‘Love Conquers All.’ Virgil
Many people begrudge Valentine’s Day for the superfluous pinkness, never-ending hearts and social pressure associated with the increasingly commercial holiday. It can be a lonely time if you’re single, or maybe you just skim over it even if you’re in a committed relationship because Valentine’s doesn’t matter enough to celebrate. Whatever the reason, the ritual of V-Day has had a bad rap for far too long.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are a little murky – he could be one of three martyred Saint Valentine’s from the early 200s. In the 3rd century, there was a Valentine who defied a Roman Emperor who outlawed marriage for young soldiers by marrying young lovers in secret. When he was discovered, Emperor Claudius II sentenced him to death and he was martyred as a romantic.
Another story suggests Valentine as a man imprisoned for helping Christian prisoners escape torturous roman prisons. While in prison, he fell in love with the jail keeper’s daughter and was known to send secret love letters to her from his cell, signed ‘From Your Valentine’. From here we get our modern day Valentines card.
Valentine’s cards did not become popular until the 17th century in Britain when the romantic holiday evolved to include cards and gifts giving. Today, the Valentine’s Day card industry is the second busiest of the year, after Christmas. In Christian tradition, St. Valentine became associated with heroism and romance, making him a popular saint for hopeless romantic through the ages, and well into ours.
The Pagan version of Valentine’s origin is a little more explicit. It is thought to have come from Lupercalia, a fertility festival that occurs at the ides of February, on February 15h. It is a ritual practice dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
In this version of the Valentines story, members of the Roman priesthood Luperci, would gather at a sacred cave where Romulus and Remus were believed to be cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. They would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then take strips of the hide of the animals, anointed in the holy blood, to the streets of the city where they would slap women with them, then the crops, to make them fertile in the coming year.
Later that day, women would place their names in an Urn, and each bachelor in the city would draw a name for the woman he was to be paired with for the year. These matches often ended in marriage. The theme of finding a match in love at V-Day has, thankfully, evolved.
If reading this has you thinking that my history lesson gives you a genuine reason for foregoing Valentine’s Day, I would like to offer up a modern day history of what Valentine’s Day is in the 21st century. Valentine’s Day is a time where we come together to celebrate the loves in our lives, from significant others, to family, close friends and pets. This day does not require a date or diamonds, but I highly recommend embracing the romance of the season in whichever way makes you feel spoiled.
It is when it is socially acceptable to eat a whole box of chocolates in a day – even a day where it is expected that you will indeed receive chocolate from someone, be it your date or your grandma. Valentine’s Day has inspired a new statutory holiday, Family Day, making it the first long weekend of every year, right at the height of winter; also known as the best time to just hibernate at home with movies and hot cocoa and bond with yourself and your nearest and dearest.
Forget the commercial crap, please. Let’s face it; we live in a world over-saturated with things meant to distract us from what is really important in life: connections and love. This holiday does not have to be the scapegoat for our over-consumerist society. I like to stick it to them by getting my personal Valentines chocolate stash the day after Valentine’s, where everything is on sale - which happens to coincide with the long weekend, anyway.
Instead of ignoring Valentines this year, why not open yourself up to being a little sappy. Watch some bona fide love stories and live through your favourite heroines. Take a bubble bath with candles. Plan an intimate and elaborate dinner with your favourite people. Google something sexy. Examine your life and love and figure out if you could be happier: what could you do to get there? Do a Love Language test! Make a secret Pinterest board for your Ultimate Love Inspiration – you know you want to!
Make Valentines about you and what makes you happy, and celebrate the things that you love. Do what you love. Be about love. Embrace love in your life, in whatever form.
“Where there is love, there is life.” Ghandhi
I am blessed to know many great people whose lives and loves are a source of inspiration to me. When Mike and I were in Fiji in 2011 to attend a Tony Robbins seminar ‘Life Mastery’, we kept hearing about a book that was supposed to have revolutionized relationships for people whose love styles we truly admired. It was The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
There are 5 primary love languages which we all use when we love.
These languages are the ways in which we show others we care, and they are there in everything we do in relationships and are the reason we swoon for certain behaviours. Do you know what it takes for your partner to feel loved? Chapman says that we are speak love, but unless we’re able to recognize the individual ways our partner’s feel love and communicate our own preferences to be loved, there will always be a void.
If your partner makes you melt with words, then your Love Language is ‘Words of Affirmation’. If getting surprised with a beautiful bouquet is the bees knees, your language is definitely ‘Receiving Gifts’. ‘Quality Time’ and ‘Physical Touch’ may be so necessary to love that you cannot live without them. ‘Acts of Service’ is usually the best thing to reciprocate for the person in your life who goes above and beyond for you. Usually, whichever way you love others is how you feel loved too.
Knowing your love language is a great way to see just what you need to feel loved and to understand why you love the way you do. It’s also an eye opening experience to discover your preference for certain things to feel appreciated and adored. More so, when you realize that your style of loving can be different than your language for receiving love. Realizing your partners actions are love-based, even if they aren’t speaking your language, can be the key to dissolve minor tensions and misunderstandings.
People brush off relationship tensions with a Battle-of-the-Sexes excuse. No, we are not from different planets, but if you’re speaking different love languages it might seem that way. Figuring out my love languages and having my love, Mike, do the same was a really intimate experience for us and it has shaped the way we adore each other every day.
Knowing your partners love language can make all the difference in the world when two people’s love languages are different. Even if you have similar values and beliefs, if you are not showing your significant other love in the way that makes them feel ecstatic, you are not loving them to the best of your capacity. Washing dishes is a chore for me, but I know that Mike truly appreciates coming home to a clean place and for him, my ‘Acts of Service’ are the ultimate show of love. Combine that with regular breakfast-in-bed and daily cuddles to meet his needs for ‘Physical Touch’. Knowing that these gestures ensure that he always feels adored makes me want to do them even more.
For me, ‘Quality Time’ is a must. I love adventures with my boo, and I love attention. He makes sure to meet my needs because he too, loves quality time and physical touch, but he is also very affectionate verbally to me. ‘Words of Praise’ is my cat nip, so whether it is telling me I am beautiful or making me feel like a queen for a small chore, he definitely fills my love bucket to the brim.
The awesome thing about Love Languages is that there are so many ways you can give and receive love! There is no limit to your own personal preference - once you realize that everyone has their own style, you really do realize that almost everything we do, we do with love.
Emotional intelligence is not limited to romantic relationships. It has been helpful to figure out my love language in my romantic relationship and it has had a trickle effect into all areas of my life. I find I turn into a Love Language Decoder with all of the people who I care about in my life: I can love my mom better, show up more loving and present in friendships and in all relationships.
Love is the most precious thing in life and if you are not consciously working on it, you are wasting it. Many people think that true love should just be, no effort necessary. The truth about love is that it takes focus, commitment and passion in every loving action and it is so worth it when you share a common goal and take time to appreciate what it is you’re working for.
The Quiz for discovering your love languages is available online at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/, along with profiles for each love language. I highly recommend the book for a more in depth analysis of each love language, conflict resolution for those ‘lost in translation’, and many other helpful tips for love, life and communication.
You can have 2 or 3 dominant languages, or perhaps just one primary language. Usually, your partner and you will share one top language and family members tend to be alike as well. My sister and I show love by giving gifts! The ‘5 Love Languages’ is a book I have shared with friends and family; a great resource for relationships that I highly recommend to anyone looking to strengthen their relationships or just understand themselves in love.
Your second task this Love Week is your Love Language Test!
What’s your love language? If you are doing it with a partner, figure out what their love language is and try to learn something new about their love style. How do you love?
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Whether you are looking to reconnect with your partner or waiting for your Love Story to begin, being aware of what you value, desire and need in love and to be loved is one of the best ways to realize that the greatest love stories are our own.
When we’re asked what we want in love, it is sometimes hard not to list in negatives for what we don’t want. Whether we’ve witnessed people in unhappy relationships unwilling to part, or loved ones hoping their significant other will change – or they will change them – there is always a story about why people are willing to be miserable.
I prefer the stories of why people love instead. It’s easy to get caught up in life without asking ourselves what we really want, or what our core values are, but focusing solely on what we don’t want in love can be destructive when we get stuck in the negatives and begin to associate those feelings with love.
Take this opportunity to ask yourself some questions on what your story is about love. Is true love just a fairy tale? Are married people destined for divorce? Have you passed the ‘honeymoon’ period? Can you have the same level of passion years in? Even if you think you know your stories, this exercise is an opportunity to refresh your Emotional Intelligence.
This Love Exercise will leave you feeling more in tune with your heart and more open for love when you realize that some of your repeated-stories actually go against what you truly want in love. Happily ever after has to start with you today.
What are your relationship needs? Whether you are in a passionate partnership or looking for the right person, consider that you may change your mind and that’s that point. The idea is to not create unrealistic expectations or seeing if your partner ‘stacks up’, but being honest and open about what you truly value and desire.
Even if you believe love is destiny, this exercise will only bring you closer by having you realize what you want at your core of your being. Remember that boyfriend or girlfriend in high school that you wish you had hindsight with? This exercise helps you really find-tune what it takes to be compatible in love. It is important to know what attracts us, what intrigues us and most important, what you stand for in a relationship so that someone else’s values aren’t “competing” with yours.
Everything done with passion is done with purpose. If you consider that you are working at your job to advance in your career, or saving up for a dream car, there is always an outcome we’re after. If love is a big part of your life, I believe you have to approach it in a similar strategy to setting any life goals. Having an outcome for your ultimate passion, a dream experience you want to share with someone and an inspiring idea can be the difference between wanting to one day see Paris, or creating a travel itinerary for you next vacation. Knowing what you really want is enough to drive you to go after it.
In my relationship, Mike and I have very different dreams and goals for what we want to accomplish independently. It is really neat to see how our lives are heading in the same direction, and everything we plan is intertwined with one another. Taking the time to connect with your partner is so important, and couples who dream together, stay together. I believe that knowing what we want individually and together has helped strengthen our love today.
Working it through with your partner may turn out to be an entertaining date night over a bottle of wine, and you may even discover new possibilities together. And you don’t have to be single for your list to be everything you want and more. This is the time to indulge. Create a list of ‘ingredients’ for your perfect partner – put down everything that attracts you, turns you on, makes you laugh, things he or she does for you when you’re alone, or does when everyone is watching – don’t hold anything back!
The beauty in this is, you begin to feel the love that you desire. It becomes possible when you envision it and experience it in your heart. You remember all of your favourite sexy moments, the sweetest shared adventures, and the game-changing firsts where it all began and you know what is possible. You can also dream up scenarios you will have with your Ideal Partner and live them out in your mind: Be inspired by books, people you know, super cheesy movies! It sounds corny, but it is such an amazing feeling to feel gratitude for the love you know you deserve in your life. You begin to see what is truly important to you, and perhaps see that he or she may be right in front of you. Love comes in the most unexpected packages and it definitely did for us.
In my early adulthood, I made it an effort to learn quickly from my mistakes. After a string of relationships I knew were not right for me, but which suited the needs of my story at the time, I came to a point where I realized I was not going to waste my time with relationships I knew in my heart weren’t for me. It took a long time for me to accept and embrace my vulnerabilities in love.
In an exercise similar to the Love Lists, I wrote a list down in my journal. I had plenty of time to work on it, and I went into detail about what I wanted the Love of my Life to be. It was a pretty intense exercise but I came away from it feeling changed in some way, like I had shed the weight of an unknown burden. Ironically, I came away from this exercise happy with who I was and content with being alone.
When I think about it now, it was not long after that when I began to truly notice Mike and feel an intense connection with him. It felt stronger than attraction and I felt I saw him for the person he is at his core. I don’t think I would have truly appreciated what was right in front of me without that clarity. I appreciate him so much more today realizing he is everything I want, and so much more.
Love is something you bring into your life when you are open and ready for it, when you know what you’re looking for.
Make your LOVE LISTs:
Make one list of exactly what you want in a relationship. Hold nothing back. Only positives here. Everything you can dream of the person being, accomplishing, and sharing with you in life. Focus on everything you want physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and sexually. Go into the future and write what you see! Highlight the most important traits that are MUSTS to you, limiting to 10 if you can.
Make a second list of what you absolutely do NOT want in a relationship and what you will no longer stand for. Use your past relationships as a filter if necessary. Go into detail if it helps you gain clarity. ASTERISK* the qualities that you will not ever settle for.
Make your third list about YOU. Ask yourself: “What kind of a person do I have to be to attract and keep this love in my life?” This is not about attempting to be something you’re not or being a phoney in love, but rather about finding the BEST parts of you and declaring your own standard for the way you want to live and lead your life. Figure out what your ultimate lover will love about you and make sure to write all of the ways you are a stand out right now.
Write down your reflections on your list. Did you surprise yourself in any list? Did you have any moments of awareness you’ve never had before? What were some of the emotions you experienced? Write down a manifesto for your love story, and make it super sappy, or super sexy; whatever floats your boat (now that you know…)
Do your Love Lists as your first assignment this week in the Countdown to Valentine’s Day. Celebrate the greatest gift in life: Love!