When I was a little girl I was so desperate for love. I wanted to love someone, I wanted to be loved. Romance was an intoxicating lure to me and never more so than on Valentines Day.
I was in love with my best friend’s big brother. I was in love with the boy next door. I was in love with my mum’s friend’s son. I was in love with the sweet natured boy in my class. The idea of giving and receiving Valentines Day cards thrilled me and every year I’d carefully write a card with an ornate “?” at the bottom. And every year I’d eagerly wait for the post man to see if anything arrived for me.
It never did.
Every year as a child I desperately hoped for the love of my life, whichever it may be, to make the declaration of love I so longed for but it never came through. So I pined.
As a young woman I had boyfriends over Valentine’s Day. I’d get gifts and cards but it never felt like I imagined it would when I was little. One Valentines Day was during the breakdown of a major relationship and it felt like a sham, we sat on opposite ends of the sofa to watch Lost then went to bed and didn’t have sex. Another was right before a boyfriend broke up with me when I wasn’t expecting it, but he still had sex with me, leaving me feeling used and dirty when he ended it the next day.
Valentine’s Day finally started to feel real during my marriage. Despite the fact it was actually not the best relationship ever, my unbounding enthusiasm for Valentines Day pulled the day up. We would have romantic dinners and he’d buy me jewellery. I felt special and loved and enjoyed finally having a partner. Finally getting what I’d dreamed of all those years ago. Of course, it was something of an illusion. Whilst the flowers and things were real, and the marriage was legal, it was done for show. It was done to give me what I wanted rather than because it was how he felt. He didn’t love me, at least not in the romantic way the Valentines professions would have you believe.
After our marriage ended on February 1st I spent a Valentines Day alone again. It was bizarre. I felt incredibly alone. The pain of Valentines Day that I hadn’t felt for so many years, the way it just reminded me of my failed marriage, my solitude, it sucked. Valentines Day showed me people everywhere posting love all over social media, booking romantic dates, sharing photos of their expensive gifts from swanky stores. And I was alone in my room watching Lost Girl on my iPad and eating a pizza. I cried.
Now Valentine’s Day isn’t about expensive jewellery or public professions of love. It’s not about bragging rights and showing off how my boyfriend is the best boyfriend. It’s not about him keeping up appearances or using me for his own satisfaction. Now it’s about us having a lovely excuse to be soppy, to celebrate our relationship, to buy each other something sweet. It’s a day to celebrate us.
People, Valentine Sceptics, say you should celebrate your relationship every day. You should treat each other regularly and make time for romance in your routine. Valentine’s Day is pointless.
But I emphatically disagree.
Yes we should celebrate our love daily, it is worth celebrating, but life gets busy. Life gets tiring. When you’re working and raising children so many days are just about survival. You exist together, lean on one another, love and support one another, but actually celebrate? Personally I’m so tired at the end of the day that all I can muster is cuddling up to him whilst we watch Gilmore Girls. Celebrating takes time and effort, and it’s well worth making, but how often do you actually do it? Having a day where you both take time to really wonder at the beauty of your relationship is special. It reminds you what you have and makes you prioritise that celebration in a way you otherwise won’t.
It’s lovely to treat each other regularly. Indeed we’ll buy each other little gifts throughout the year. He’s often buying me chocolate just because I love it. I’ll buy him little gifts when I go shopping because I’m thinking of him. We also buy each other gifts for birthdays and Christmas. We celebrate our anniversary with romance and love. Valentine’s Day doesn’t stop us treating each other throughout, it just gives us another reason to do it. Because it’s a lovely thing to do. This morning the children helped us peel open our gifts and we both had so much pleasure looking at the sweet mementos the other had bought.
And making time for romance? Yes. We should. We absolutely should. And we do when the chance arises. But we also have to make time for work, for rest, for sleep. For life. When so many things press on our time, romance seems to slide down the list of priorities. Having a day that puts romance in the limelight gives you something you don’t necessarily miss in the day to day existence, but something that can give your relationship a little zing of excitement when it happens.
Valentine’s Day isn’t essential. It doesn’t matter. If you’re single and sad, ignore it. If you’re in a crappy relationship, it might suck. But if you’re in a happy and loving relationship then I say embrace it. Welcome it into your heart because a cheesy card, a love heart mug, extra snogs and a posh dinner are things a relationship can benefit from, even if it’s just for the fun of it.
We so rarely centre ourselves in our lives. Work and kids take up so much energy that one another can slip back, and we matter. We’re important. An excuse to remember that is absolutely okay by me.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!