Where is the Love?: Making Sense of Love in a World Lacking Romance
This Valentine’s Day will be similar to others in the past. Couples making reservations for extravagant restaurants, nervous romantics admitting their feelings for a crush, and cynics highlighting how stupid and/or pointless the holiday is are all common occurrences on this day. But in today's social and political climate, I believe we should take some time to use the holiday to reflect. Usually, holidays like Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day are meant for this purpose. But I believe Valentine's Day should be included in this time of reflection.
This is not to be so cynical as to confuse this with a day of mourning, although statistics like a declining marriage rate and a higher single population than ever before can paint a grim picture at times. Rather, Valentine’s Day should be used to examine how we love ourselves, how we love others, and whether it is even worth it to be in love in the first place.
Loneliness, of course, is a strong driver of people’s romantic decisions. Our desires are motivated by our natural need for companionship and we often look for someone who can satisfy that need. This is why people single often make overt self-depreciating, tongue-and-cheek remarks about “Single Awareness Day” or cryptic absolutes like “I’ll never get a boyfriend/girlfriend”.
I am not by any means attempting to downplay these needs & desires. Rather, I would like to frame a new perspective on what it means to be single and how we can become better friends, better lovers and better people in the process.
Unfortunately, many modern societies look at spousal relationships as a stabilizing force in an otherwise chaotic world. We see being in a relationship as a possibility of marriage, with marriage comes the possibility of having children, with children comes the continued existence of our species. This utilitarian viewpoint of the family has been perpetuated for centuries, and for the most part, it has worked pretty well as far as increasing the global population.
The problem isn’t that we have struggled to create families in the modern age, it’s that we have struggled to create families with strong foundations to build values off of. When I say that, one may think that I am advocating for different child-rearing methods for parents or injecting religions/piety into their lives. In fact, I believe being single can actually strengthen families as they are today.
It’s hard to define what makes a family strong. It’s hard to identify what makes a relationship strong. But one thing is clear, better partnerships come from better people. And not better people as in superior individuals, but people who are happy and secure with themselves. You hardly ever hear of toxic relationships being fostered by well-balanced, altruistic people. So why are they so joyous and confident in the first place? It has everything to do with investing in one’s self.
One of the luxuries of being single is only having to worry about yourself. This particular circumstance is a time where your actions and the consequences of those actions mainly affect you. With this, you have the time and energy to fully invest in yourself, and not just in terms of good habits or financial planning. Taking the time to determine what/who is important in your life, evaluating your self-worth, challenging old beliefs with new methods of thinking, setting goals and achieving them. All of these are examples of investing in yourself that can be a critical component of development, particularly as adults.
While these can most certainly be accomplished by people in relationships, depending on the dynamic, it is likely this development can be conflated with the spouse's values and character traits. Thus, hampering both parties fully investing in themselves. In other words, it is hard to improve as an individual when the goal of a relationship is to grow as a team.
This is possibly why more and more people are single today. Many may look at the fact, that the majority in the United States are not married, as a bad thing. Many will point to “hook-up” culture as the reason for this. The argument is that Increased concentration on self-satisfaction has led to people who no longer value sex or valuable relationships. Perhaps this is partly the case, or it could be that people are starting to value enjoying their lives rather than attaching to, and starting, new ones.
As a child of divorce myself, I have seen that simply being married is not a recipe for a successful family. It is also not enough to just be virtuous people on the surface. Strong, stable families come from healthy, happy people that choose to love one another, not just to embark on the “next chapter” of their lives. This doesn’t mean you have to get married after 30 or reject potential opportunities to love in order to engage in a perpetual, Ayn Rand-style of self-fulfillment. But, simply having more children or having more relationships to preserve a perceived sense of stability, is counterintuitive.
Love is complicated. I’m not an expert on it and anyone who pretends to be should receive your skepticism. That aside, Taking the time to figure out who you are and learning to love that person is critical to the way you treat others. You know the old cliche? “How can you expect anyone to love you if you don’t love your self?” It might be best to ask, “If you invest love in yourself, who else is really worth the return on that investment?”
Whether your single or taken this today, be sure to include yourself in your list of Valentines!