One of the most powerful ways we can support our lovers is by taking care of ourselves.
February is a month where we are inundated with messages about romantic love. Valentine’s Day can be stressful because the pressure is on to get a romantic date and make it all perfect. It’s a time to celebrate love, but many of us simply end up feeling like whatever we have is not enough—whether or not we’re in a relationship.
Self-love isn’t as valued in our culture as other-love. Women, especially, get the message that our value comes mostly through those relationships, whether we are someone’s wife, mother, daughter, sister, and so on. And those connections are wonderful, but we also have a relationship with ourselves that matters deeply, not only when we are single but also when we are partnered.
One of the most powerful ways we can support our lovers is by taking care of ourselves. When we show up to our relationships with a fully formed sense of who we are and what’s important to us, and when we take care of our bodies and our friendships and community relationships, we have more to give inside of our romantic relationships.
We've also gotten the message, I think, that celebration and special occasions should only ever be shared, ideally with romantic others. That we don’t deserve the pleasure of a special dessert or a fancy cocktail unless we are celebrating some romantic milestone. We put plenty of effort into cooking a beautiful meal for another person, but we eat Kraft dinner out of the pot when we’re by ourselves. Of course it’s lovely to share our joys, but it’s also vital to prioritize our self-pleasure, to put work into this relationship we have with ourselves, the only relationship that will last until the day we die. Including more pleasure and celebration in our lives makes us happier, more relaxed, and more capable of sharing that pleasure and inviting others into it.
Of course, we must be clear with ourselves about the quality of our pleasure and self love practices. Self-love isn’t about chasing our cravings and doing whatever quiets our pain for a few minutes before it comes roaring back. Getting drunk or overeating so we don’t have to feel our feelings isn’t about pleasure, it’s about numbing. A pleasure practice sustains itself, making us feel good well into the next day, while craving practices burn themselves out, making us feel worse when the craved substance is gone. Genuine self love includes things like eating healthy food and doing exercise we enjoy to feel good in our bodies. Genuine pleasure practices could be going to see a movie, having deep conversations with a friend, trying a new recipe out, or taking a hot bath to soak our tired muscles.
I’m taking the month of February to prioritize my pleasure, my self-care, and the needs and desires of my body. I am getting massages, going to yoga, and roping friends into coming with me to plays and trivia night at my local bar. This month I want to have fun and enjoy the time I spend both with myself and my intimate others. This is Self-Love February.
So this Valentine’s day, let’s celebrate love. Let’s support and bolster our self-love for our own sake and also in order to have more to give to our friends and loved ones. Let’s have fun, pleasurable experiences sometimes to share and sometimes to keep all to ourselves. Let’s make a commitment to honor love by starting at the source: our own tired hearts.