Did you know there are more breakups associated with Valentine’s Day than any other holiday? All of our perceived slights and disappointments that we experience in our everyday lives are on full display that day. Like children waiting for Santa, we hold high hopes that the gifts, flowers, and cards will redeem all of the many ways that our relationship disappoints or fails to recognize our efforts.
This love holiday shines such a sharp light on our expectations of our intimate relationships that it practically guarantees an experience of disappointment and frustration with our lovers. Mind you, it’s not that Valentine’s Day alone creates these feelings (often they are percolating for months, or even years). And a great deal of our sexual dysfunction can be tied up in our expectations too. We so often hold off on our physical intimacy making it dependent on whether our emotional needs are met.
Here are a few ways to rethink your relationship with love and intimacy this Valentine’s Day – and if it works, for the rest of the year.
3 Ways to Rethink Valentine’s Day & Not Be Disappointed
1. Ask for What You Want
I have suffered through many a Valentine’s Day, not to mention birthdays and Christmases with the stubborn idea that if my husband really loved me, he would know what I wanted. Year after year, I would stubbornly refuse to speak my longings, childishly believing that my asking somehow diminished the gift.
The fantasy that our partner should know what makes us happy often holds us back from happiness. And yet, we often avoid taking the responsibility of naming what we want. This is maybe even more true about our sexual desires. It begins oftentimes by comparing our current sex life to what it was like in the early falling in love phase. Of course, it's not that passion is not available in a deeper relationship, but the time and energy you invest will be what generates the sparks. I believe that asking for the kind of intimacy that turns you on is courageous and sexy. And, it gives your partner permission to be sexy in a whole new way.
The best book I ever read about this is by my friend Tammy Nelson, called Getting the Sex You Want. If you are still searching for a perfect gift, start here and practice her exercises once a week. It will gift you over and over.
Likewise, learning how to articulate your emotional needs is equally transformative. When you master this, your relationship can grow exponentially because people aren’t parenting each other and expecting the other to fix something. Practice saying what feels like love to you. It will be one of the best ways to show yourself love and gives your relationship the room to become better than you could have hoped for.
2. Switch Things Up
For Valentine’s Day and maybe for the whole next year, see what happens when you create the space to put your sexual intimacy first. One easy way I've found success with this is to try having sex before dinner instead of later in the evening. Not only do you not risk the usual too tired, drank too much, or other excuses that cut your date nights short, but you also alleviate the psychic strains and emotional walls that often keep us from feeling intimately connected. This will be a harder shift for many women, I know. We often link our arousal mechanism to feeling emotionally connected and appreciated.
One critical piece: Don't compare things to how you felt when you first fell in love – back when the “on” switch seemed to be on automatic. It is easy to see how we malign the long-term work of physically loving someone after the sexual euphoria of falling in love fades away. The immediacy and profound connection of perfectly matched lovers in their early sexual discovery is a drug unlike any other. But as most of us know, this is a fleeting part of any love affair.
As this space fades to the reality of learning to love, we may feel forlorn that we have to continuously wrestle with the other aspects of accepting all of who someone is, and we can’t remember how that arousal worked flawlessly. You won’t be able to find the new deeper connection so long as you keep comparing it to what it was.
That’s why I say make love first. Commit yourself to better understand what makes you feel sexy and keep your own sexual drive well-tuned. Knowing your own erogenous zones and having access to your own fantasies is the literal rocket fuel to keep long term relationships even sexier than when you started. No one can really make you feel sexy like this – you have to want it. Wanting and enjoying sex opens up the pathway to easier communication about most everything else.
3. Choose “Good Enough” Love
Once we can give up the idea that we get the love that we want – the way we want it, when we want it – we become available to the love that is coming at us this very moment. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that our fantasy of how we think love should feel is wrong, it’s that ultimately it doesn’t matter. Whether we walk down the aisle or sign a lease with someone, we are agreeing to love this person as they are, and that means accepting the ways they can love us back.
One way that I get over my fantasy perfect love is to realize that it is my perspective that makes my relationship worthy or not. To make myself remember all the ways that my relationship is good enough, here are two no-fail techniques that work for me every time:
- Imagine in full detail how life would be without your partner… the horrid call – that life with them has suddenly ended due to some unthinkable accident. Experience the broken heartedness of them suddenly gone and then ask yourself: really how bad is it?
- Practice holding what you love most about you partner in one hand, beside what is most challenging in the other. In that space, you can likely find a true balance of how your love is more than good enough.
Love is the hardest work we do in a lifetime and rarely does it ever hit the perfect mark. But it does offer us the most gentle teaching and deepest evolution we can hope for of becoming our best self and living a life with meaning. Here’s to your imperfectly-perfect love this Valentine’s Day.