I remember, back in the day, when Martha Stewart was really reaching the peak of popularity. I started hearing people saying, “Damn that Martha Stewart, now we are expected to –fill in the domestic artistry of your choice-“. I was confused by this, since I was pretty happy that Ms Stewart had opened the options up and I liked being invited to be creative. But that is the key, right? How quickly we can turn an invitation into an expectation. And, in so doing, ruin most of the fun and make something into a burden.
So speaking of ruining our fun, how was your Valentine’s Day? Did you somehow find yourself turning what could be a perfectly fine night for a date into something fraught with emotional baggage? If you did, you are not alone. Romance struck down again by the great expectations of needing to live up to every possibility presented out there in the world. And I think it is getting worse for us, now not only do we compare ourselves to magazine articles and romantic movies and Hallmark cards, but now we get to compare ourselves to “normal people”, our friends and family on social media everyday. And the expectations grow.
And we can get to the point where we are not enjoying because we are wondering how this experience we are having holds up to other people’s experiences. We do this with date nights, we do this with sex. Until for some of us, a perfectly satisfying sexual experience becomes turned into something like this, “Oh that was nice...But was it exciting enough? Are we too boring, should we be having more oral sex? I never wear lingerie, is that bad? I didn’t fantasize about anything, is that OK? That only took 20 minutes, should there be more? What are we doing wrong?”
The benefit of living in a world with readily available information is that – if you want new ideas, they are there for you. There is a vast source of creative, diverse and sometimes helpful options at all times. Your life is yours to shape. The problems come when we forget that it is our life to shape and not a to-do list of how to live the best life/have the best relationship/keep sex hot. The relentless call to self improvement can grab us and pull us away from the life we have now, a life that probably has some pretty sweet moments – even if they don’t warrant a single LIKE. We are never absented from deciding what we want for ourselves so enjoy what is fun/romantic/sexually satisfying/inspiring/etc for you. Enjoy it fully and don’t turn the all the invitations out there into expectations.
So here is a Valentine’s Day Re-Do Challenge for you – Consider that no one else will ever know what you chose to do together. Take a day that is yours alone, a secret day with no witnesses or input from others, and decide how you want to spend it. What makes you feel close to each other? What is fun for you? Then enjoy it deeply with no distractions.
This year for Valentine’s Day – whether you are currently coupled or not – take time to think about what you have learned about love and how you learned it. Use your journaling time to remember your exes. Yes, love lost is a part of the bigger picture of romance and has a lot to do with the love you have to offer now.
Your Valentine’s challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to write a letter to each of your significant exes – not to send, just to write for yourself. How you define a significant relationship is up to you. It could be the person you were married to for 8 years or the unrequited crush you had all through 8th grade. Who do you think has shaped your story of love? – the first people who come to mind are the ones you should write to.
Structure the letter around these 3 prompts:
Thanks you so much for the role you played in my life. Because of you I learned …
I wish that at the time I had been better at….and I am sorry that…
The things I loved about who I was when I was around you were…
Write as sincerely as you can. Remember you are not going to share this with the person, so no power struggles. This is for you, so that you can be the person you want to be in relationship, so that you can recapture some of your early romantic inspiration, so that you can be open to love that is available for you now. Love takes more than cards, jewelry and flowers; It takes awareness and personal growth. It is worth the effort. Happy Valentine’s Day.