By Danielle McKenna
When I was at school, I remember getting a special commendation for a Valentines poem that ruefully finished with the line ‘oh why oh why do bimbos get all the luck?’ Wise, cynical, oh-so-woke, 13-year-old me thought she knew allllll about it.
The truth is, the older I get, the more I realise we never stop learning. There is always more. Especially in matters of the heart. We, as resourceful, creative and whole human beings, are constantly evolving and rolling with life’s many punches. The hope is that your partner evolves with you, or that you will have a constant by your side willing to support you throughout, but sadly this is not always the case.
So, what can we do about it? We can make sure that the pillars our relationships are built upon have strong foundations from the very beginning. We can communicate early how we expect to be loved and everything we do for each other can demonstrate love and respect. (This works for platonic relationships, and our relationships with our children as well as romantic ones by the way.)
Conversely, we also have to respect ourselves to choose wisely and intelligently. Do not, under any circumstances, ignore red flags. Red flags in a short-lived romance can cause years of damage to unravel, mend and move past. Also do not settle. Life is long and you need someone you’re happy and willing to go the distance with.
While I realise love and relationship types come in many different forms, varieties and complications. The pillars that should remain true and for me are unshakable, are pretty simple;
Value yourself. A good rule of thumb is ‘if my best friend was being treated this way, would I be ok with it?’ Many of us are willing to make an impassioned speech on behalf of someone else. How many of us do it for ourselves?
Validation. We all need to feel witnessed; we all need to feel heard; have you been giving each other the time and dedication you both need? Have you taken the time to figure out what resonates? Words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts? Take time to know your partner and validate them when they need it most.
Loyalty and Trust. Does what it says on the tin. Unless you’ve consciously chosen to be in an open relationship, any abuse of trust to someone you love is inexcusable and you need therapy.
Independence. It is so important to keep a sense of self in relationships. Make sure you have your own interests, friends and career. To be too co-dependent is always a mistake. Familiarity breeds contempt and we all need something that is entirely ours.
Be kind. If all else fails, this is your place of safety. Looks fade, chemistry lessens, money gets spent, but if you have someone that is consistently kind and understanding of you, this is gold.
If you are lucky enough to be in a loving partnership, honour that person every day and make a fuss of them on Valentines Day. What can you do or say to make them shine and understand what they mean to you? Sometimes the smallest of gestures make the biggest of impacts, especially when they come from the heart.
If you are alone, don’t get hung up on it. The one thing that can’t be forced is the timing of love and it will come to you at the right time and moment. In the meantime, work on every area of your life so that when that person shows up (and you’ll know) you’re ready to meet your equal. Build a healthy relationship with yourself first so you recognise it in another. Anything less is never worth it and sometimes in being alone you find your magic.
If you’re at some ‘halfway house’ of a relationship be brave enough to ask for what you want and need. Honour yourself enough to have that brave and daring conversation. If they aren’t willing to meet you on the bridge, they are not for you and they’ve dumped themselves for you. Next! If you’re the procrastinator, recognise that perhaps you need more. If they don’t set your world alight, then they are another souls blessing.
Or if you’re immersed in something more toxic and you are repetitively asking for something simple and as basic as respect, clarity and communication, they are incapable of providing it. Take a step back and notice the areas of your life that need more support. You need to step your self-love game up, as it won’t be coming from them and can only ever come from you.
Whatever type of relationship you are in, without question, the most important relationship is the one you have with YOU. If you place your self-worth in the hands of others you’ll always be left powerless. If you are waiting to be chosen you will always be left wanting. We experience the love we want by the love we give. So, this Valentines Day, and always, make sure the love you give to yourself is unconditional.