Relationships and Valentine’s Day

by Robert Burney, M.A.

“We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.”

~ Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Here I am writing about relationships and Valentine’s Day. In other words, Codependence City!

Now, don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong or bad about relationships or romantic love or Valentine’s Day. What is dysfunctional – what does not work – are our definitions and expectations of these things, and of ourselves in relationship to these things. If you will read the quotation above and substitute “love”‘ everywhere it says “life” you will have a perfect quotation for this Valentine’s season.

The reason that so many of us have a very hard time with relationships is because we are judging ourselves against the fairy tale of what relationships “should be.” We have unreasonable expectations of ourselves.

We are all romantics.  We are all, on a very deep level, yearning to be reunited with our twin soul. We were taught that when we find our prince or princess we would live “happily ever after.” So, it follows that since we haven’t gotten to “happily ever after” there must be something wrong with us.

This applies not only to those who are alone at this time, but also to people who are in a relationship and are feeling down because it is not magical all of the time anymore.

There is nothing wrong with us! What is dysfunctional is what we were taught. We were taught a concept of love that is an addiction – with the other person as our drug of choice. We were taught to make the other person our Higher Power. (Just listen to almost any song: “I Can’t Live Without You,” “You Are My Everything,” etc.) We were taught that we needed the prince or princess to make us happy and whole.

Traditionally in this society women were taught to be codependent on (that is, take their self-definition and self-worth from) their relationships with men, while men have been taught to be codependent on their success/career/work. That has changed somewhat in the past 20 or 30 years, but is still part of the reason that women have more of a tendency to sell their souls for relationships than men do.

Codependence is all about giving outside or external influences power over our self-esteem. Everything outside of our “self” (people, places and things or our own external appearance) has to do with ego-strength, not self-worth. We all have equal Divine worth because we are transcendent spiritual beings who are part of the ONENESS that is the Great Spirit/God-Force, not because of anything outside of us.

Love is magical! It is wonderful. It is not a state of being which we can get into and stay in. It is a dynamic, changing process.

One of the biggest problems with relationships in this society is that the context we approach them from is too small. If getting the relationship is the goal, we will end up being the victim. If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth, then we can start having more functional relationships.

A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment. It is a lesson. As long as our definition of a successful relationship is one that lasts forever, we are set up to fail. There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship that will last forever. Expecting it to last forever is what is dysfunctional.

On this Valentine’s Day, if you are in a relationship, if you are in love, enjoy it. It is a wonderful feeling. Just don’t expect it to stay the same. Everything changes. Enjoy the moment and don’t mess it up with dysfunctional definitions of what it ‘should’ become.

If you are alone, don’t judge yourself and beat yourself up. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Own the sadness that may come with being alone, do the grieving, but understand that you are on a journey – you are not trying to reach a destination.

When we stop judging ourselves, we can begin observing and learning why we have a fear of intimacy, why we have dysfunctional relationship patterns, why it is so hard to connect with others.

The more we can be conscious of our own personal ‘whys’, the more we can heal those wounds. Then we can open up to receiving the love we crave and deserve. But it has to start at home. It has to start with being loving to ourselves, not judging and shaming of ourselves.

What has helped me more than anything else to start learning to be loving to myself is to stop and remember that there is a Loving Higher Power, a God/Goddess Energy that loves you and me unconditionally right in this very moment, no matter where we are, no matter if we are alone or in a relationship.

Make this Valentine’s Day about owning the unconditional love of this Universal Force for yourself!


Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email