Heart Shaped Glitter

Going out on a limb. Is anyone else noticing the love/hate vibe surrounding the only official holiday celebrating love and relationships? Depending on your relationship status or overall mood, Valentine’s Day can represent all that is good, or all that sucks in life.

Cue the hearts, flowers, and chocolate. If you believe the hype, lovers are staring in to one another’s eyes and the hum of daily life is blanketed with feelings galore. Cupid is on a roll and heart shaped glitter and light floats down from the heavens covering all who love. Cue the eye rolls.

When I mentioned the subject matter of my blog this week to my wife she winced. I believe her exact words were “Seriously? That is not going to go over very well.” I agreed, and decided to write it anyway. What better day of the year is there to write about love?

For those lucky enough to be in a relationship, it can mean gifts, fine dining, and mushy cards. For others, it can be an annoying reminder of an area of life that is lacking, specifically that special someone to spend it with. All or nothing. Extremes are the hallmark of Valentine’s Day.

As a real estate broker, I have years of experience in the art of answering objections. To save some time, I will address the obvious before I get started. You may wonder how a person who has been in relationships for the past 26 years has the nerve to speak about matters of the uncoupled.

Fair enough. I would agree with the objections if what followed was advice about being in a relationship with someone else. What else is there you ask? Here is the hard stuff. You were warned.

My first relationship lasted twenty years and included as many Valentine’s Days, of which I can remember two. One was when I was dating my ex-husband and the other when we were married, which is ten percent if you are a numbers person.

I could blame my ex-husband for not being more creative or enthusiastic in his planning, but that would be unfair. The problem was with me. Accepting love from someone is very challenging when a lifelong battle to love yourself is in full swing.

The belief, as well meaning as it seems, that simply being in a relationship is the answer to feeling loved and complete, is flawed. Setting land mine number one here. Unless you have an understanding and willingness to love yourself, relationships will be difficult. Being married did not solve my internal struggle, even though it was loving.

Let’s face it. Self-love is hard. There are so many obstacles that accumulate over the course of a lifetime which create roadblocks and patterns of unhealthy thinking in each of us. Changing this thinking is not easy however is possible with a willingness to take a long hard look at ourselves, address, and accept what we find within.

The day I accepted my gayness and came out was the first day I chose to love myself. Loving me meant breaking up my family, changing every aspect of how my life looked, and dealing with a barrage of criticism and negativity. It was only when I addressed the relationship with myself could I truly experience and understand love with someone else.

Truthfully, when my wife and I began our relationship as a lesbian couple, we hit a few bumps. The journey to loving herself was in the beginning stages and we were in different places in the self-love process. Accumulated baggage is a bitch to unpack.

I believed we could not be our best unless loving myself was priority one. This concept was a hard sell for her and we had many “discussions” about the merits of my position. She felt “we” was greater than “me”. I was not budging. Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? There is the problem for most of us.

Self-love and self-care are not selfish. Read that last sentence again out loud. Even on the worst days, my choice to love me first was critical to building a strong relationship with my wife. Self-love is selfless and the cornerstone of wellness.

Time for land mine number two. You do not need anyone else’s approval to love yourself. Being authentic and healthy is the greatest state of being. To do this you must fight feeling guilty and the need to explain yourself to anyone who questions your choices or decisions.

It means not allowing the opinions or words of family, friends, or strangers interfere with your truth and relationship with yourself. Coming out with young kids was hard. I struggled to help them make sense of the changes but was determined that my sense of self was not going to be compromised in the process.

Many women who come out later in life contend with grown children whose reactions bring tension and stress. In fact, many contact me and share their struggle in this area. Mothers are especially prone to allowing guilt to alter their course. With every objection, cracks in the armor can form which let doubt seep in.

Self-doubt destroys peace and diminishes love. Learning how to quiet the whispers takes practice and patience. When the lessons get absorbed, the transformation is life changing. Cling to the lessons and resist the need to make everyone else feel better. Be authentic and you will see things work themselves out over time.

Land mine number three is important. Unfortunately, learning how to love yourself is not an overnight process. It usually requires many crying jags, or visits to therapists, brutal honesty, and reconciling and releasing old patterns of thinking and behaviors.

Included is in the process is not settling for someone just to avoid being alone. Ouch. I know. Letting go requires super human strength and a commitment to view your own authenticity as non-negotiable. The work is difficult and the feelings are heavy, but you are worth it. Go deeper. Be fearless.

Need a kick start? Ask someone close to you to make a list of all the things they love about you. Step outside of your own head and begin to see yourself as others do. Pay attention to how to talk to yourself and adjust as needed. Do something nice for yourself. Chocolate anyone?

Thinking a relationship is the final stop on the road to bliss and happiness is okay, providing you first find that relationship with yourself. For those who are on board the self-love train already and have not found their person yet, stay hopeful and be patient. Everyone is a work in progress.