The romantic myth of Valentine’s Day would have you believe that your love is delivered in a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers. The cards offer rhymes and flowery prose, proclaiming how wonderful it is to be in love; gushing over times together when feelings are so intense, we feel overwhelmed in bliss. And therein lies the myth and the danger of Valentine sentimentality.
It is self-love that provides the foundation for loving others.
Self-love does not mean being a narcissist, overly involved with yourself and lacking compassion for others. Self-love is about being aware of your needs, setting boundaries and believing you are both loveable and worthy of being loved.
Your love for yourself allows you to feel positive about the person you are, enabling you in turn to sustain an intimate relationship with another, without losing yourself in the swirl of emotion that characterizes what the Valentine advertisements call love.
Over time, when mutual trust becomes established, you allow powerful feelings to surface, knowing the shared, tender emotions make you vulnerable. And front and center, therein surfaces the absolute necessity for the existence of self-love. It allows you to be in unity with another, but not merged with your identity lost. The love you feel grows, built on a foundation of trust and intimacy. And that cannot be ordered on-line from FDT or Amazon
The positive traits you bring to a relationship enable you to dance joyously in the “feeling” of love and stay firm in the sustained commitment that true love requires. The vow intrinsic to “I love you” is the commitment to continue sharing emotionally meaningful communication, each with the other, unwaveringly betting on a positive outcome despite knowing the risk.
As Psychologist Erich Fromm maintained in his book The Art of Loving, the “feeling” of love is superficial in comparison to one’s commitment to love as a concept; thus, love is not a feeling at all, but is an adherence to loving actions towards another, oneself, or many others, over a sustained duration. Love, then, is an activity, not simply a feeling.
Paradoxically, the one characteristic always included when defining love, is wanting what is best for the other.
Candies and flowers are thoughtful nods to the Valentine tradition, but the real gift is sharing the joys of a close, loving relationship while simultaneously remaining whole unto yourself.