Falling in Love with Love: The Valentine Ritual
Valentine’s Day, as we’ve ritualized and monetized it, speaks to the powerful and often overwhelming spirit of love. It’s as though by packaging such an elusive, and yet nourishing force, we gain some control over it.
Still, we sometimes wonder if there’s anything more to our Hallmark holidays than expensive gifts and outrageous restaurant bills.
But we can reclaim the profundity of love this month by recognizing the value of sincere and collective ritual practices.
Rituals, such as Valentine’s Day, are focused ways of meaning-making— dynamic paths we forge through sincerely enacting our values in a coordinated social dance.
This generates an embodied sense of being connected to something larger and more meaningful than the immediate, material needs we entertain in humdrum everydayness. Through the dance and creation of ritual meaning we can do more than survive— we can thrive.
So let’s take the opportunity to see what we can learn about love this Valentine’s Day, of chocolate covered strawberries, and romantic getaways.
We can author a meaning for love that not only enriches our romantic lives, but also discloses new possibilities for dwelling together in purpose, value, and commitment. Love is not just sexual energy (eros), playfulness (ludus), friendship (philia), longstanding obligation (pragma), impartial care for everyone (agape), or self-care (philautia).
We invite you to add these possibilities to your list.
1. Love as Emotional Coordination
Love shows up in the sustained bonds we concretely forge with others, not in momentary encounters or “unrequited longing.”
That does not mean love is devoid of passion. Sustained emotional bonds are just as much about quality and intensity of emotional coordination as they are about longevity.
We coordinate our emotional relationships with our loved ones as we anticipate their feelings and needs within the framework of promises and commitments. In this way, love is connected to knowledge and learning, as we are challenged to develop satisfactory responses to our loved ones—this is the concrete stuff of emotional intelligence, the call and response of anticipatory care.
This also means that love is fraught with risk, as it requires an intensity of intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional interdependence not found in cordial bonds.
2. Love as Cultivating the Self
We do not often control when and how we love.
Still, love limits the motivations we decide to honor; it shapes us and provides values that guide our reasons for doing things. In this way, it stabilizes our various impulses, desires, and concerns, and directs us toward focused goals—it enacts our commitments.
Love both constrains what it makes sense for us to do, and liberates us to pursue goals that wouldn’t otherwise exist without love.
While love limits our choices, it provides us the freedom to decide our lives, and author our autonomy out of the sometimes-bewildering choices that inundate us from every corner.
3. Love as Unity-in-Diversity
We recognize our self in our loved ones, while also acknowledging their difference and individuality. This is made especially clear in erotic love, where in sexual passion we try to overcome the difference and individuality of our lover by encompassing a larger physical, sensory, and emotional unity.
Beyond the erotic, loving another involves respecting their autonomy while also recognizing a deeper sense of unity.
Love is the intimacy that comes with cultivating a relationship that both unifies and individuates; it encompasses our deepest feelings, urges, and affections. But it also requires decisiveness. In uniting with someone, you become something that you cannot anticipate; you take on an identity that is bound up with the person you love—your very essence changes.
You must leave behind the person you used to be to find out who you will become.
4. Love as Humility and Adventure
When sincerely cultivated, love begets humility— humility in the face of awesome forces that we cannot completely control. A sense of humor and humility can supplant romantic naivety and gloomy cynicism.
Love clears a path, a sometimes very thorny path, of identities and adventures we cannot always determine from the outset.
And by treading the path, we often “fall” by falling in love.
But by mindfully recognizing the humility we experience in the face of the sacred— the larger complexity that sustains us, and that we can never fully wrap our minds around— we can “fall” in love armed with courage and a sense of adventure.
With this, we can clear a space to fall in love with love again!
Happy Valentine’s Day.
–May this illuminate what was always there to begin with: infinite abundance!
© 2017, Ideal Coaching Global, Kevin Perry, Bettie J. Spruill