Hollywood has led us up the path. Try loving your lover like this.
Ah Valentines Day. You’re everything I love and hate about human nature.
On one hand you are a celebration of love – a recognition that love is the most powerful force in the universe, the most invigorating drive in the human body.
“The kelson of creation is love” – Walt Whitman
(A ‘kelson’ is the central strut in the hull of a wooden boat).
On the other hand you show us that nothing is so sacred that it can’t be wrapped in plastic and sold at Coles for $4.99… not if there’s money to be made.
What can you do? You’ve got to laugh. But don’t let it put you off. It’s easy to get a bit Grinchy when it comes to Valentines Day. There’s so much superficial crap to wade through.
But behind every little bear holding a sign that says “I wuv you”, is somebody just trying to feed their family and get ahead.
And if we let it distract us from the real beauty – the real message – then that’s our loss. We’ve no one to blame but ourselves.
And what I think I would encourage you to do today is to really feel into what love means, and the kind of love you aspire to experience.
“Love” is a funny word, because it can just mean so many different things. I can love my hubby, I can love my kids, and I can love pop-tarts, but I’m really talking about some pretty different emotions there.
And I don’t think popular culture does us much a service here. Most of the expressions of love served up by Hollywood and pop songs are pitched at the teenager within us.
That teenager feels love just so intensely, and that intensity is a thrill. But that teenager is also a bit needy. (If he doesn’t take me to the prom I’m going to die!!!)
And they go hand in hand. Because of that neediness – because of that sense that everything is on the line – then the romantic connection becomes intense. It becomes a matter of life and death. And so it gives us a rush like sky-diving or bungee jumping.
But unless you are willing or want to live in that kind of neediness, don’t aspire to that kind of love. It flames out quickly, and who wants to be needy when they can be confident and self-contained and powerful?
And there are other expressions of love, despite what Hollywood would have us believe.
And having seen many couples come through our programs over the years – having seen many of them blossom in to amazing new ways of relating – there’s a two expression I think we could all aspire to.
The first is love as celebration. That’s where you stand in full-support of your partner, cheering them on and celebrating in their successes (or in company with their defeats). I think all parents know this kind of love, but there’s no reason not to love your romantic partner with the same passion.
The second is love as gratitude. This is where you stand, humbly, in deep gratitude for everything your partner brings to your life. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem sums it up best:
“I love you not only for what you are,
but for what I am when I am with you.
I love you not only for what you have made of yourself,
but for what you are making of me.
I love you for the part of me that you bring out.”
So maybe this Valentine’s day, try showing your partner this kind of love. Celebrate them, and let them feel your gratitude.
This is a love that can last a life time.
… But of course Valentine’s days is for saucy times as well. For that, I’ll leave it to the South American poet Pablo Neruda – the great latin lover:
“Our love is like a well in the wilderness
where time watches over the wandering lightning.
Our sleep is a secret tunnel
that leads to the scent of apples carried on the wind.
When I hold you, I hold everything that is –
swans, volcanoes, river rocks, maple trees drinking the fragrance of the moon,
bread that the fire adores.
In your life I see everything that lives.”