The air is bitterly cold, the trees stripped to bare branches. It’s also the time of year that partners take a day to express their love for each other. Meanwhile, those without relationships are reminded again of their societal failure. Whether recently dumped or never having been in a relationship, it’s never fun to be single on the most romantic holiday of the year.
For all Valentine’s Day attempts to be about love, it often does the opposite. The concept of romance has an all-important emphasis in our society. Depending on your situation, Valentine’s Day is just a day designed to push those values onto you. It tells people they’re not good enough because they don’t have a partner. It tells people they need a relationship to be happy. It tells people a romantic relationship is the most important part of their life.
Those things are not true. The framing of romance as an all-important and essential part of a fulfilled life is extremely damaging. Aromantic or asexual people grow up believing they are broken because they cannot fulfill the arbitrary expectation placed on them. People who have tried and failed in the dating scene begin to believe that something is fundamentally wrong or undesirable about them. People inflate the importance of relationships, become miserable with themselves while they pursue a relationship, and stay in toxic or unhealthy relationships because they cannot imagine they could find another one.
Pressure to find a relationship comes in all kinds of ways. The pervasive belief that being a virgin or never having dated by a certain age is shameful; friends, family, acquaintances feeling sorry for someone because they aren’t in a relationship; parents asking their children when they’re going to get grandchildren. All around, people dash around in pursuit or affirmation of love, and there is the overlaying message that one is lessbecause they do not have a relationship.
Of course there are many valid reasons to not have a relationship. Some are closeted in a world that, in many circumstances, won’t accept them. Some are taking the time to work through personal issues before committing. Some simply don’t find people who support them. Others still simply don’t want a relationship at all. Yet, many interpretations still label them “single” or “alone.”
In reality there’s no shame in not being in a relationship. There’s no shame in not being happy with a relationship. “Love” is often referred to as being purely romantic, but there are many types of love. Each is as important as they are personally interpreted to be. In many cases, familial or platonic love can be just as strong as romantic love.
Romance by itself is not harmful. It can bring an important sense of companionship and support that, in some cases, can’t be found through friendship. The same is true of Valentine’s Day. There is nothing wrong with couples expressing their affection for each other. However, there is a widespread belief that people are not whole without a romantic partner, and Valentine’s day can only serve to deepen that feeling.