VALENTINE’S DAY COMMITMENT by Andrew Aaron, LICSW
ozens of red hearts adorn walls in kids’ classrooms; the pharmacies are filled with Valentine’s cards and candies. Valentine’s Day requires action. Soon most people will express their holiday-imposed love for their lovers and important others who fill their lives. In unison, many will do their best to avoid the hurt and relationship complications that forgetting to do their Valentine-duty could cause. Even when the romantic connection has been polluted with resentment, anger, and disappointment, expressing love is still necessary. From the deepest place within our hearts, love can never be insincere; but on the surface, inauthentic love acts as a non-nutritious placeholder for the real thing. How many partners long for the sense of real closeness and intimacy when daily life is enduring a cool standoff? Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder of what is missing. It captures dissatisfied partners in a bind; either make gestures of love to keep the peace while being inauthentic, or do nothing and make the loudest silent statement that the feeling for the partner isn’t what it should be, while also risking hurt and conflict. How many Valentine’s Days have been damaged by the failure to adequately live up to Valentine expectations? Love relationships are difficult, especially lengthy marriages in which the marathon of decades severely tests warmth and passion. The awkward discomfort is raised into awareness on Valentine’s Day when the expected love expressions must coincide with resentment, disappointment, and anger, which block access to real love felt deeper in the heart. The longer two people have been in a relationship, the more time has allowed for irritating behaviors, habits, and personality differences to accumulate into large amounts of resentment and bitterness. Most couples possess a handful of intractable difficulties that could 78 February 2017
be accurately called “perpetual problems.” Through the decades, perpetual problems defy every attempt at solution, usually because their source is from deeply-formed personality characteristics. Relationship connections get tested regularly by the frustration that perpetual problems create. Loving connections devolve into unromantic roommates as passionate feelings are doused with the poison of bitterness. Hopelessness swells as the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” paints a bleak picture of future unhappiness; it’s not the situation in which a Valentine can be shared authentically. Change, and even dramatic change, happens every day. Unfortunately, such a change usually develops in sudden response to an emergency in which normal routine and security are deeply threatened. Amazing results become possible when a person dives deep into his or her being when what is most important is risked. It is said that a problem cannot be solved on the same level on which it was first created, but requires a paradigm shift in which a jump occurs onto a new and higher level. From the perspective of personality and love, a paradigm shift represents an expansion of personality and the expansion of the capacity to love. Each one of us is capable of spontaneously creating such a shift if the quality of our life, relationship, and love are important enough. Each one of us may avoid the need for abrupt and catastrophic change if we use our strength to make many small, incremental adjustments. If partners practice a willingness to make minor changes by adjusting to love a little bit each day, large painful changes are unnecessary. Practicing to give love regularly allows each Valentine’s Day to be an opportunity to express love that is genuine and feels good. H Andrew Aaron, LICSW is a sex and relationship therapist who practices in the New Bedford Seaport.
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