If the sudden onslaught of pink and red heart candy, stuffed animals, flower arrangements, and countless other love-themed junk is getting you down this almost-Valentine’s Day, consider spending time investing in the other relationships in your life.
Romantic love is wonderful, but it’s not the only important bond we have as we make our way through the choppy waters of adulthood. I’ve been happily married for five years, and I love my husband to the ends of the earth, but if he was the only person with whom I had to share the never-ending barrage of thoughts that stampede through my brain on a daily basis, we would both quickly go mad. Luckily, I have a wonderful network of close friends I can talk to, joke with, and yes, sometimes cry to, and they to me. Romantic love is championed and celebrated all the time in movies, literature, and pop culture. For reasons both profound and superficial, my friendships are the relationships I’m celebrating this Valentine’s Day. Here’s why:
1. They Play the Long Game
Some of my closest friends have known me far longer than my spouse has. I met my best friend when we were 19-year-old college sophomores at one of the biggest schools in the nation, about to move into a dorm with 800 other women. To say I was overwhelmed and freaked out is an understatement. She became my friend when the pumice stone of adulthood had not yet smoothed down my rougher edges, when I was just figuring out who I was and how I wanted to act in this world, and she still wanted to be my friend. We have been together through many, many trying times, triumphs, and terrible fashion choices. Our shared history makes me feel grounded and secure in who I am and that I am someone worth being friends with. When you’re not feeling great about yourself, you can rely on your friendships and know that these people will love you when you can’t love yourself.
2. They Offer New Perspectives
Long-standing friendships are no doubt some of the dearest relationships on earth, but it can also be great fun to meet and learn about new people — and introduce them to your partner. Especially when you’ve been with the same romantic partner for a long time, it can sometimes start to feel like you know everything there is to know about them. You’ve heard each other’s stories a hundred times, and you know exactly what they’ll order at your favorite restaurant or local coffee shop. Watching your significant other meet and interact with your new friends and different kinds of people can help you see them in a new light. Forced new perspective makes the familiar seem fresh, and you’ll remember why you fell in love with your partner while simultaneously making new friends and forging new relationships.
3. Friendships Are Good for Your Health
There are a number of studies out there extolling the health benefits of close relationships, but it’s an important enough point that I’m going to run through it again here. Humans are social animals, and even introverts and homebodies need to have close, emotional bonds to be happy and live fulfilling lives. Having strong friendships can help lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and may even ensure you live longer. Loneliness in older adults especially has been linked to a number of negative health issues, including a higher incidence of dementia and depression. And finally, it doesn’t take a scientific study for me to know that when I’m unhappy or anxious, talking about it with a good friend or forgetting my troubles over dinner or drinks is sometimes exactly what I need to feel better.
4. They Are Your Support Network
If you have a fraught relationship with your family — or don’t have any family to speak of — your friends are your support network. I happen to think that I have the best friend group in the world, and the most organized (you should see them spring into action in a crisis, it makes the Red Cross look like slackers), and I know that if anything bad happens, or even when I’m going through a rough patch, they are there to lift me up. There is no greater feeling than knowing there is an emotional-support army backing you up and rooting for your success, except perhaps knowing that they’ll be there for you in the face of any possible failures, too.
5. You Never Know When Someone Will Be Taken from You
Without getting too maudlin about a day that’s supposed to be about love, let me point out the obvious. None of us knows how long we have on this earth, and you should tell the people you love every day how special they are to you. If you’ve never said something like that to your friends or aren’t sure how to broach the topic, take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day to put aside your discomfort and let them know that they are important, they matter to you, and you realize how much better your world is with them in it. You never know which interaction with them will be your last.
On Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on romantic love, which can sometimes feel like a minefield or a painful reminder that you haven’t found your person yet when everyone else seems happily coupled up, celebrate the other important relationships in life. You don’t have to have a significant other to spread a little love on February 14.
A grant writer by day and personal finance fanatic by night, Marisa is an avid traveler who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she’s not reading or writing for work or play, she enjoys running, thrifting, and searching for the most authentic Mexican food in the city.
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