My 2012 Valentine’s post — running again by request….
Valentine’s Day comes sugar-coated with images of flowers and chocolates, romance and love.
Okay, it’s true: I’m a sucker for romance. Falling in love is a moment of such intensity that you simultaneously feel connected with every atom on the planet and yet are oblivious of everything but one other person.
I also know romance can be a terrible trap:
- Too many people buy into the notion that all our emotional and intellectual needs should get met with just this one other person.
- Too many people hold the bizarre (and self-defeating) belief that they are incomplete until they meet their “other half.”
- Too many people are trapped in a soul-destroying and even abusive relationship because it’s a place where they once felt love.
- Too many people are denied public acceptance of their love because the other person happens to be the same sex.
- And too many people who are not in love feel belittled in a culture that celebrates it at every turn.
So how can we liberate romantic love from these traps? Help it live up to its promise of transcendent delight?
When I get asked that (more or less) when I’m speaking at a university or in a community, here’s (more or less) what I say:
1. Whether you’re hooking up with someone for one night or the rest of your life, you got to treat that person with respect. We hear that word all the time, but what does it really mean? It means listening to the other person’s words, their body language, what they say and what they don’t say. It means respect for their sexual desires and preferences. It means absolutely knowing you deserve respect in return.
2. Value independence: Both theirs and yours. Paradoxically, two independent people can form a stronger bond and a healthier relationship than two people who stick to each other like barnacles to a ship.
3. Good relationships can take hard work: listening, saying what you’re feeling, challenging, challenging yourself, compromising, knowing where you need to draw the line, and learning when you need to get some help, perhaps to figure out if some of the problems in your relationship are actually ways that one or both of you are triggered by things in each of your pasts.
4. Coercion, and physical, sexual and emotional violence destroy relationships and destroy lives. Learn about consent and make sure you have it
5. Challenge outdated gender roles that limit who you each are and limit how good a relationship can be.
6. And don’t worry. When it comes to romantic love, no one actually knows how to run slow motion down a beach into someone else’s arms.