As Valentine’s Day approaches, there’s typically 3 different camps of people that exist. Ones that are excited and happy about this lovely holiday (pun intended), ones who are dreading any mention of “will you be mine?”, and then those who are simply indifferent, viewing the 14th as just another day. Whichever spot you find yourself in this year, and whatever you’re feeling, is 100% valid.
Yet, at the same time, we do in fact need love and connection as human beings. Every single one of us. Including you. Don’t believe us? Check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—the third level is a sense of love, belonging, and connection.
Now, the key here is that “love” is not just about romance like this holiday (as well as society, movies, and tv shows) tend to showcase and make it seem like it is.
There are many different types of love, connection, and relationships, and each is very important, regardless of your relationship status. We’ll go over a few types, what they look like, why they’re important, and ways to foster each. To note, these are in no particular order of importance.
Type 1: Friendship
Romantic love is certainly not the only love there is or source of connection we have. Friendships can and do also play a key role in our overall happiness and healthiness, and our satisfaction in the relationships we’ve fostered.
Friends are the people who you get to choose to spend your time and life with. Those with whom you open up and be vulnerable; those who will walk with you through the highs and lows of life. Like the quote says, “friends are the family you choose”. Although, you certainly can be friends with your family or romantic partner as well.
Benefits of Friendships
The main difference between a partner and platonic friendship is that with friends, you get great care and affection, just without the sexual or romantic desires. Friendships provide a level of safety and security because it’s someone who truly sees you and chooses to stay by your side. Friends also provide someone to do fun things with, create memories together, and who encourages and inspires you to heal, grow, and accept yourself.
Ways to Foster Friendships
Like with any type of relationship, vulnerability is key. Opening up to an individual and creating a safe space for them to reciprocate helps you build deeper trust over time. Communication also greatly helps with this. Other tips include:
Allow space for you to both change and grow
Focus on commonalities and shared interests
Be in it for the long haul —as life changes, shifts happen, or distance occurs
Stay open to new friendships (even if unexpected)
Type 2: Romantic
Of course, we don’t want to make it sound like we think romantic love isn’t important or beautiful. Because it certainly is! Our point is simply that it’s not the only type nor necessarily the most important for everyone.
Having a romantic partner—whether going on dates, building your long-term relationship, or being engaged or married—can also play a big role in our overall happiness and satisfaction in life. Entering into a partnership requires equal commitment which allows you to feel chosen and have the opportunity to choose someone over and over again as well.
Benefits of Romance
While you don’t need a relationship to be happy or content, it can provide many benefits such as1:
Feeling safe—someone is choosing to stay through better or worse
A partner in life to help when things get tough
Someone to help you grow and build healthy habits
An increase in dopamine and noradrenaline (happy/positive hormones)2
Having or starting the family you’ve always wanted
Lower stress levels
Ways to Foster a Romantic Relationship
Fostering a romantic relationship likely starts with dating, obviously, so that’s a good place to start. But from there, there are a few things that can help you to develop and maintain a good relationship with your partner through the highs and lows of life. These include, but aren’t limited to, working on good communication at all stages of the relationship, being selfless towards serving each other, and trying to give your partner the benefit of the doubt as often as you can.
Type 3: Self
Depending on your viewpoint and beliefs, this one here could be a homerun-hit or uber-taboo. Either way, it’s pretty important that we talk about it which is why we're putting it smack dab in the middle of our list.
We all have a relationship with ourselves—whether or not you want to admit it. The problem is, for many of us, that relationship is not very good. We either are super self-critical or comparative, lack the beliefs to be confident in ourselves, or sadly, we neglect it and put ourselves on the back burner.
But the relationship you have with yourself is arguably the most important one you'll ever have or work on. Because, at the end of the day, you are the only person who will be with you from the day you’re born until the day you die. You’ll also spend the most time with yourself out of anyone in your life.
Benefits of Self Love
While it’s not true that you can’t love anyone or allow others to love you until you love yourself, it is much easier to do both of those things when you practice self-love. How you show up for yourself greatly impacts how you’re able to show up in all your other important relationships too.
On top of that, fostering a kind relationship with yourself helps you:
Set healthy boundaries
Build healthy independence
Love and care for others better
Foster self-confidence and positive self-esteem which translates into ALL areas of life (work, hobbies, relationships, spiritual life, mental well-being, etc.)
Create a safe space to be known and accepted and build self-compassion
When it doesn't feel safe to be yourself out in the world or with others, you know you always have yourself to come home to.
Ways to Foster a Better Relationship with Yourself
There are a lot of different ways that you can practice self-love and therefore foster a better relationship with yourself. We’ve included a few down below to help you get started:
Carve out time to get to know yourself, what you’re about, what you like or don't like, your passions, tendencies, and thought patterns
Spend time alone with yourself. Not always needing someone and learning to rely on yourself is powerful for building your self-esteem and helping you take charge of your life.
Do things you enjoy. Make the time to have fun, let go, and feel free to be yourself (#treatyoself)
Take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually
Celebrate yourself—your uniqueness, what makes you special, affirmations of who you are, where you want to go, and your dreams. Celebrate your wins—both big and small.
Type 4: Family
If earlier we discussed the family we do choose (friends), it’s only fair that we talk about the family we don’t get to pick. Now, we want to be so empathetic because we know this can be a sensitive topic for those who’ve had or have an unhealthy or negative family experience. The good news is that positive family relationships don’t have to be immediate family or blood-related. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even step-parents or siblings all count.
Benefits of Families
While we don’t get to choose our family, and sometimes they are not a healthy relationship in our lives, having familial ties can still be very important in our lives. Your family is often the people who you tend to go through the most similar experiences and struggles with, especially growing up. They’re also with us from an early age, way before most friends or partners come into the picture. Because of the long-lasting nature of family relationships, you can find huge security in having someone truly know you and love you unconditionally. Families also provide a feeling of belonging, sense of purpose, and shaping of our identities and values.
Ways to Foster Family Relationships
One nice thing about family is that you don’t have to go searching for them like you would with friends or a romantic partner. However, it’s still incredibly important to work on and maintain these relationships like any other. That being said, we recommend a lot of the tips that we provided in the “friends” and “romantic relationships” sections. Be open and honest, create space for vulnerability, work on good communication, serve and sacrifice for one another, and allow the relationship to change as you change and grow (i.e. teen to adult, life moves or shifts, etc.)
Type 5: Pets
Last, but certainly not least, we can’t talk about love and not talk about our beloved pets. While they can’t talk or interact with us in the same ways that humans can (no matter how smart you think your dog is), our furry (or feathery or scaly) friends still make for some of the best companions.
Benefits of Pets
Whether your pet of choice is a cat or a dog, a bird or a bunny, a gerbil or a gecko, there are many benefits to having one.
Helps you love something unconditionally
Promotes better physical health and mental health3
Can lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression
Pets love you unconditionally regardless of your flaws because they can’t see them like humans do
Ways to Foster a Relationship with Your Pet
The most obvious tip here would be to get a pet. However, we understand that not everyone has the time, money, space, or capability to get one. So if this is you, try volunteering at a rescue or shelter, or even pet sitting or dog walking on the side.
With your pet, just being with them is a huge step to building trust and love between you two. Cuddle with them, teach them tricks, carve out time to play with them, just sit next to them while working or reading a book. Create time and space in your day to give them attention, especially when they’re asking for it, love on them, and let them love on you. It’s always 1000% worth it.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of relationships and types of love that you can experience this Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter. Take a moment to reflect on your relationship(s) with friends, family members, pets, a partner, and/or yourself. Notice the love that is all around you in so many beautiful, unique forms. And remember that you are worthy and deserving of being connected to and loved by others.