Don’t believe the hype

It’s Valentine’s Day again and everyone is doing the love thing. It can unfortunately get really corny with all the red hearts and chocolates and mass produced Valentine’s paraphernalia. I know some people get really irritated by all this and I get them. The true meaning of love is lost amid the huge commercialization and commodification of love on Valentine’s Day.  This in itself is mostly harmless.

But there’s another aspect that’s more concerning.  I have seen lots of clients who have made me rethink this whole Valentine’s thing, this whole over emphasis on romantic love and expressions of it. Popular culture has really made romantic love into the most important thing to aspire to – it’s glorified in books and movies and magazines and online. But I’m seeing clients who got into relationships and marriages with stars, or rather hearts in their eyes and then find after a few weeks or months, after the novelty has worn off, they come crashing down and wonder what happened.

That’s because real love that lasts is about more than romance and moonlight and roses. It’s about experiencing all kinds of challenges and hardships – financial, health, extended family issues, dealing with children… and sticking with each other through it all. It’s about the bad times as well as the good. I had  a married woman come to me for coaching and she was experiencing severe depression and anxiety. Her husband was supportive for a short while and then got frustrated as, according to him, it’s not ‘what he signed up for’. You can imagine what did this for her emotional health and her self esteem. Her husband was another person who just didn’t get the memo – marriage is not about being there for the good times only. It’s literally, for better for worse.

Most stories in books and movies have happy endings and happily ever after. We don’t hear about Cinderella having to cope with Prince Charming’s bad habits, for example. And we find that many young couples are just not prepared for this today – dealing with the harsh realities of being in a long term relationship. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day, with its emphasis on the superficial romantic aspects of relationships, just makes the problem worse.

If you’re one of the people celebrating Valentine’s Day – by all means do it. Just don’t go believing the hype and kitsch. Real love is about much more than this.