Valentine’s Day Survival Guide 2023

Valentine’s Day Survival Guide 2023

Oh mes chéries, it’s that time of the year again where we can’t quite figure out what is colder: the wind chill or the empty spot next to us in our beds. All of your local establishments look like they’ve been invaded by Cupid with cheesy paper hearts decorations. Roses either make your heart swell or disgust you. The singles can’t quite tell if the couples gushing around are truly that happy or just glad they’re not alone this winter. The ones in love swim in their pool of lust for each other, taking full advantage of this Hallmark holiday to be gushy with love. Oh Valentine’s Day…

I’ve been writing these guides for you all for the last 6 years (less one year), and it’s interesting to see how much and how little I’ve changed over the years. Truthfully, I’m speaking from my own knowledge of self rather than actually reading the previous guides. Normally, I love a good walk down memory lane. However, this is the first year that I actually am in a healthy headspace when it comes to dating and relationships, and I don’t want to create any opportunity to allow those toxic old voices in my head to resurface. In the past, I’ve willed a positive mindset into existence through these guides. I would draw from all the therapy talks I’d give my friends (and never take myself) and publish it with the hopes that cementing it on here would hold me accountable for healing and growth. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. However, nothing really “fixed” me except time and a lot of thinking.

Whether you want to hear it or not, being alone is the key to finding a life partner. I thought it would suck putting my heart in time out like it was a little kid, but that’s precisely what it was: a little kid in need of punishment and self-reflection. I’ve always preached about how your twenties are not supposed to be put together; they should be some of the messiest moments of your life. No matter how early you had to grow up due to circumstances or how mature you are for your age, scientifically speaking your brain is still only so far developed at certain ages. Intellect or being smart don’t help you grow wiser, only time and experiences do. I’ve always been intellectual. I’ve also always been very smart. Since I was forced to grow up at a young age, I also thought I was wiser than everyone else. I will say I’m definitely wiser than the average 27-year-old on this planet, but I was nowhere near as wise as I thought I would be…because I never addressed the little kid inside me.

It is human nature to avoid talking about hardships because it brings back bad memories. Unfortunately, it’s crucial to normalize having trauma. I’ve seen a lot of TikTok discussions about why Millennials and Gen Z are so incredibly different than the generations before us, have very different if not difficult relationships with family, and struggle so much with dating. The answer lies in our upbringing. The reality we have to face is our parents’ generation was taught a method to the madness of life: you graduate high school, you pursue either a higher education or get a job, you get married young, buy a nice home, and have a family. Your purpose was to survive, provide, and procreate. But, the United States flourished rapidly within its first hundred years. Within a generation or two, the purpose of surviving and stabilizing was fulfilled. Despite the seemingly stable foundation this approach built for us, they actually created the most unstable environment for the younger Millennials and older Gen Z kids.

It is evident that marriage has often occurred due to timing or convenience, not compatibility. It is also evident that just going to work and having a family is not the formula to happiness. People born between 1990 and 2000 (give or take a few years) have witnessed the rise of unhappy marriages, cheating, divorce, and so forth. The modern family is often a mixed family rather than the picture perfect original nuclear family. With roots in place, the next question many asked was “Am I truly happy?” Unfortunately, our grandparents’ generation wasn’t a talkative one, and mental health only recently became less taboo. When our parents realized they were indeed unhappy, they had no healthy approach to working through their thoughts and emotions, resulting in children growing up in homes with a lot of tension and turmoil. As I am what I call a Gen-Zennial (1995 right on the cusp) Baby, I witnessed the results of broken families in the friends older and younger than me and myself at a very young age. We all grew up a little too young, have some deep rooted issues with attachment and trust, and sabotage good connections because we’re comfortable and feel safe with chaos and negativity. It’s kind of all we know.

Now I can sit here and hang my parents out to dry for their mistakes and scars all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that those things happened and that they’re my parents. No matter how fantastic your parents are, they’re going to fuck up somewhere along the way. They’re human. You as a parent will definitely fuck up your children too. However, you can’t use their fuck up as an excuse to run away from facing your fears or cause a trail of destruction as you go about your merry way avoiding all of those deeply painful feelings. Instead, we can look to our parents’ mistakes as lessons and appreciate them for making us all bit wiser. After all, our parents are truly just trying their best for whatever that is worth.

It’s psychologically proven that the love languages of a person who didn’t grow up in an ideal setting are things that they were deprived of and very different from those who grew up in warm, loving environments. I’ll use myself as an example:

  • Gifts were a love language in my family. However, the gift itself never quite justified or rectified the hurt that preceded it. Therefore, gifts mean shit to me.
  • Physical touch is not common in Asian households. It’s why I don’t enjoy being touched a lot, but tend to be overly touchy with people I care about because I don’t want someone else to be deprived of it like I was.
  • Words of affirmation don’t feel like affirmation when I’ve witnessed the lies behind them at a young age. As a result, I can’t take compliments comfortably because I don’t trust them. Instead, I rely on their actions to affirm me.
  • Acts of service would be ways my partner can prove he means what he says and says what he means. It is also the main source of love in an Asian household: no matter how rigid or cold your parents are, they always showed their love through their food offerings and acts of service to convenience you. This is why I’ve always gone out of my way to do things for friends to show how much I cared. It’s one of my top two love languages because it’s the one thing I’ve seen proven reliable to judge someone’s character and intentions on.
  • Quality time is a given desire for anyone. For those who grew up in positive environments, quality time would be a sign of bonding and great relationship development. For those who grew up in a negative environment (or those who were truly neglected), quality time is probably something they crave intensely which could make them come off as clingy or needy.

Aside from the love languages, there are also emotional feelings your parents didn’t provide. Naturally, we would seek those things in our friendships and partners in order to feel fulfilled in our relationships. The problem is we yearn for these things without asking ourselves what can we do ourselves to fill those voids.

Ask yourself this: why should you rely on anyone to give you something if you are capable of giving that same thing to someone else? For example, if you crave words of affirmation because your parents never gave it to you and you always are the biggest hype man to your friends, why not hype yourself up? It feels awkward and borderline delusional at first, but affirming yourself in the mirror every day will eventually start to feel so natural that you will actually believe it, feel it, and live it. And once you live it, you start attracting everything you ever manifested and dreamed for.

There’s the infamous line we’ve all heard: I don’t chase, I attract. Well, in order to attract what you’re manifesting you have to be in the right energy to receive it. If you’re attracting a healthy, stable partner when you’re riddled with anxiety and constantly not addressing your inner demons, you won’t be in the right place to receive that kind of love. Hell you won’t even know it’s coming because you don’t know what that looks like! In order to attract, you also need to know what you need. You only know what you need when you truly come into yourself through growth and self-reflection.

But wait, don’t confuse need with the missing voids from your childhood. These two are different. The missing holes are forms of self-love that you can provide yourself. The things you need are traits in a partner that help you continue to grow and evolve over time into multiple forms of your best self. When you’re in the right vibration to attract a partner, you are then given the choice to choose one to grow and evolve together.

People say all of these supposedly romantic things like “Oh it was simply meant to be!” But if you really think about it, is it that easy? Do you just meet, are meant to be, and then BOOM you go and be?

FUCK NO!

Being in a relationship means you wake up every day and continue to choose to help your partner become their best selves and choose to continue pushing yourself to grow with them so your relationship evolves with time. It’s not supposed to be super easy. It’s supposed to take work, compromise, and a lot of discomfort in learning. It means you’re dedicated to someone you choose to work on your life goals with which is the reason why marriage is so sacred. It means you’re going to have to have hard conversations and even sometimes alter your behavior for the good of the union. But with the right partner, these things won’t feel like a burden or sacrifice. It will be shifts that lead you to prosperous, meaningful unions that bring you actual happiness and fulfillment.

In the beginning, I mentioned that our parents generation inspired us to ask ourselves what happiness and purpose mean to us. For many of us, this includes finding a solid life partner. Our parents relationships fell apart as one entire generation because people didn’t figure out how to fill their own missing holes or pick a partner who would be compatible to evolve together with. Our generation’s relationships are struggling because we haven’t fixed that problem properly, resulting in toxic behavior, mixed signals, miscommunication, and the fear of commitment as it represents being tied to a mistake. Furthermore, all of us swipe all day to find our picture perfect partners and are quick to toss people out like disposable utensils after a shameful late-night takeout binge because they don’t match the perfect picture at that exact moment.

But…this isn’t Build -A-Bear. Your perfect partner won’t just arrive in a box. You both have to work towards becoming a great pair and your best selves.

I’m in the healthiest mindset I’ve ever been in when it comes to dating because of two things: 1) I found a way to fill those missing voids myself 2) I stopped looking for what I want. In my 1.5 year dating hiatus, I started doing things for me in a way I never have before. I pushed myself to try new things or conquer some fears the way I hope a significant other would. I did all the things I have been saving to do with a partner, and I can confirm they are way more fun with friends or yourself. I treated myself with a pick-me-up gift or snack the way I would want my partner to. I spoiled myself with gifts way I would want my partner to do just because I love me. Everything I ever would do for a partner, I did for myself. I became my own best friend the way I would want my partner to be. Lastly, I told myself “I love you, no matter what” the way I would want a partner to tell me. I finally discovered what I needed wasn’t someone with a perfect resumé or credentials. It is someone who just simply loves me so much that it nearly matches my level self love. That’s not to say that others don’t, it’s just that for me specifically this has to be the most important thing. The most important thing is different for each person, and you should figure out what it is for you.

All of this time, I was such an elitist with my laundry list of must-haves for my future partner. I would overcorrect by settling hard in situations or force relationships with people who just matched the list but not me. When I got frustrated, I would step so far into my masculine energy to try and prove my worth that I wouldn’t allow room for anyone to come in and provide that masculine energy. I was so busy peacocking about how strong, independent, and badass I was that people didn’t feel like there was room for them, like they were not needed. I needed to return to my feminine energy to allow room for the masculine energy to come in. Now, I’m still that capable boss bitch woman. However, I no longer feel the need to constantly live in that state of mind. That is who I am regardless of how I show/don’t show it. Instead, I peacefully sit in that power I’ve given myself and just be.

I don’t know if I’m 100% into my best self yet. I am damn close, that’s for sure. But I do know that ever since I got to know myself better and provided for myself instead of seeking external sources, I have seen an entire shift in what I look for in a partner. I’m no longer checking resumés or tags. Instead, I’m checking to see what their values are, what choices they make, and what energy they draw out of me. Do they appreciate my quirks as much as my strengths? Do they know how to balance me out in certain moods? Do they understand me? Do they enhance my qualities? I’ve also seen an entire shift in who approaches me. I no longer attract the broken fuckboys. People who approach me use a different tone with me. They are far more respectful and kind. They don’t give me anxiety about the connection. And if they aren’t up for the job, I don’t feel unworthy or upset when they walk away.

A few days ago, I was at The Met. Somewhere in Astor Court garden, a quick photo of me was taken. I only briefly saw it, but I couldn’t help notice how different I looked. I lightly gasped because I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself smile or radiate the way I did. AND the photo didn’t need editing or a retake at a different angle. As much as I want to just blame the smile on the cute photographer behind it, the reality is the smile was me coming into my powerful feminine energy. I wasn’t hardened in my masculine energy and constantly overcompensating for the lack of feeling loved. The smile was me finally living fully in my own balanced energy because I had done the work to fill and close those gaps in my soul. Now, I can’t wait to choose someone to evolve with till the very end.

Happy Valentine’s Day, mes chéries. As my friend Michelle always says, ily a milly.

 

 

 

 

(P.S. Your girl had a proper Valentine with roses for the first time… That’s all. Enjoy a peek at them below!)

 

 

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Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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