Valentine’s Day gets us thinking about relationships. Usually happy, loving thoughts. But there’s a dark side to Valentine’s Day in the hidden world of coupledom. One seeded with feelings that move past the meh, straight down to hell no. This occurred to me in the midst of several close friend couple meltdowns stemming from reasons that to an outsider, seemed kind of obvious.
How many of us know couples that just don’t seem to fit? Beyond their basic ability to get along, you wonder – great as they both are individually, how on earth did these two end up together?
Sometimes we suspect they were never in love at all, that they chose one another for external reasons; companionship, money, security and the like. Yet in the absence of reasons there is only love. So the question then becomes, how could two people with so little in common have fallen in love? And why would we feel love for someone who isn’t right for us? Is it Freudian?
The answer I arrived at, at least for myself is no. No to all of the above. I married for love as did the couples I know who have since fallen out of it, and as far as I know I don’t have unresolved daddy issues. So then where true love once was, can’t it be again? Can’t we fall back into it?
Maybe, but it’s a lot more work. Falling in love is more than a mindset, as in, “wow we’re so great together – complementary ideals, energy levels, interests and lifestyle choices – bang, I’m in love!” Too bad, because it’s the other part that gets us into trouble; the biologica. The hormonal highs that engulf the entire organism in a fiery blaze of amour, an endless flame, until the only possible conclusion the brain can derive is “it must be love”.
And it is. The problem happens when the flame eventually cools, other parts of the brain regain control (taking control of your senses) and you would like your life to continue in roughly the same patterns you’d adopted pre-bliss. The challenges arise when your partner wants to do things differently. Of course, you’ll try to compromise where you can, but lots of times you’ve developed the behavior patterns for reasons that work for you, not because you hadn’t discovered a better way of doing things.
This is where the rubber meets the road. If I married for one of the external reasons we fine cringey; companionship, money and the like, I know what I signed up for and will likely be more tolerant of the aftermath. When it turns out she’s daytime TV obsessed, he’s so happy to have a wife and family, he adores her anyway. Or when she becomes a golf widow, she finds it gives her more time to lunch with friends and shop, and after all, she wasn’t looking for a soul-mate.
It’s the true-love seekers, those pure of heart and set on finding deep connection who feel the loss of the “honeymoon stage” so harshly. With the love hormone oxytocin which once bathed their partner in bright light now gone, they’re left wondering what they found so enamoring. Especially once they realize they find daytime TV and its fans annoying; or they hate being alone on weekends, which is the time they most crave connection.
If this sounds like you, you’re far from alone. 19% of Americans surveyed last year reported being unhappy in their relationships, but say they find it worthwhile to stay together regardless. Alternatively, 26% of respondents reported being happy in a long-term marriage, citing many shared interests and making time for each other even after having children as key.
When we’re our relationships are lacking, days like Valentine’s amplify the disappointment. We feel like we’re alone, with our flawed feelings, faulty decisions, nothing but a surrounding sense of shame to accompany us.
Yet the truth is we once made brave choices by following our hearts in spite of the odds, sometimes too young to even know better. The decisions we struggle with now have shaped us, often for the better. We’ve learned coping mechanisms and independence as we’ve grown wiser for having had this experience.
To all of you purists now facing the dark side of the pink, this year I invite you to try something new. As a career coach, I help people to overcome their fear by trusting that if and when they fall down on the path to reaching their goals, they’re ultimately unbreakable. It may take time and intention, but they will get back up again.
What if you let this Valentine’s day mark the time you take a risk and let go of things that aren’t serving you? Suppose you decide it’s okay to acknowledge what isn’t working, and know that it’s part of the bigger process that is growth and life?
Start with the advice I share with my brave and amazing candidates after they’ve worked so hard and come so close only to learn the role was offered to someone else. Practice extreme self-care.
This Valentine’s Day;
Change is a process, let today mark the start. Skip the obligatory card, save the $3 and treat yourself this Valentine’s Day, for better or worse you deserve it!
Ready to take charge of your future with a new job or career? Visit NextCareer Coaching to learn more!