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Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014

Hate Valentine’s Day? You’re Not Alone

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This column is for all the people who are not involved in a monogamous romantic relationship with the potential for marriage (if that hasn’t happened already). It’s for people who are not in a relationship at all, whether happily or unhappily. It’s for people who are hooking up, dating, friends-with-benefits or in other relationships that are somewhat undefined. It’s for people who are in relationships that are non-monogamous, open, poly or swinging. It’s for people who are in long-term relationships who either have no interest in marriage or can’t get married. It’s for anyone who’s ever been divorced or experienced a major break-up. Basically, this column is for anyone who falls outside our Disney-fied, culturally sanctioned narrative of One True Love and Happily Ever After.

Last week, I wrote about how common it is for romantic partners to be depicted as “frenemies” in pop culture—how conflict, miscommunication and even hatred are normalized. The flip side of that is the idea that everyone has a One True Love waiting somewhere out there for them—that there is one person who will fulfill you, complete you and make all your dreams come true. There are certainly some couples who describe their relationship that way, but I believe that for most of us, this is an unrealistic and even harmful narrative.

Valentine’s Day throws into sharp relief just how harmful it can be. The buildup to this holiday can make people feel like failures for being single or for being in relationships that just aren’t working right now. People who are in new or undefined relationships can feel artificial pressure to formalize them with some grand romantic gesture, whether or not that’s right in the long run. Constant images of mostly heterosexual happy couples reinforce the idea that this type of pairing is the only socially acceptable type of relationship and the one that we should all be striving for.

I like celebrating love and sex, but my celebration would be inclusive of everyone. Self-love would count, sex without love and love without sex would count, and everyone would be free to love as many or as few people as they desired. So if you’re feeling down right now because of Valentine’s Day, remember—it’s not you, it’s the holiday. There are so many ways to have fulfilling connections with other people besides “finding The One.”

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

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