“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan.
For years I wore all black on February 14th just to give a visual image of how much I disliked the day. I would say Valentine’s Day is for “rookies” who don’t know how to show up and love their girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/family on every other day of the year.
That’s what I used to say, and I think, from a strictly intellectual perspective, the position is still defensible.
But, honestly, I hated Valentine’s Day because I hated the reminder of being single or, worse yet, I hated that whoever I was dating in February would actually believe my protestations and decide to ignore any hint of romance.
Did you catch that?
I’d complain about celebrating a “romantic” holiday, but I actually DID want to be romanced. If you’re a guy reading this, trust me when I say I’m not the first woman to act this way, nor will I be the last.
I didn’t need a bouquet of roses, but a romantic meal?? Um… Yeah. I’d take that any time.
I never understood how my mixed messages factored into my enjoyment of the day and how utterly confusing it must have been to date me. (There were other challenges too!!)
Even though I’ve long ago made peace with Valentine’s Day, at least two behaviors of my silly, 20-something self are illustrative of common relationship problems:
1. Words don’t always match feelings.
2. Independence is often easier than vulnerability.
The path of honest conversations and dependence is scary and challenging; it requires awkward encounters and an unflinching commitment to truth. Often it’s easier to cop an “I don’t care attitude.”
Unfortunately, the problem is you DO care. And, worse still, when you pretend not to care, what you’re really practicing is not feeling.
For the record, numbness does not make for an enjoyable life.
Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t your trigger for throwing up your defenses. Maybe it’s your desire to hear that you’re smart or pretty or important. Perhaps you “protest too much” when others ask if you need help or when you’re feeling lonely.
Pay attention whenever what you say departs from how you feel or when you decide you’d rather be flying solo than exposing your feelings to someone else. These behaviors should be red flags signaling the potential for dysfunction.
Instead stop, engage, and be real with the people around you. That’s the best thing you can do in any relationship.