Love After Valentine’s Day

By Dina Oketch

Was Valentine’s Day your definition of love?

We’re now commencing the new month of March and the echoes of Valentine’s Day with its commercial facades have long since faded. The question now is whether all that hype made any difference to your romantic relationship by providing the underlying expectation of most people: a renewed vigor of love in their relationships. Are you one of the ‘lucky’ people who sung hallelujahs on Valentine’s Day and thanked the love gods for bestowing upon you ecstatic bliss that you’ve managed to maintain since then? If Valentine’s Day changed your love life for the better then please leave a comment and let us know how! Otherwise, general consensus suggests that the hype of Valentine’s Day was mostly an inconvenience and romance has neither increased nor decreased for the majority. For the minority however, those who’ve found new love or are pursuing potential prospects, there will be some level of excitement, insecurity, and the stereotypical angst of unreciprocated affection– therefore it’s not all joy and pink love hearts here either. The basis of true love and lasting romance goes much deeper than chocolates, flowers, and gifts of your choice on Valentine’s Day.

True lasting love is based upon growing relationships underpinned by life experiences that bind couples, that help relationships grow beyond simply gazing into each other’s eyes, and into embracing the realities of differing personality traits in the context of life together. Achieving respect, compassion, and companionship amidst conflict within relationships webs a connectedness that I would have to call love. This, for me, is the definition of true love.

Divorce rates rise as Valentine’s Day extravaganza increase

In the month of February, we were inundated with pink heart shaped things turning up everywhere. If not mistaken, I believe I even saw a picture on Twitter of a pizza topping with heart shaped pepperonis! Heart shaped pepperoni?! It seems year on year the heights to which creative geniuses of the merchandising world go through to deliver unique Valentine’s Day items is on the up – yet are we better lovers as a result? Apparently not, as shown in data from the Office on divorce in England and Wales in 2012. The report stated that divorce rates are increasing, a record 0.5% rise from 2011. You might argue that a 0.5% increase isn’t that much of a big deal, but it’s an increase nonetheless. If you’re in your early 40’s and have been married for about ten years, then you sure are at risk of seeing the end of your marriage. Gloomy, unfluffy stuff indeed, yet all newly single divorcees are faced with the prospect of starting new romances, albeit after surviving the perils of their relationships while reverberating Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive sentiments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-relationships, neither am I a hater of all things romance. In fact I think it can be a gloriously beautiful thing.

Packaged love shaped by unrealistic societal ideals

The trouble is that modern western society has packaged the idea of love into a commodity that promotes instantaneous gratification, that is a pursuit of superficial beauty, and that relationships are dispensable and replaceable – coining common phrases such as ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea’. Valentine’s Day tends to be a day when people exercise little spurts of romantic gestures, but ones that only feature on the 14th of February and are not shown at other times of the year. Flowers, chocolates, random love letters to a beloved, a surprise phone call to say ‘I love you’, are just a few of those things couples carry out with earnest on Valentine’s Day but cease to continue in the rest of the year. For successfully solid relationships that transcend the everyday ups and downs of life, couples need to invest in acts of love throughout the duration of their relationship. Considering this, it is completely futile to rely on Valentine’s Day to revive enchantments of lost love. Romance is exciting when love is reciprocated, it’s not a surprise then that in some relationships there’s always one party that is the ‘giver’ and the other the ‘receiver’. Very rarely do you find couples whose expression of love for each other is bang on 50-50. Someone is always giving more than the other – the other party often quite happy to receive may become more demanding over time, thereby creating a imbalanced relationship, anguish, resentment, and even hatred.

When it is heartfelt and sincere, saying ‘I love you’ is a beautiful thing for both the recipient and the declarer. When people say ‘I love you’ just because they think they should do it in the ‘season of love’, what may follow is an awkward phase when both parties will be wondering what the next opportunity to declare love might be. It soon becomes a kind of passive competition, where the person that said ‘I love you’ first may not say it again until the other person has said it. It is ridiculous isn’t it? Yet we all do it. Have you ever been on a double date and watched the other couple lavish each other with attention, kisses, and loving comments while you find yourself judging your partner’s ability to ‘love you right’? The pressure to conform to society’s ideals seems to challenge us on every level – peer pressure and portrayals of romance in movies, music, novels and magazines are the most notable influencers.

Redeeming yourself from compromising ideals and achieving true love all year round

There’s no better way to conclude this article than to draw from a real life example like the one of Joseph and Sally Littlewood whose 75 year old marriage was featured in the Daily Mail online. Joseph and Sally’s advice for successful relationships is as follows: “Argue lots but always remember to get over it… People always have arguments… In 75 years we’re going to have had a lot – but the key is to move on. It’s never worth stewing over. Kids these days move in together not really knowing what they want from each other… If you’re going to move in with someone, or marry them, you have to know you love them. Everyone is getting divorced these days. They have quick marriages and I just think people do not have what they want.”

In other words, caution in choosing the right partner together with allowances for differing personality traits within the relationship, earnest communication with respect, compassion, and enjoying each other’s companionship in spite of all the challenges are key in evaluating and acknowledging the existence of love in your relationship.

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