With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many folks are feeling the pressure to illustrate their devotion with their pocketbook and plan the perfect gift, evening out or surprise. My preference might be a lovely little box of salted dark chocolate caramels. But billions of dollars are spent each year in an attempt, often unsuccessfully, to fulfill expectations of loved ones. And therein lies the rub.
One such reader wrote to me last week in distress about the pressure and expectations, a word on The Inner Bottom Line that spells trouble, because all expectations ever do is set us up for disappointment. Perhaps you can relate to Henry’s dilemma.
I’m writing because Valentine’s Day is around the corner again and I find myself in a bind I’ve never been in before. Having divorced two years ago, I found dating again a challenge, but early last year, I met Sylvia, a lovely lady, and we’ve been going out fairly regularly now since then. We have fun together, we visit each other’s homes, and until now, I haven’t felt any pressure from her to make it anything more than it is…an easy, pleasant relationship without strings, something I’d never experienced before, having married when I was only twenty to my high school sweetheart. We were together for twenty-three years and mutually decided to part. Well, like I said, all was great, until suddenly, a few weeks ago, Sylvia began dropping hints about being my valentine and suggesting we do something really special, and then the hints starting popping up daily. All that ended up doing was make me examine my feelings for her and realize that I’m not in love with her and really don’t want to make her my valentine. What do I do now? I’m a bit surprised all of this has come up for me and I’m not sure what the right thing is to do. Help. Henry.
First of all, there’s never usually a “right” thing to do in any situation, especially one involving the heart. The only right thing in any situation involving love is what feels right for you. And therein lies the key challenge and issue.
Many newly divorced people, particularly single men, tend to “fall” into the first or second relationship that comes along, more out of convenience or ease than by choice, as they try out their new singledom. And that, in itself, often sets up the next issue down the road. It’s all fine and comfortable until something occurs that puts pressure on them to prove their love. And then, all bets are off.
Nothing will make someone’s feet grow colder faster than being pressed to prove or show their love when the love being asked for isn’t really present. And it sounds like that’s where you’ve now ended up, Henry.
Affection, lust, passion, comfort, ease, convenience; these are all emotions or states that can color and support indefinitely a casual relationship. But love is not necessarily going to end up in the mix.
And so the affair ambles along and all is well. Until something tangible like Valentine’s Day pops up and splat! We hit that brick wall. What to say? What to buy? What to do about this very nice, unsuspecting person when we discover we’re not necessarily on the same page, heart-wise, as them. And certainly not where they thought, hoped or dreamed we’d be.
If you tell the truth, chances are everything after that will go to hell in a hand basket. Feelings will be dashed, angry words may be spoken, hurts may be addressed, expectations will be disappointed, and all in all, well end up feeling like a piece of crap. All because of what? We didn’t love them. We liked them, we enjoyed them, we desired them, we valued and admired and respected them. But L-O-V-E? Just not there.
So, Henry, let’s diffuse the entire foolish notion of love proof. Most people don’t realize that love isn’t something you prove. It also isn’t something you can just say aloud and have that be enough. You have to live it, breathe it, show it through actions, not words, in everything and anything you do, easily, unconditionally.
You either love someone passionately and exclusively or you don’t. It can’t be forced, it can’t be demanded, and it certainly can’t be bought. So if you don’t feel that kind of love, but have genuine feelings of affection for Sylvia, then that’s all right and still very precious and valuable. And not to be dismissed lightly or trashed.
So what to do, right now, with Valentine’s Day upon you? Follow your heart. It’s your choice, Henry, and remember, you always have choices and options. First, on one end of the spectrum, you could just buy a card or bouquet of flowers, smile sweetly, not overtly profess love, and see what happens. Or, at the other end, you could have “that conversation”, tell her how all of the pressure has made you realize now that you’re not in love with her, without apologizing for that fact, but still value her highly as a friend and go from there, if there’s any place to go. Or something in between.
No matter what you choose, and no matter how she responds or what she decides to do or not do, you clearly know now that this relationship is already in transition and has changed, if not in her mind, then certainly in yours, and there’s no going back.
Whatever you decide to do or not do, Henry, please do not ever allow any one person, situation or artificial date on the calendar to pressure or force you into acting out emotions you don’t feel or want. That would be disrespectful, unfair and dishonest to you and your Inner Bottom Line, and you deserve much more than that.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com, or call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” with your questions. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
Kindle and audio versions along with the hard cover of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life, are now available on amazon.com.
Tags: choices, fairness, honesty, integrity, Making Good Choices, Moving Forward, Respectful Relationships, Setting Boundaries