What’s Tough About February 14? Besides the possibility of being caught in a winter blizzard, February 14 is the one day a year when the cultural spotlight aims its beams of light on the heart of the relationship. How soft, flattering or harsh the light feels, depends on the health of that heart, year to year. We recognize the merchandising manipulations playing on our vulnerabilities. Yet, most at one time or another fall victim to the chocolate hearts, the twinkling diamonds, the candlelit clink of wine glasses or the lingerie naughty naughties that just might add a spark to a dimming flame of passion. Perhaps one of the partners is filled with the dreams of romance (and romance is wonderful despite its bow to material mania) and eager for the reassurance of being loved that they convey; the other partner may be lacking a natural instinct for the sentiment of the day, perhaps embarrassed by emotional displays or uncertain how to meet expectations. The defense of cynicism or ultra-sophisticated anti-materialistic superiority one partner embraces may not compute with the heart across the room who cannot be laughed out of their dreams.
Holes in The Heart: I am not a Valentine Scrooge. Quite the contrary. Yet I know it can be a difficult time for many who are alone, and for others whose relationship heart is full of holes. This is a tempting time to out the problems that bedevil the Coupledom. But how that is done determines its success or failure. There are the passive-aggressive methods of forgetting the day; not making the restaurant reservation; sending funny cards because anything else feels false and that little dig nestled in the text at least hints at the truth; or the aggressive modality: the pre-emptive strike where Valentine ghosts of the past are brought up angrily: “I am not setting myself up for another crushing disappointment. Instead I’ll provoke a fight so I won’t feel like a fool, ridiculous in my hopes, humiliated by my dreams.” Someone else steels themselves for attack by selecting an aggressive appearance of invulnerability, “You don’t like anything I do so I am doing nothing.” Pow! Or the loud silence of the sexually hollow Coupledom who shares a bed with a broken heart down the center. Should we try to cross it tonight? Does he/she expect me to?” The loudest silence of all, unspoken fear, the sadness of unspoken loss. This is tough stuff yet opportunity knocks.
The How-To of The Heart-to-Heart: The day is all about the heart, isn’t it? So why not have a “heart-to-heart” talk, that is “speaking from the heart,” its holes and woes and wishes? I am sure that everyone is grimacing now or rolling their eyes. No, I don’t think this is easy to do. I think this very hard. Nor do I think it has to occur on the day, but since there is a season of the heart, merchandised at the malls but also coming home in book bags everywhere filled with little bits of white doilies on red paper and teeny cards with cartoon characters and action figures, tis the season for love and all its foibles. If you are examining the holes in your relationship heart, rather than pout or test, avoid or provoke, talk, together. Not by introducing a challenge but an observation; you know we aren’t so good anymore at showing affection or caring. It is Valentines season. My heart hurts and I bet yours does too. Let’s leave the finger pointing for Halloween and spend this seasonal ritual on speaking our truths, as each of us experiences them. Keep the finger in the pocket and instead put feelings into words, ears to listening and learn about each other, from the inside heart out.
Here are links to previous Valentine Day posts:
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2013