Do you have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day? So do a lot of people.
No matter your relationship status—married, in a relationship, single, it’s complicated—the day makes everyone a little more aware of the state of their heart. Some people look forward to it and feel grateful for their love life, while others see it as a reminder of what they do not have but long for—for them it’s a time of disappointment.
So what is the lesson in all of this?
In my experience as a clinical psychologist, regardless of someone’s “status”—married or single, happy or dissatisfied—there are two kinds of people: those who feel in control of what’s happening, and those who don’t.
Those who feel in control of their life—including their love life—look at what is happening, and if it’s not going well, they own that reality and ask, What am I going to do about this? They have to realize either that they are not happy with their prospects of love presently (if single) or the level of love in their current relationship (if in one or married). And they realize, I need to do something about it.
Those who do not feel like they are in control feel the opposite—they feel powerless in this area of their life, and Valentine’s Day only makes them more aware of it. For them it is a miserable “holiday.”
So what to do? Own it. Realize that it is your life, and no one but you is going to take responsibility for the results that you are getting, in a relationship or not. Let’s look at some options that you have.
Before doing anything, honestly assess where you are. Do you like where you are? If you are in a relationship, how is it going? Are you satisfied with where the two of you are? Your level of intimacy, connection and fulfillment?
If so, do a few things. First, be grateful and express that to your partner or spouse.
Second, tell them “why.” Tell them specifically what they do that makes you so happy to be with them. This will help them to know and to do it better and more, and also will make them feel valued.
Third, celebrate each other. Talk about it, but go further than that! Celebrate, whatever that means to you.
Lastly, talk about your relationship and plan to make it even better going forward. What will you do to continue to make it great, and what do you want it to be like going forward? That is ownership.
If not, if you don’t like where you are, own that as well. Even if it is not your “fault,” realize that it is your relationship, or lack of one, and get in control.
If you are single and don’t want to be, then address the issues that are keeping you stuck. Are you being active enough? Or are you sitting back and just waiting for love to find you? What is your strategy going to be to make next year’s Valentine’s Day different?
If you are coming off of an unsatisfying or even hurtful relationship, what did you learn about yourself that you need to change? Even if that person was not a “good one,” remember, you are the one who picked him or her, you were attracted to that type. So own it. Find out where your blind spots were and work on your “people picker” so you do not repeat that same mistake again. Look at the patterns you might have that allowed someone like that to get into your heart and take up residence, and work on them. You do not want another relationship like that one, and you are the one in charge of that.
First, get clear about what you do not like. Name it. Be specific about it. Know what it is, other than “I just don’t feel connected.” Better to say, “I do not like it that when I talk to you about something important, you walk away and do not want to engage. Or you roll your eyes and leave. I want us to be able to talk about things.”
Next, look to yourself and ask, What am I doing to add to the problem? What is it that I do to make it worse? Take responsibility for your side of the equation and apologize.
Third, ask your partner or spouse what they want in the relationship. Are they happy? Do they want to get to another place? Ask them to be specific.
Next, talk about how you are going to get there. Do you think there are specific changes that each of you can make to improve it and get what you want to get? Can you tell each other what you want to be different and promise to do it? If so, great! Go forward and do it.
If you don’t feel hopeful about being able to do it, but you do know what you want, then do the smart thing: Get some help. If you know you want to improve things and both of you are united in that, then get someone who can help you get there. Get a counselor who knows what they are doing and promise together to work on it. Knowing that you are aligned is half the battle—getting help and making that happen is the other half.
So what’s the bottom line?
Valentine’s Day is just another day. But it can serve as a wakeup call to remind you to take ownership of where your love life is and where you want it to be. Use it as a reminder that love is an important part of life, and that if you desire it, but that it is up to you to nurture the relationship that you are in, repair it if it is broken, or do what you need to do to find one if you are still looking.
Get in charge of your love life this Valentine’s Day.
Related: 20 Inspiring Quotes About Love