Oh, Valentine’s Day. I can’t help saying it with a heavy sigh. How is it that a single holiday can bring up such intense emotions regarding one’s relationship status? As Spotify cheekily reminded me last Friday, you either love it or hate it. For those who love it, there is an endless supply of heartfelt playlists guaranteed to make you swoon and fill you to the brim with gratefulness for your wonderful love life. In a relationship with your bed like yours truly? Don’t you worry, there are just as many playlists designed to reiterate your frustration with the overly commercialized holiday. Whatever side of the spectrum you’re on, fear not! There is a recipe to wallow in your current feelings on the topic.
Valentine’s Day has not brought about many positive memories for me in years past. There was that one year when a guy I’d met literally a year before texted me asking me to be his girlfriend…and, mind you, we hadn’t spoken since we’d met. That was definitely the weirdest. There were the years in elementary school when I’d receive valentines from everyone in my class, none of which were signed by my secret admirer (Seriously, Leigh? Who needs romance in elementary school?). And of course, there have been the 23 Valentine’s Days I have spent without a significant other, many of which were spent either wishing in vain that I would have an admirer drop down on his knees in front of me in full confession of his love…or the alternative: hating this stupid holiday for making perpetually single ladies like me feel much less than unloved. (Yes, I know it’s dramatic, but everyone’s doing it these days.) Oh, and there were the few years where I celebrated Galentine’s Day, branding myself as a strong, independent single lady who don’t need no man!
While I still ascribe to the belief (and ultimate truth) that I am a strong, independent single lady, Valentine’s Day has become much less daunting and traumatic for me as I’ve grown older and gained major perspective…in the past couple years. Sure, I’ve never spent the day with a significant other or received a heartfelt letter, a bouquet of hydrangeas (please note that these are my favorite flowers), and a copious amount of chocolate sure to send me straight into chocoblivion, but after talking on the phone with one of my dearest friends this afternoon, I realize I’m truly at peace with the lack of Valentine’s dates I’ve had. (If anything, I’m rather relieved when I don’t receive a love-confessing note from a secret admirer! I think I would actually cry and run away unless it was mutual.) This is a huge transformation from my less mature days when the “security” of relationship status meant everything to me. When I think about it, I will never have the expectation of a future partner needing to surpass previous boyfriends’ expressions of love. I will never have the baggage of painfully remembering an incredible Valentine’s Day spent with someone I once loved very dearly. It’s actually quite nice and sets the bar pretty low. Expectations are literally eating chocolate together. All good things for anyone involved in my future!
While spending Valentine’s with my partner is something I would love to experience, I am overwhelmed with the truth that my worthiness and value are not dependent upon my relationship status, and that this holiday isn’t just about romantic relationships. As the Galentine’s trend goes to show, I can channel my heartfelt love notes to my friends and those I love deeply as a symbol of our growth together in relationship. For the past two years, I have spent Valentine’s celebrating the relationships I have with my girlfriends, and they have been the two best-spent Valentine’s Days of my life.
In our conversation today, my dear friend and I recounted our favorite Valentine’s Day: February 14, 2014. We got super dressed up (full-on makeup, dresses, and heels), went to the Malibu pier to take ridiculously ridiculous couple photos at sunset (did I mention how ridiculous we are?), and then ate dinner and lots of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory after doing some shopping and scoring some free wine and chocolate-covered strawberries at Anthropologie (holla!). My friend and I had seized the opportunity to treat ourselves to a much-needed girls’ night out (as if we needed more reason to hang out since we lived, breathed, ate, danced, laughed, and sang together, 24/7). And the result was a deepening of our friendship, a celebration of the relationship we had cultivated through intentionality and mutual vulnerability in the good and difficult times, and bellies full of delectable cheesecake. Oh, and no man hating and singleness shaming. Let’s just say any guys we date will have a hard time topping V-Day 2014. (So I guess I do have awesome memories and expectations for the holiday…whoops.)
It’s actually quite ironic how I spent the evening of Valentine’s this year. Any guesses? Okay I give in: at a marriage bible study. Weird, huh?! Why would a single lady willingly go to a bible study about marriage, filled with married couples on a day celebrating romance? The short answer: #relationshipgoals. And Ann’s glorious chocolate cake (I did get my chocoblivion after all). But in all honesty, I was able to go and truly enjoy the experience and thought-provoking conversation because I don’t want to conform to the pattern of this world, glorifying romantic relationships to the point where they become the main factor in my self-perception of worth, or worse: an idol.
Yes, I desire a lifelong partnership with a man. No, I am not going to let the current absence of that relationship cloud the truth of my inherent worth as a human being. And no, I am not about to listen to one of those “heartbroken” Spotify playlists and wallow in self-loathing because I am one of the two single people in Crested Butte. (I hate to admit it, but I am actually listening to the Pride & Prejudice and The Holiday soundtracks, because at the end of the day I am still a hopeless romantic. But I am cognizant of this and am still content with singleness.) And while I’m single, I want to be fully equipped to enter a lifelong relationship that ultimately glorifies God, speaks the Gospel, and does not conform to the “meet and fulfill all my needs” mentality of many relationships, if such a relationship is part of my future. Plus, the principles from the study bleed into nonromantic relationships and daily life in general. If I can begin to apply what I’m learning to my current relationships, I know I will see much more growth and glory in the intentional development of my relational life.
One of our questions this evening asked how we have seen John 15:4-5 play out in our marriages (and for the single lady: in my relationships). By abiding in Christ, I have been able to inhabit a space of grace and no judgment with some of my closest friends. In this, we have been able to build our trust through sharing difficult experiences and accepting each other despite our mistakes. A close friend recently shared how our relationship has allowed her to disclose her faults in confidence that I won’t shame her, but rather that her disclosure will reduce the shame she feels. How incredible it is that friendships can shed so much grace and love on even our most shameful experiences! This is how relationships – and not just romantic ones – were intended to be! Let us live in this reality!
While Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to express the gratefulness we have for our partner, I do believe it is sensationalized and places far too much focus on relationship status as the determining component in our value. What we need to take away from the holiday, rather than a screw-Valentine’s-Day or I-feel-fulfilled-because-I-have-a-boyfriend mentality, is the gratefulness for the beauty of relationship, whether with your boyfriend, wife, best friend, or bed. At the end of the day, we all have special people in our lives that deserve our love on Valentine’s Day, and every other day of the year. We cannot allow our relationship status dictate how we feel about ourselves or how we see ourselves as being fulfilled (or not). Wherever you are on this Valentine’s Day – single, married, divorced – I encourage you to seek peace with your current circumstances and celebrate the sheer love of those you hold closest to your heart. Each relationship is a gift and deserves to be treasured.