Escape the Fantasy of Love and Celebrate Our Best Selves This Valentine’s Day
As Valentine’s Day approaches, the media bombards us with messages about romantic love. Stores offer row upon row of red hearts bearing declarations of love and endless devotion. The “you are my soul-mate, we were made for each other, you complete me, I can’t live without you” kind of love. Any songs come to mind? Movies? Poetry?
Valentine’s Day has become a celebration of the fantasy of love. Our society perpetuates a belief in this fantasy of romantic love. When we are young, we wade into the search for love wide-eyed and open-hearted. We search for our own knight-in-shining-armour or angel-fallen-from-heaven, and settle in for our shared happily-ever-after. Then reality kicks in. The fog clears and we see that our beloved is not the fantasy-lover that we thought. He or she is a blood and bone, complex, flawed and bona-fide human-being. The disillusionment is painful. Yet instead of realizing that the romantic love fantasy is an illusion, we often blame our partners or move on looking for “the one” and that new love rush.
Most of us fall in love when we are young and still developing our adult identities. Many of us feel ill-equipped to be that woman or man that we imagine as loveable and worthy of undying love. Many of us try hard to be that fantasy man or woman and go through the motions of what we imagine that man or woman would do or say. We build a false-self because of our insecurities and because we want to preserve our love relationship; but the very pretense of it all dooms the relationship to unhappiness.
Dr. John Amodeo, author of The Authentic Heart: An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love explains the process of change necessary to have healthy and strong love relationships. He challenges us to abandon the false selves that we wear to protect us, that prevent us from having true intimacy and connection: “True connection requires honesty, vulnerability and trust. When we hide behind who we think we ‘should’ be or are ‘expected’ to be, we prevent people from knowing or loving us.” Amodeo states that there are situations in relationships, such as violence, serial cheating and extreme control, when we need to leave to become healthy again as individuals. In less severe relationship conflicts, however, Amodeo encourages us to focus on our personal healing and growth. “Satisfying relationships don’t just happen,” he explains. “It’s not merely a matter of finding the right person and then living happily ever after as in a fairy tale. Loving partnerships and friendships are created and maintained through a commitment to a certain path of growth. The search for love is simultaneously a search for ourselves…..The more we work on growing, healing and becoming our authentic and best selves, the better chance we have at creating strong, healthy and joyful love relationships.” Amodeo’s book walks us through eight steps toward developing mature and authentic love relationships.
If we are not in a love relationship this Valentine’s Day, we don’t have to allow the media hype to shame or sadden us. We can use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to explore who we are and to work towards being our best selves. We can celebrate the day by being kind to ourselves and by expressing love and gratitude for all of the people who we love: friends, sisters, brothers, parents, children or grandchildren. Perhaps the best gift we can give to our beloved and to ourselves this Valentine’s Day, is our commitment to work at growing and healing so that we can be our authentic best selves individually and in our love relationships.