What Valentine's Day should really look like...
A great many people love February 14 but there are those that hate it and there are even those that think of it as only a day where all retail establishments take advantage of us. Stuart's wife gets mad at him when he buys her flowers on Valentine's Day saying it's a waste of money.
After all, they were half the price on February 13. Valentine's Day can also cause people to be really sad and lonely especially if they don't have a special someone in their life. Few holidays can bring up such complex emotions as Valentine’s Day.
The History Behind Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is named for Saint Valentine. The Roman Emperor Claudius II wiped out all marriages in Rome because he was having major difficulty getting men to join the military. Claudius didn't believe married men would make good soldiers because they would worry about being killed and leaving their wives and children behind.
In response to the love lorn, a priest named Father Valentine wedded couples secretly until he was discovered, was beaten to death and had his head cut off on February 14, 270 A.D. Not a good sign if you believe that celebrating love makes your life better.
One legend infers that before he died he left a note for his jailor's daughter which said "Love from your Valentine," the first Valentine's card. It was Pope Gelasius who, in 496 A.D., decide to celebrate Valentine's Day each year on February 14 in honor of St. Valentine. The holiday was not regularly celebrated until the Middle Ages and sending Valentine's cards became a tradition in the 1800s.
Today we celebrate Valentine's Day in many ways and around the world. Most of us celebrate in relation to our partners, but what if we look at Valentine's days differently? Maybe Valentine's Day is about celebrating the joy that comes from connecting with the people in our lives who make life special and make the world a better place.
Perhaps there are people you see everyday that make your life easier. People who share kindness, consideration, and their own form of love. We often wait to thank these people, thinking that we'll always have time later but most of us have experienced enough loss to know that time is limited.
What if, in addition to sharing our love with our partners, we used Valentine's Day to share our appreciation with all of the people who make our lives special and meaningful. There are many people in our lives that have made our lives easier particularly when we go through difficult times.
Kanya's father passed away one year ago. One of the positive things that she recalls about that dark time was the kindness of the individuals who helped to care for him. From a physicians assistant who shared her personal cell number in case there were issues over the weekend to the gentle honesty of the physician who told her family that their options had run out.
As therapists, we spend our lives teaching people how to connect in relationships. We all need to acknowledge those who demonstrate how powerful connecting with another human being is. We can get caught up in life, sometimes just go through the motions to get through the day, meeting someone who cares and connects is significant.
The kindnesses can be small as well. It's been a very snowy winter where Kanya lives in Pennsylvania. There are some young men who live in her building who have consistently cleared off her car during the frequent storms, which makes her mornings a lot more graceful when rushing to the office.
Another example of connecting that brings a smile to Stuart is the memory of helping a neighbor who was in need. A retired minister and his wife who had alzheimer's had moved in next door to Stuart and his family.
The man was frail and couldn't get around well and when December rolled around and it was time for Christmas lights to go up, Stuart and his family, who are of the Jewish faith, stepped in to help. It was the first time Stuart and his family had ever participated in the Christmas light adventures. The joy that was felt by all, now 20 years later, is still a special memory. One of the secrets to life is that as you give more to others you receive more in return.
Instead of waiting for the big sweeping gestures to feel loved by your partner, try focusing on the little things you do for each other every day; laundry, grocery shopping, going to work everyday without complaining, and making dinner.
When we bring appreciation into our relationships on a regular basis, we don't need to wait for Valentine's Day to let people know that they mean a lot. It is a realization that we all do what we can to make each others live's special. The reality is, relationships of all kinds are built by small gestures every day.
When a couple we're working with reports that they have fallen out of love, they all share that the shift was gradual and occurred when they stopped making time for the small gestures. The small gestures are the building blocks that allow couples to weather the storms when they come up.
Taking the time to listen, remembering what is important to your partner, saying hello and goodbye, and remembering to say thank you, these small gestures build a solid foundation.
Perhaps one of the things we all need to do is ask our partners what is meaningful to them, so that we know what it is they need to feel loved. Just initiating that conversation is such a loving gesture. Now that's a Valentine's Day present that counts.
With February 14 fast approaching, take some time this week to share your gratitude with others who touch your life on a regular basis whether it is your beloved, parents, children, the family pet, or the barista who makes your latte every morning. Finally, don't forget to share some of that good feeling with yourself!
Kanya Daley, MFT and Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW are experts at YourTango. They love to help our readers learn more about creating satisfying relationships. They look at the questions you post on the YourTango question board and provide answers and insight giving both a male and female perspective. If you have a burning question, post it on the board and look back to see if you've gotten an answer.
Kanya is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a Private Practice in Paoli, Pennsylvania. She specializes helping couples deepen their levels of intimacy and closeness throughout the course of their relationships. Kanya also coaches single woman who are ready to create meaningful romantic relationships. She is the author of the book, 4 Secrets to Dating That Will Change Your Life. To find out more about Kanya and her practice.
Stuart is a Marriage and Family counselor with a private practice in Scottsdale Arizona. Stuarts practice is exclusive to individuals, couples and families who are having relationship difficulties. Stuart has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy helping families who are having difficulty feeling close and connected to one another. He assists families in finding ways to deepen their relationship by understanding what each persons needs in the relationship. He helps families develop a pathway to establishing a closeness where everyone feels important and special. For more information on his practice go to www.thecouplesexpertscottsdale.com
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