(aka Telling You I’m Single Without Telling You I’m Single)
By Erica Jwa
Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Valentine’s Day: A corporate holiday known for its emphasis on romantic love and sappy couple’s outings and rituals–but also the despondence and wallowing of thousands of single people across the United States (insert countless “forever alone” and “dying alone” jokes here). The red-roses-and-teddy-bears conception of Valentine’s Day is infamously pushed by endless social media posts, romantic comedy movies, gushing love songs, and various other media that glorify relationships and place them on a pedestal, perpetuating what is now a societal desperation (or “simping”, if you want to call it that) for love.
Media’s highly unrealistic portrayal of relationships as an outpour of constant and unconditional affection leads to a romanticization of love, which makes both finding and being in relationships seem deceptively easy (it’s not). But regardless of the person, the (unfortunate) truth is that work is required to be in a healthy relationship, recognize and improve upon one’s shortcomings, and invest continuous effort into a significant other. Outside of lovey-dovey dates and sweet hugs lies the grueling work of evaluating one’s patterns of conflict resolution, displays of affection and love, communication skills, and not to mention managing psychological wounds from parental issues, along with providing emotional support for and demonstrating vulnerability with another person.
Idealized depictions of love also overlook that every healthy relationship will sometimes experience conflict, and that is completely normal. Regrettable side effects of an obsession with love include the encouragement of codependency (the dependence on one person for one’s emotional security and welfare, often accompanied by a lack of boundaries) and the expectation that a relationship will solve all of one’s problems or fix one’s shortcomings. By constantly awaiting the moment we will get into a relationship, we relinquish the self-efficacy and empowerment we owe ourselves as capable individuals. As a whole, it is likely that we are obsessed not with love itself, but with the idea of love, and we should instead view it through a more realistic lens and focus on independence and self-improvement. This is not, however, intended to invalidate the desire for love nor the enjoyment of relationships. This is simply to say that relationships, while they can be wonderful and comforting, are not necessary and require investment, and every person is more than capable of thriving whether or not they are in one, regardless of any messages perpetuated by the media. If you are currently yearning for love, it is likely that there is something else beyond a relationship that it represents for you, such as validation, acceptance, support, or companionship, and you are more than capable of achieving that by yourself or through friends or family. For everyone in our collective state of record-high levels of loneliness and lack of connection, the importance of platonic and familial relations are not to be understated either. There is undeniably invaluable love, growth, and connection that lies in these equally vital bonds that we all deserve to give and receive in. Whether you are single or happily enamored with a partner, you are a whole person and you are loved, and I hope that not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day, you feel and take the time to appreciate all the love around you, romantic or not.