February might elicit thoughts of hearts, candy, roses, and romantic dinners … and we probably think of these things because that’s what we’ve been taught or nurtured to see in society through portrayal on TV, through marketing, and on social media. (I tend to call it a bit of a “Hallmark holiday.”) Today I’m here to remind you that chocolates are not what’s important; they are only on the surface of the biggest, most real gifts in our lives: connections!
So how do we go deeper? How can we make heart day really mean something? How can we foster meaningful connections this Valentine’s Day (and every day) — so it’s not just about flower deliveries and gifts? So it’s not about Hallmark-esque expectations, and instead is about genuine connection — whether that means seeking, developing, or nourishing real relationships.
Look away from social media, and into your heart.
Connection isn’t about what you show off on social media. It’s not just a photo opp — because how often can staged photos accurately reflect real connection anyway? It’s about what happens in the private moments inside relationships: friendships, family, and partners — all caring and loving relationships. It’s about feeling connected to others, to life, and to yourself.
What people post on social media isn’t always the whole truth.
What people post on social media rarely reflects the true depth of a relationship.
Maybe a true, deep relationship has seen hard times and found a way through? Maybe it has helped widen their windows of tolerance and stick together even during the hard parts. Authentic, connected relationships have bumps. Along the way, people in safe relationships learn it is safe to be more vulnerable, accepting, and communicative. This doesn’t come across on social media, where the images are about the planning and the creation. It only happens when you can be fully present in the moments of relationships.
Look at what is real.
This Valentine’s Day, as we think about showing and receiving expressions of love and care, let’s consider what really matters: Is it really the chocolate and the roses? Or is it about being a priority or thought about? Knowing that someone is there for you? The depth of the relationship, being there for each other, appreciating another being, and noticing how that feels inside your heart, mind, and body?
Take some time to notice the relationships that are important to you — not based on fleeting gifts — on true care. Consider:
- Who’s going to be there for you — walking along this life journey?
- Who are you going to be there for?
- What are the relationships that bring so much value, they make you a better person?
- Who can you share your true feelings with, without fear?
- Who makes you feel safe?
- Which connections help you cope with the hard parts of life?
How do we foster meaningful connections — whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any day of the year? It’s about looking deeper. It’s about considering:
- How can we honor the deeper connections in our life?
- How do we bring love and care to ourselves?
- How do we foster new connections?
- How do we see connection wherever we are?
- How do we recognize unhealthy relationships and harmful connections?
No relationship is without issue — even if those issues are relatively small, like disagreements over taking the garbage out or putting the cap on the toothpaste. Relationships take effort and care to attend to, making them safe and meaningful.
Social media can fuel unrealistic expectations for romantic relationships. The perfect meal. The perfect gift. The perfect friend. The perfect trip. REAL CONNECTION IS FAR FROM PERFECT.
And it’s still beautiful. And safe!
As safety is the most important in relationships, we also honor that February represents Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, making this month a great time to look at our connections and assess them for safety.
Anyone can bring you flowers on February 14th. Who brings you flowers (or a token of care) other days of the year? Who helps when you need support? Who is there when you’re sick? Who makes you feel warm inside? Who is happy when you show up? Who puts in the hard work with you? Who makes you feel safe?
If you’re single, lonely, or hurting, Valentine’s Day can be a really tough day if it feels like everybody in the world has someone but you. Please know this…
Feeling connected doesn’t have to be about deep, romantic connections. Wonderful connection is available with other humans in all sorts of places, at all sorts of levels. Notice the relationships you do have — friends, neighbors, acquaintances — people with whom you feel seen and cared for.
If you think you have no real or deep connections, start small.
Do you get that feeling of kindness and care in the places you may not think about?
When you walk into the coffee shop, are you greeted with warmth and recognition?
Does the mail carrier smile at you?
Do you have pleasant chats or exchanges with neighbors or coworkers?
In a group setting, like at a concert or fitness class, do you ever get the feeling of energy, cheer, or togetherness?
TAKE IN THAT FEELING.
That is connection. And when we notice it, it’s easier to foster it.
Of course, being vulnerable and connecting isn’t always easy for trauma survivors. And you deserve love and harmony no matter your scars from trauma.
This February, please remember that real connection is always picture-perfect. It’s not always surrounded by dozens of roses. It’s not always a photo opp. It’s sometimes just the person who keeps showing up.
May the kindness in the world be easy for you to notice this month. May you feel connected. May your heart feel safe and content. May you know that new, safe, harmonious relationships are possible, and that they are awaiting you.
If you are ready to explore the possibility of therapy, please reach out.