Ah Valentines Day! Overpriced flowers, restaurant tables and an abundance of red tackiness; Meg Barker in her video talks about how Valentines Day doesn’t speak to anyone who isn’t in a monogamous heterosexual relationship with just one other person. But I wonder if those of us who in are in that category feel similarly alienated by this annual display of romance?
From Romeo and Juliet (star crossed lovers), via Pride and Prejudice (love will out) to the Twilight Saga (immortal love ) we are sold the expectation of happy ever after. Romantic love is idealised as the panacea for life and this time of year reminds those of us in relationships just how fantastic it is supposed to be. However, I suspect there are more than a few people looking round this morning and wondering why they just don’t feel that way about their own relationship.
Weeeell…because romantic love is quite hard to sustain in the long term isn’t it?
Every relationship is unique; the individuals within it each bring their past experiences, their beliefs and their expectations (quite a heady mix) and together something new is created. Expectations give us ideas of what life will be like with a long term partner, how they will be, what they will do, what they will expect of us, that’s quite a lot to work out and if our expectations are set in stone, it is unreasonable to expect our partner 1) to know what they are, and 2) to fulfil them. And while we’re at it what do we know about their own expectations?
People joke about being with their opposite sex parent, but it is often true in the sense that we chose a partner who reminds of our earliest relationship, because consciously or unconsciously, it feels familiar and therefore safe. We forget however that they are likely also to remind us of the things we found difficult in that parental relationship, and the reasons why in adolescence, we were keen to leave home! Sometimes we go the other way and consciously chose a partner who is very different to our previous experiences; which means taking a leap into the relational unknown.
I often think it’s a cruel irony that Valentines Day, extolling us all to romantic love, comes so soon after Christmas, with it’s emphasis on the perfect family. If feels like we are under constant pressure to ensure all our closest relationships are picture perfect, when actually they just need to give us, what we need.
We used to sing a song at school;(it may have been a hymn), about fishing boats coming safely home from the storm. My infant school self really got the idea that when seas are rough you head for harbour. Thinking about Valentines Day reminded me of it because when life is rough, we want our partner to be that safe harbour, someone to snuggle up with and feel protected by. So there you go, that’s my definition of the perfect romantic love, basically it’s less to do with red roses and chocolates, and more like a small fishing industry.
Happy Valentines Day!