How to Be Your Own True Love on Valentine’s Day
By Candace Plattor, M.A.
I’m not quite sure who it was that came up with the idea of a holiday like Valentine’s Day, especially with it coming right on the heels of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For many people who are still mired in codependency – people who, as a rule, generally experience feelings such as scared, lonely, worthless, and hopeless – having all three of these holidays in a row can feel daunting.
But, as a recovering codependent myself, I can tell you that Valentine’s Day was always the worst for me.
Surviving the Holiday Triangle
Let’s face it – it’s difficult enough when we feel on the outside of those warm, loving families we see on TV all through December, with that Christmas music wafting through the air. Many of us don’t come from families like that, even though we know that some may actually exist out there somewhere. I didn’t come from a large, loving family – far from it. And when I wasn’t in a romantic relationship, riding around in someone else’s back pocket and attending his family’s gatherings where I still felt like an outsider, the holiday season was usually a very difficult time for me.
And then there was New Year’s Eve – where I was either trying my best to make my dysfunctional relationship seem somewhat healthy, or I felt like I was the only one on the planet who didn’t have a plus-one. Another potentially disastrous time of the year for me.
And then came the prospect of Valentine’s Day, which looms large wherever we look right now. It’s advertised on TV, in magazines, and online in social media from at least mid-January until V-Day – and this time, we are inundated with images of chocolates, flowers, jewellery and, of course, lovers who gaze into each other’s eyes, smiling, so so so happy.
For many years, before and during my recovery from codependency, I approached all of this with a very heavy heart. If I did have a partner, we were probably not getting along very well – such is the nature of codependent relationships. We certainly weren’t the couples I was seeing on TV. If I didn’t have a partner – someone who would buy me chocolates or flowers or jewelry and gaze at me lovingly – I was just downright miserable, fully believing that this was my fault and that there must be something terribly wrong with ME.
And not having any idea about how to make any of this be different.
And the pain goes on – UNTIL…
I bought into this year after year. I didn’t know what else to do. When I wasn’t wishing and praying for a new boyfriend – fast, before Valentine’s Day — I wished I could simply hibernate from about mid-November until Valentine’s Day was finally over. It was brutal. And I’m aware now that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. There are probably millions of people feeling that way, all over the planet – drinking more wine, smoking more pot, and eating several buckets of ice cream at one sitting, while watching those romantic movies that are on virtually every channel at this time of year.
Codependency is sneaky. It can creep up on us when we least expect it. We try and try to make everything right, to make everyone else happy, while we are miserable deep inside – and most of the time, we don’t even know why. Until – we become sick and tired of being sick and tired – and then we begin a wondrous journey of recovery. I remember the very moment this shifted for me. I knew, without a doubt, that I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I wasn’t sure what was coming – but I knew I didn’t want this. I began to read books like “Codependent No More” and go to groups like Codependents Anonymous. At that time, there weren’t webinars and podcasts to watch, or articles like this one from someone who understands, because the internet was merely a gleam in someone’s eye at that point. But I persevered, and little by little, my pain healed and I became less traumatized. As I started to know myself on a deeper level, I became more open to self-responsibility and change.
I know that it can feel counter-intuitive to care about ourselves. We are taught, with almost every breath, to love others and not ourselves – especially as girls. Others’ feelings are more important than our own – this is what we learn. And we can live this way for a very long time. But as adults, we do have a choice about what we’re going to buy into and what we decide to leave behind. If caring about others at the expense of your own self-respect isn’t working well for you, as it wasn’t for me, it may be time to think about going in a different direction.
Today, as an almost fully recovered codependent, I like myself. (I will admit that it rears its head from time to time, and then I know I need to increase my self-care.) Sometimes I feel as if I actually love myself – and what an amazing feeling that is! I wish it for everyone who has ever felt scared, lonely, worthless, and hopeless.
Please don’t ever give up!
So, you may be asking, where do I start? How can I get to a place of liking myself too? If you’re asking yourself that, then you’re already on the journey, maybe even without knowing it, and I’m so happy for you. There isn’t a cookie-cutter answer because we are all different. But there are many things about codendency that are the same for all of us, and when we share with others who are, or have been, codependent in their relationships we come to see that.
And yes, I do have a possible answer for you, in terms of how to start…
What if, this year, we all celebrate Valentine’s Day a little differently than we have? Even if we are in a romantic relationship, instead of yearning only to receive gifts from someone else, what if we gave them to ourselves? Go out and buy yourself a box of chocolates, or a bouquet of flowers, or those earrings you’ve been eyeing! What if you sent yourself a card, either online or via snail mail, telling you how much you appreciate yourself for a variety of things you could list? What if you skip the romantic movie and instead have a play-date with someone you enjoy spending time with – grab a lovely coffee and a chocolate chip cookie at your favourite café and go for a walk together.
What if you made the healthy, amazing choice to fill yourself up?
The love we’ve been seeking for so long is inside of us. This is what codependent people need to understand. When we finally tap into that and truly feel it, that’s when we can give it and receive it from another who can also feel this inside of themselves. That is really the way this works. It’s not about someone else fulfilling our every need – or us fulfilling theirs. Although this is not what most of us are taught as children, getting to know and like ourselves truly is an inside job for all of us.
I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day this year. My hope for you is that you will choose to make it different from the difficult and horrible ones you’ve likely experienced in the past. Please know you’re not alone – if I could do this, you can do this – and it feels so much better to be good to ourselves!
Candace Plattor, M.A., is an Addictions Therapist specializing in working with the family of people who are struggling with addiction. As a former addict with 35 years clean and sober, Candace knows that overcoming addiction is a family condition: everyone in the family is affected by addiction and everyone needs to heal. https://lovewithboundaries.com/freegift/