This is the first edition of Dr. Carole's Couch on The Huffington Post, where I'll be analyzing your world and sharing insights to help you reach those "aha!" moments and surmount the quandaries of everyday life. I look forward to becoming your oasis of sanity in an increasingly-insane world. So, put your feet up on Dr. Carole's Couch and let's begin.
It's baaack. The dreaded day is here, and you're asking yourself, "Why am I alone again on Valentine's Day?" "Will I ever find my soul mate, or am I addicted to heartbreak?" Well, the good news is you're not alone in being alone. This Valentine's Day, more than 100 million unmarried people in America are having more trouble than ever finding love. But it wasn't always this way.
Valentine's Day brings back childhood memories of blissful ignorance, when the day simply meant bringing cute little cards and chalky heart candies to kids in your class, even if you didn't really "love" them, or maybe didn't even like them, but your mom warned you not to hurt anyone's feelings by leaving them out. Even then, we'd add up our cards to see who was most popular, and we'd hope that just maybe the cute boy or girl in the front row really did "love" us. Since then, love has become a lot more complicated and, for many singles, Valentine's Day has become the most dreaded day on the calendar, because it glaringly highlights how unfulfilled this aspect of our life is. We may have gathered expensive toys and climbed career ladders, but we're still searching for the fairytale endings that were promised to us during these simpler times.
For those who are in relationships, Valentine's Day acts like a magnifying glass, illuminating and enlarging flaws that signal they don't measure up to the version of perfect love we've been sold -- from fairytales to films, and greeting cards to giant billboards. Love and lovers aren't perfect. The trick is figuring out whether you're sabotaging a good relationship or holding onto someone who is bound to break your heart.
So why did the dating jungle become so wild? Because there are more bad boys and bad girls than ever prowling the untamed wilderness, looking for their next prey, and ultimately breaking their heart. Bad boys -- such as the compulsive flirt, commitment-phobe, and self-absorbed seducer -- may have been set on their path by their dysfunctional relationship with their mother. Bad girls, such as the gold-digger, husband stealer, and ultimate damsel in distress, may have been set on their path by their dysfunctional relationship with their father. And the ones who love them are similarly driven by unconscious love maps drawn in their childhood. For example, when parents divorce, they may inadvertently cause their children to develop a fear of intimacy, since the children have seen how painful and destructive love can be. So, if your Valentine's Day is awful instead of awesome, you could always blame your parents.
And blame could be shared with media that glamorize bad boys, like Chris Brown or Charlie Sheen, and bad girls, like Angelina Jolie or the Kardashians. Although we may criticize these celebs for their bad behavior, we're also fascinated by them and secretly wish we could get away with such mischief while continuing to be rich and famous.
But, blame isn't going to get you love. Here's how to find the love you deserve:
1. Take an honest look at yourself and the baggage you bring to relationships, from a dysfunctional relationship with your parents to past romantic rejections and disappointments. Are these causing you to hide from -- or sabotage -- new love opportunities?
2. Take off the rose-colored glasses and see your current partner for who they really are. If you find yourself repeating a pattern of getting hurt by bad boys or girls, you need to break your addiction to heartbreak.
3. Fix whatever it is that you don't love about yourself, from looks to lifestyle and personality to purpose. Make a plan to change and follow it. If you don't believe you're lovable, how are others supposed to love you?
Make every day Valentine's Day -- a day to spread love to those who need it most -- just like you did in grade school.
For more by Carole Lieberman, M.D., click here.
For more on relationships, click here.