roses, cheesy cards and chocolates. 
 
The sentiment of Valentine's Day can be encapsulated in the, often physical and materialistic showing of love for another, letting another person know that they are in your thoughts. Love for another however, demands for someone to be attentive, to listen to another, care for them and look to fulfil their needs unconditionally. These are the deep and meaningful actions which are far louder than any poetic words in a card or expensive gifts. One could argue too that, love and showing love for another involves a greater level of commitment than just one day in February! 
 
Affects of Social Media 
 
Recently, we have found ourselves with more time on our hands. You may have been furloughed from work or self-isolating because you are vulnerable. Less social time has led some of us to spending more time online, in particular on social media. Although a fantastic way to stay connected to loved ones, it’s not without its negative impact. Accounts we follow are already sharing how invested they are in Valentine's Day and all its glory. And it's common for this to lead to classic cases of comparing one's own situation and experiences to another's. Your ex-colleague posts for the tenth time on her Instagram stories of the lavish gifts her husband has bought her in a case of ‘boy done good’. It’s easy to fall into feelings of jealousy and even sadness. It’s important to remember, things aren’t always as they seem on social media – a platform designed to showcase the very best ‘version’ of the self in a more superficial and visual sense. Of course, there also may well be genuine heartfelt messages of love too – caution is not to encourage a state of trustless pessimism but to know that people and their lives are complex. It’s very unlikely that everything in one person’s life is amazing right now; as we all have our own issues - especially now more than ever considering the wider situation. 
 
It's completely normal to feel the pressure 
 
If we admit it, Valentine’s Day can be a sensitive and sometimes even awkward time of year. It could be hard perhaps, for those of us who are single or recently experienced a break up. And even worse for those who have lost a loved one. A celebration of all things romantic love, modern Valentine’s Day screams sweet nothings as oppose to whispering them. It’s enough for even the most secure of singletons to question their life situation. It’s crucial to know that you are not alone, we and others hear you. Feeling isolated in your emotions is completely normal, but it's highly likely whatever your situation or feelings, someone out there is feeling the same way. It can be helpful to seek out those in similar states; creating support bubbles of people and content. You could be surprised at the number of like-minded individuals and materials there are to be interact with – open yourself up to it! We’re here for you too at Relate, with our counsellors specially trained and highly experienced in all guises of turmoil and worry. Making that first step can really feel like a weight has been lifted. 
 
Valentine's Day in Coronavirus times 
 
We couldn’t continue to discuss a Valentine's Day 2021 without further delving into the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on us as a society, how we function and of course our relationships. Covid-19 restrictions have transformed how we connect with others and the way we communicate has changed. For single people, the dating game has been far from easy over the last year. Physically meeting up with someone has had its obvious difficulties, leading many of us to have ‘given up’ on searching for that special someone or putting our romantic encounters ‘on hold’ until the end of the pandemic. It's vital to acknowledge the layer of complexity Coronavirus is adding to a potentially already difficult time of year. 
 
For couples, Coronavirus has created a spectrum of relationship experiences and situations. With Valentines' blues becoming are a very real feeling for those of us with significant others too. Couples may not physically be together because of restrictions; especially if they didn’t live with one another before the introduction of lockdowns. And even some of our established relationships have gone virtual and reliant on digital technology; admittedly not the most romantic way to connect! 
 
Those of us in couples who are co-habiting also have the potential to feel the pressure of Valentine's Day. The media demanding us to mark the date by doing something special at home. An obligation that as we’re lucky enough to be in a home together, we should celebrate Valentine’s Day. We’re thinking however of how lockdown may have created its own problems for these couples, people living unhappy day to day lives and those usually romantic relationships becoming strained. 
 
Relationships of all types matter - especially the one with yourself! 
 
Here at Relate, we’re all about relationships – of any type! We feel Valentine’s Day this year could be the ideal time to think about the importance and presence of love in your life – whatever the variety or definition. If appropriate we could embrace fun takes on Valentine’s celebrations like the modern ‘Galentines’ sentiment where you appreciate your close girlfriends for example. Consider who you love and who loves you presently in a more broad than just romantic sense. Simply knowing we’re capable of love can be really empowering. Taking time to reflect on all the memories we have around love and imagining all the ones we’re yet to experience. 
 
Imperatively, we’re also big believers in first recognizing the most important relationship in your life – the one with yourself. Practicing some self-love this Valentine’s Day like taking a bubble bath, binge watching your favorite box set or even treating yourself to a romantic gift! A bit self-care goes a long way for our overall wellbeing. We’re encouraging the re-framing of you-time as solitude not loneliness, there is a difference! Should we look to others to make us feel loveable? Or should we look within ourselves for that? After all, you can’t love others until you first learn to love yourself. 
 
You don't need to give Valentine's the time of Day! 
 
Finally, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not acknowledging Valentine’s Day and its celebrations at all. There really is no need to even nod to the symbolism of the day. Some of us aren’t phased at all by it, but if you are - recognize this pressure before it spirals into grumpy mumbles about consumerism and self-loathing feelings. Be kind and gentle to yourself. You do you. And you, certainly don’t need to give Valentine’s the time of day! 
 
If you’re finding things hard at the moment, whether because of Valentine’s Day, Coronavirus or any other situation, you are not alone. Relate are here to help. Call one of our friendly and experienced team on 01159 584278 or drop us an email on info@relate-nottingham.org.uk 
 
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