Coping with Valentine’s Day: loneliness in COVID-19 lockdown
How to feel less lonely and more empowered on Valentine’s Day during Covid-19 lockdown.
“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.” - A.A. Milne ‘The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’
Looking out of my window today, I remember the sting of loneliness and the worry during that first lockdown.
How often in the last year have you reflected on your status, processed old relationships and memories, and felt regret and grief? This period has given many of us way too much time to think.
Reflecting on what I’ve overcome in my history, I wonder how many of you feel you give and give and give, only to end up feeling alone or forgotten at a time like this.
Today, I want to share with you part of how I’ve achieved a happy, loving life. I want to give you hope that this is possible for you and to start providing tools for your journey. Let’s start with loving too much.
Do you love too much?
Some think that hard work for love means sacrificing yourself. Making compromises to please other people. Suppressing your wants and needs for the ‘happiness’ of someone else. Understanding and accepting a partner’s behaviour, despite it causing you discomfort or disappointment.
That’s not love.
Love is something that we were all born with the capacity for. Yet, many of us were not taught how to receive it, or how to give it, without cost to ourselves.
This is such an English thing. I’ve no doubt other cultures have their version, but we really have it embedded in our culture. Many of us think it’s selfish to put ourselves first. We come from a compelling ‘stiff upper lip’ culture that encourages us to keep quiet about any emotional difficulty. And, we all care so much about what others think of us.
So, many of us keep on giving, accepting and understanding, in the hope that if we love enough for two people, eventually someone will love us back.
But, it just doesn’t happen like this. This is almost a fairy tale. In fact, I’ve heard that romantic fiction was invented to distract the population from political unrest and famine.
So, here we are. Many regretting our life choices as we make the best of a very challenging situation.
How can you know real love at this time?
It strikes me that Valentine’s Day 2021 is a good day to focus on inner warmth. The repeated idea of needing to love yourself before being loved by another, is true. Especially now.
It’s hard if you love too much to treat yourself well. Partly because you have absolutely no reference for knowing the difference between being treated well and being treated badly. If you love too much you’re also being tough on yourself all day long, and the company you keep might reflect this criticism too.
The trick to knowing love, is to learn to challenge this critic and to start to do things for yourself. This might mean starting to speak up about what makes you tired or uncomfortable. Or, learning to think from your perspective, rather than from what anyone else might think of you. Or, it might mean overcoming the fear of making someone irritable or disappointing them.
It’s about starting to think about what you really want in a relationship. Like kindness, fun and consideration. Then, learning how to provide these for yourself. And ultimately, sharing this with others.
Plan for love
Start planning how to work on what you want for yourself, for the rest of this year, whether in isolation, or not.
- How can you be kinder to yourself right now?
- What would you like someone to ask you about?
- Think of what would have been a loving way for you to spend your first moments today.
- What would it take to keep this thread going each day?
- What would you need to be happier?
More contact? More breaks? Reading, writing, listening, walking, bathing? A shoulder massager? Playing with the dog? Taking time out to find something funny, like stand-up comedy?
- What would make you feel loved? Can you give this to yourself?
- How could you treat yourself like the attentive lover that you want to have?
Remember the love you have had
This is also a good day to make the effort to reflect on the connections you have had. This has been the ultimate challenge for all of us at this time. But, every single bit of intense, awkward, delightful, across-the-isolation-divide love that you’ve experienced, counts. So, take an inventory of it, and make the effort to try to remember what loving moments have felt like for you.
The thing to bear in mind most of all this Valentine’s Day is that you haven’t failed in love. You were awesome in 2020! You showed resilience like never before in extreme isolation from your community. That isn’t natural, normal, or healthy for any of us. We need each other to co-regulate. In the absence of this, we need to take more time to look after ourselves than usual.
My hope with this article is that if you take the time to reflect on the love that you have shared, how you have worked on love through COVID-19, and start to claim some of that for yourself, then perhaps you might just see that you are the awesome person that you really are. That's how you start to find a life filled with love. Other people can't help but love you, if you know that you are loveable. You'll be irresistible!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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