The Black Side of Valentine’s Day Or “Where were my roses?”
One way or another, we all experienced Valentine’s Day. Was yours a day of love and romance? Did someone whisper in your ear, “I love you!” or “Be mine!” For many of us though, it ranged from a let down to an absolute depression that there was no one there to pay us special attention. My sixteen-year-old daughter even had a sad face posted on the family calendar on the 14th.
When relational disappointment strikes, it is important to not compound that disappointment with reactive, destructive behavior. That’s what we’re talking about today: how to avoid serious mistakes when you are disappointed or lonely, and, how to make more constructive choices. I asked my husband, Darren with the Ph.D. (also fondly called “the brain” in our house) to share his insights. To start, let’s look at some common negative responses to disappointment.
- Hole up in your empty pad and feel miserable.
- Go out and get drunk or get high
- Become sexually involved with an inappropriate other
- Pursue a relationship with someone who is completely wrong for you but happens to be available or interested
- Assume that you are not interesting or worthy of being in a relationship
- Start catastrophising: “My life is over!” “All men are jerks!” “I’ll never get into a relationship again” “I’ll be permanently lonely!” or the ultimate cop out, “The world would be better without me!”
I appreciate that at times there is an almost overpowering urge to somehow blunt the pain. Our suggestion, however, is don’t wait for the disappointment or the overpowering urges to figure out what to do—after all Valentine’s Day (and other couple emphasizing events) roll around with irritating regularity.
Pick a time when you are not upset, sit down and ask yourself the following questions: Will there be times of bitter disappoint in my life? How often will they strike? The harsh answers are “Yes!” and “Often.” When you’re not hurting is the time to determine nurturing, restorative responses to such disappointment.
We consider two categories of responses: 1) Shift to some positive alternative activity, and 2) Pursue a thoughtful assessment of how to change your disappointing circumstances. Let’s look at alternative activities first.
Positive alternatives: These may include going out with a friend, getting lost in an engrossing novel or movie, reading uplifting material, praying, going to a “safe place” such as parents or close friends, or, phoning/visiting your great aunt in the rest home. For my wife it might be to fix a great dinner for herself and light lots of candles.
Or you may engage in some good old Freudian sublimation—that is, devoting negative energy to positive accomplishment. If you are really worked up, take that energy and devote it to something productive. For me it might be: complete the database of my classic films, plan a backpacking trip, think of ways to surprise someone I care for, or learn a new piece on my trombone. All these move me from negative, self-destructive thinking to healthy accomplishment. But that’s me; you need to come up with your own list!
Solve your relational problems: My wife and I, in hundreds of seminars and counseling sessions, have discovered that most people are startlingly uneducated in the dynamics of successful relationships. Why do we think that successful relationships will just happen? Consider that it takes 1000 hours to become a good welder, 10,000 hours to become a professional musician, 20,000 hours to become a surgeon. And yet the quality of our relationships is the single most important factor in life happiness and satisfaction. Since one short article can’t begin to adequately instruct you, our urgent suggestion is that you become educated. Here’s a couple of great sources: The books of John Gottman (The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, The Relationship Cure), Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages) and our own work (The Compatibility Code by Elizabeth and Darren George). Finally, our web site (www.yourprefix.com) discusses extensively how to overcome the devastation of a broken relationship and how to create a successful one.
Start now to turn February 14th 2012 from black to red!