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Hacking Valentine’s Day  

Other than those president’s birth-days, which don’t seem to have a lot to do with relationships, Valentine’s Day dominates the calendar in February.  I have written before about whether Valentine’s Day was a Hallmark Holiday.  We really have to say no to that.  Valentine’s Day has a long history and is celebrated in many Christian denominations as St. Valentine’s Day.  It seemed to become connected to romantic love through some of Chaucer’s poetry in the 14th century, though some believe that connection came earlier when the early Christian Church co-opted a pagan celebration for St. Valentine’s Day.  The habit of sending written expressions of love together with sweets or flowers started in the 18th century, and in the 19th century the practice got so popular that the mass production of “Valentine’s Cards” was started.

But I am not really here to write about the history of Valentine’s Day, rather to help you hack it, or its idea anyway, for your own benefit.  What is Valentine’s Day in its essence?  It is a day to celebrate love and connection in romantic relationships.  It is in a sense a framework for a ritual to honor love with ritualized modes of doing that.

Some people are against ritual, but ritual can be very powerful.  A review a couple of years ago in the journal Psychological Bulletin addressed the power of ritual in solidifying social norms.  Rituals serve to bring people together emotionally and enhance and reinforce shared values.  These are important things for social relationships in general but are also very important for romantic, intimate relationships.  Emotional connection and a shared sense of value and vision are some of the most important things in sustaining a relationship and keeping it rewarding over time.

So how do you hack Valentine’s Day?  Make your own rituals.  Don’t just depend on Valentine’s Day and other times when society tells you to affirm your love and connection.  Create your own rituals that do the same thing, or perhaps even better.  When you create a ritual that is just yours, it becomes even more special.  It is your own way of reaffirming your connection, not shared by anyone else, so in itself becomes something that binds you together. 

These rituals can be simple, such as a phrase or signal you frequently share with each other that has a meaning only you understand.  Or they can be quite grand.  You might celebrate a time or event unique and meaningful to your relationship with a weekend out of town on your own.  What makes it a ritual?  It is something that you regularly practice with each other that carries a special meaning for you. 

So, participate in the ritual of Valentine’s Day and enjoy it.  But make your own rituals as well.