If we were to ask pop culture what the ideal relationship looked like, most of us would expect an image of fireworks in the sky with that one and only person who completes us. Romantic comedies may be uplifting, and love songs beautiful, but much of what we learn about relationships early on sets us up for unrealistic expectations.
The result? We never feel like our relationships are good enough, and may doubt if we’re deserving of love.
Holidays like Valentine’s Day can exacerbate these worries. Social media often makes it seem like everyone else is coupled and in an ecstatic state of love. If we’re partnered, we may wonder if our relationship is as good as everyone else’s seems to be. And if we’re single, we may feel even more inadequate.
But it’s not like we’re just a bunch of cynics here at Talkspace. We think Valentine’s Day is festive, and believe that relationships — be them platonic, romantic, or familial — provide the richest aspects of our lives. But much of fostering healthy connections comes down to our expectations, as well as our ability to take care of ourselves.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day and honor each of your journeys in love, we’ve compiled relationship advice from a group of talented Talkspace therapists. We hope you find their expertise helpful! Perhaps you might also enjoy some chocolate or treat yourself to flowers — whether you’re single and loving it, single and looking, or happily partnered…
Remember that you matter most, relationship or not.
“The most successful relationships are those who still have independence and don’t ‘lose themselves’ in their relationships.”
—Alicia Winkle, LMHC, DCC
Don’t forget that commitment is a practice—whether in the throes of new romance or a long-standing marriage.
“When it comes to a marriage I have three rules: 1. Never say Divorce, 2. When the going gets rough, turn in not out, and 3. Be committed to being committed.”
—Audrey Carrick, LPC
Love may be a feeling, but it’s a journey. And being vulnerable is a form of education.
“Vulnerability with another person is a deep sense of sharing, a deep sense of learning…True trust of another human being is the ultimate form of intimacy, and, conversely, trusting oneself with someone else’s heart is equally remarkable.”
—Blythe Landry, LCSW, M.Ed
Don’t worry if you’re thinking about attraction! Physical and emotional intimacy are intertwined.
“If you’re in a committed relationship, but aren’t getting your emotional needs met, you likely won’t have a strong desire for physical intimacy. Same goes for the reverse. If your physical needs aren’t being met, that can impact your emotional closeness.”
—Alicia Bradley, LCPC
It may be a cliché, but make an effort to see things outside of your own perspective. Love is a two-way street.
“Be the person who you would want to come home to. Make a conscious effort, everyday, to let go of prideful thoughts — and remember that not all of our thoughts are correspond to reality.”
Erin Chambers, LMSW
Loftiness aside, some tensions can be addressed with simple, behavioral shifts — like putting away your phone!
“Do you consider quality time the time you and your partner spend sitting next to each other scrolling through social media? If so, it might be a good idea to reassess boundaries you have with your devices…Nothing is sexier than someone who is actively engaged in their partner’s life. Let’s be wild and talk to one another!”
—Gina Ferrari, LICSW, MHP
Last but not least: Consider the king. The king sized bed, that is.
“I know that it’s going to sound funny, but one thing that I always say to people in relationships and marriage is get a king size bed…It allows people to have their space but be together which in my mind sums up how to have a healthy relationship.”
—Michele Turner, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS
At the heart of all of this advice is something universal: the importance of being present in each moment. In what we say, in what we do, in how our thoughts affect how we feel.
So let go of these stories, and see for yourself what love can feel like — for yourself, for your family members, for friends, for lovers, for spouses, and beyond.
Happy Valentine’s Day!