PHOENIX - Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue - along with two opposing sides on the topic.
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This week we’re tackling the debate on whether or not Valentine’s Day puts unhealthy pressure on couples.
Reverend Amy Miller, wedding officiant, says Valentine's Day can be a good reminder to spread love, whether it's to your wife, your children, or your neighbor.
Kelli Forsythe, relationship therapist, says Valentine’s Day, in the commercialized sense, is an enemy and a liar to healthy relationships.
Click “next page” to read the first of two positions,
“Valentine’s Day is the bully of love”: By Kelli Forsythe, relationship therapist with Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd.
Valentine’s Day is to couples as a bully is to kids on the playground: it screams “if you don’t do things my way, you’re a loser and a failure and you will live a lonely, miserable life!” In essence, it says, “do as I say or you will never know true love.” Valentine’s Day, in the commercialized sense, is an enemy and a liar to healthy relationships and the truth that we each are lovable, even without a mass-produced card or red lingerie telling us that.
Overwhelmingly, the pressure for couples on February 14th is to have a superficial love: one of instant pleasure, performance, and presentation. Expressions of real love are upstaged by posers: boxers with lipstick kisses on them, plastic flowers, new diamonds and perfume, champagne and steak, teddy bears, and hearts that we eat instead of treasure and cherish. There is no doubt to me that this day puts unhealthy pressure on couples by promoting and emphasizing futile gestures that on their own, and over time, lead to unsatisfying and unfulfilling relationships.
Internally, I believe we each know true love is not attached to material things, imagined characters, or the actions of one day. We know that love is multi-faceted and indescribable in so many ways. We know deep down that love exists and that sometimes it’s like a forgotten memory: it pounds loudly within us without faces or images. At times, we are starved of love and at times we want love so badly that we grab whoever or whatever is there just to have something. Valentine’s Day makes it convenient, and normal to end up with an experience that vaguely resembles true love and what we really need and instead promotes unhealthy relationship patterns and twisted perspectives about love.
I think you get where I’m going: it’s a far stretch to believe that Valentine’s Day pressures us to really learn the needs of our partner and how to fulfill them with true love. Contrary to the front row displays at Wal-mart try to tell us, we can learn a lot more about love and smiley faces elsewhere. The four types of Greek love stand the test of time and look very smart and strong as they are compared to the quickly fading lacy pink lust and awkwardly large and blinding bling of Valentine’s Day “love.” They are as follows: 1) agape—this is the unconditional love known by some to only come from God. It is a love that makes one feel content, and held in high regard. 2) Eros-this is often used to describe love of sexual desire and passion. Interestingly, Plato argues that while we initially may feel a physical attraction/ Eros to someone, Eros love refers to what happens in the soul: an understanding of spiritual truth and beauty that once felt, leads to feeling truly erotic or sexual desire towards someone. He makes a point in saying that the goal is to aspire to this spiritual level, apart from your sexual relations (hence, we have the word “platonic” meaning without “physical attraction” named after him). Eros can survive without sexual desire and sexual desire can survive on its own, but put sexual desire and soul together in Eros and transcendence occurs…yes, please. 3) Philia—this is love that is a friendship: virtuous, affectionate, and loyal. 4) Storge- this love is a natural affection, like a love that a parent has towards its offspring.
Bottom line: we all want real love, intimacy and healthy relationship. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day as Western culture knows it, preaches the opposite: instant gratification masked as intimacy and love, versus genuine relationships that are built on consistent, nurturing actions over time that exemplify agape, Eros, philia, and storge love.
Both personally and as a relationship therapist, I know that in order to experience true love and intimacy in a relationship, along with the healing and the emotional, spiritual, physical, and sexual health of it, we need long-distance CVS cards and texts to be replaced with in-person conversation, honest words and interested, gazing eye contact. We need gentle strokes on our head in place of street-corner teddy bears. We need to wake up being spooned and held versus picking yesterday’s Victoria Secret purchase off the floor. We need skin-on-skin, not lotions and potions and perfumes. In place of confectioneries we need someone to know and “get” the unknown, buried, and present matters of our heart, soul, and mind. And in order for these matters to come out we need reassurance and safety in place of roses and whimsical promises. We need acceptance on non-holidays. Most importantly, we need encouragement and healthy pressure from trustworthy friends, leaders, and professionals that not only tell us, but show us that healthy love and deep intimacy exists and is possible.
Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.
Click “next page” to read the second position
“No it does not create too much pressure”: Reverend Amy Miller, wedding officiant
In the words of John Lennon - All you need is Love.
My advice for Valentines Day is to relax and to be your irreplaceable self expressing only what is true to you. Don't let society project for you what Valentines Day should be. Each person shares a unique quality that only they can share. My husband is not a romantic and a bit unconventional but for 20 years he has made a home made Valentines day card. One was from a deck of cards that said you’re my queen of hearts. It was delivered on his bicycle ride when I was at work. We have been to fine dining restaurants that offer a romantic dinner package, but that card is one of my most treasured Valentines Day memories.
Keep in mind you don't have to be a couple to celebrate the day. Your friends are the family you choose so share the day with your friends. For all the single ladies consider having a girl’s night in with all the guilty pleasures to satisfy your palate. I have a friend that is having a Blues jam session online with all of his friends spread across the country. My nieces share their hand made art projects from school with my mom and they are promptly displayed.
Think outside the heart shape candy box. If you are a family that likes to give from the heart, donate to local shelters non-perishable food items or always much needed baby items. Spend time with your kids making and decorating cookies and share them with people that may not have family or loved ones close.
Realize that every couple is different. Pressure often comes from comparing yourself with others. Putting up a false, superficial, or artificial appearance serves no one. If you are a guy or girl that is into bling, then I say bling away. If a hike is more your style a moon light night hike may be the perfect fit.
Have realistic expectations. If you are a fairytale princess and you think your prince charming is going to whisk you off to a privately rented rooftop lit with twinkling candlelight’s and flower petals to pop the big question, keep in mind he could turn back into a toad the very next day. Keep this Valentines Day true to who you are as a couple.
Valentine's Day can be a good reminder to spread love. In the words of Mother Teresa “Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness in your face, kindness in your eye, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting”.
This day can be whatever you choose to make it. I say keep in simple and true.
Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.
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