I've been thinking a lot about Mental Health recently, for a number of reasons. I love Valentine's Day! The cheesy rhymes, the cards, the flowers, the romance, the opportunity to shout about love,... the whole thing.
Author Note: Before I start the blog, I wanted to note that this blog contains something a little different. I had a chat with my two children last night, gathering their thoughts on love. They provided me with some absolute gems and as we’re talking about love and I love my girls, I thought I’d distribute their thoughts throughout the blog. Enjoy!
I know for some people Valentines Day can be lonely, for some it can be frustrating, for some it is just a card-manufacturer’s dream – but for me, its just whole-hearted fun.
I’ve been married now for (almost) 12 years and together with hubby for 17 years in total and we’ve had our fair share of Valentine’s Day highs and low.
"Love feels exciting and phenomenal"
I can still remember the excruciating feeling of our first Valentines Day back in 2002. We were dating then and didn’t live together, so I got the train and bus over to his mum’s house to spend the evening together. I was really excited about our first Valentine’s Day together and had a card and some aftershave in my bag to give him. When I got there, I soon realised that the plan I had in my head wasn’t going to materialise. He’d forgotten to book a restaurant for tea, and with it being the 14th February the only place that could then fit us in was at 10pm at night. Not the most romantic start! We did have a lovely evening but the card and present never made it out of my bag. I waited all night to reciprocate his card and gift – but there weren’t any! (I think I gave the aftershave to my brother instead for his birthday).
We just had different beliefs about Valentine’s Day itself.
It meant different things to us – a celebration of love for me, a non-event for him.
"For Valentine's Day I would ask for a Teddy but if I was being cheeky I would ask for a puppy and a kitten. But that’s a bit big. It isn’t Christmas or your Birthday"
We are quite different still and its took us a while to understand that we have different love languages. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate is a 1995 book by Gary Chapman. It outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls "love languages": These are:
According to this theory, each person has one primary and one secondary love language and Chapman theorizes that people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love.
"Love is like a best friend. If love was a person, it would always be with me, next to me, no matter where I was or what was happening"
We’ve never delved into the theory too deeply, but it is truly apparent (now – with the benefit of 17 years of learning) that we have different love languages to each other.
Our Valentines Days have changed over the years and we’ve adapted our hopes and expectations to find a middle ground that works (better) for both of us.
Before we had children, Valentines Days were about meals out and tangible celebrations. As we had our girls these changed to be more of a family celebration. A way of talking about what love means to us, why we think love is important and celebrating the love we share as a family.
When I was off on maternity leave with the girls, we’d spend ages putting together elaborate play-themed Valentines Day parties, with playdoh cupcakes, home decorated cards and lots of balloons. This year it will be more about rushing home from work, taking the girls to dancing, squeezing in a quick tea together before hubby goes out to a church meeting and I get the girls to bed. But we’ll find time, at some point over the weekend, to celebrate together and to get each other (and the girls) a card (at the least).
But I suppose, the most interesting thing is not how we celebrate, but why we do.
For me, love is central to who I am.
"If you love somebody very much I would say I love you more than the stars in the sky and all the grains of sand on earth. That is a lot because I know it seems like you can’t count all the grains of sand but that would take you like literally 55 million years"
Safe, healthy and happy relationships often start with love. Love for yourself, love for your partner, for your family, your friends, your work, your community.
Love makes my world go around and I want to celebrate that.
In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, Verses 4 – 8, Paul writes:
“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails”.
Whatever your faith (or none), whether you celebrate Valentines Day (or not), I can’t help but think that this definition of love is worth holding on to and shouting about.
I am so grateful to have people to love and to be loved in return.
Happy Valentines Day!