Why Valentine’s Day Is Demonic

Valentine's Day

Photo Credit: knopper (Bigstock)

Every year, on Christmas Eve, we gather with family and friends.

For a lip sync contest.

After dinner, the contest begins, with the kids typically performing their favorite hit song from the year. We adults, on the other hand, often perform a favorite song from our younger years—this year, that may or may not have included a song entirely about farting.

And this year, my younger son Quinn got up and put every ounce of his heart into a performance of “The Run and Go,” by twenty one pilots. The song’s refrain goes like this: “…don’t want to give you all my pieces, don’t want to hand you all my trouble, don’t want to give you all my demons…”

As the vocalist shouted the final refrain in anguish and Quinn silently shouted along, I looked at my wife.

I thought about how, at first, we both resisted giving each other our pieces, handing each other our troubles, and giving each other all our demons. I thought about how much we clung to the fantasy that love and marriage could somehow look like every pristine advertisement for Valentine’s Day. In those early years, by resisting our demons, pretending they didn’t exist, and refusing to reveal them to each other, we created so much unnecessary heartache.

To maintain the illusion we’re not broken, we have to break other people even worse.

There’s a moment later in that same twenty one pilots album when a different refrain is repeated over and over again: “We’re broken, we’re broken, we’re broken, we’re broken people.” Somewhere along the way, my wife and I finally figured out that broken people cannot live in a Hallmark-holiday. Because with living, breathing, broken people, too much stuff happens. Old wounds get touched. Old emotional splinters work their way to the surface. Old habits get reenacted. For instance, my wife had her reasons to believe she’d always be abandoned. And I had my reasons to believe I’d always be invisible.

Real love happens when we quit resisting this brokenness and, instead, reveal it to the person we love and want to be loved by.

Real love happens when we finally confess our demons.

In Valentine’s lore, when the fabled Cupid shoots his magic arrow and it hits you, true love is supposed to happen. But here’s the thing: it’s not called perfect love and it’s not called Hallmark love. It’s called true love. So, what if, when Cupid’s arrow really hits you, it splits you open and the truth comes spilling out, along with all your pieces, all your troubles, and all your demons?

And what if, in true love, trickling out behind that flood of frailty comes the truest thing of all: your truest, worthiest, most loveable self?

Half the time, it seems, my wife and I are fighting on Valentine’s Day. But that’s okay, because Valentine’s Day isn’t supposed to be perfect; in a way, it’s supposed to be demonic—it’s supposed to be the day we celebrate all of each other, our pieces and troubles and demons, and the brilliant soul that lies just beneath all that mess.

Maybe this year, at our house, we’ll have a family lip sync contest for Valentine’s Day, too. And maybe I’ll sing one of my favorite songs by the late Leonard Cohen. Maybe I’ll sing that famous line, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Maybe my wife will hear that line and know the truth:

She’s the light that got in, past all my demons.

And maybe, like us, you’re human too. Maybe you have cracks. Maybe you’re tired of caulking them up so your pieces aren’t so obvious, so your troubles aren’t so troublesome, and so your demons aren’t so disruptive. Maybe Valentine’s Day is just the right day to let those demons loose, in the most vulnerable, most tender way possible. So the light can get in.

And so your light can get out.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Reminder: My new book Loveable is available for pre-order and, for a limited time, when you order Loveable, you will get a free bonus—The Year of Listening, Loving, and Living—a second full-length book I’ve written as a practical companion to Loveable. You can click here to find out more.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Cathy Bogen Kraft

    💖

  • Eoin Brennan

    Man thats serious vulnerability you’re talking about. I was wincing even reading the words never mind actually going through with it. But I know what you’re saying is true, its just terrifying to let your guard down like that. What if you let your guard down and someone says, sorry I dont like who you really are, bye bye………..That would be very painful to face up to without feeling like who you really are is something you need to cover up in future so as not to endure that kind of pain.

    • Eoin, I think you identified the problem precisely. At some point, we made ourselves truly known, someone responded badly, so we went into hiding. The challenge of life is to begin, slowly, to reveal ourselves once again, to people who we gamble we can trust, knowing it may not go well and that those who don’t like who we really are are not meant to be a part of our story for the long haul. Risky. Scary. Courageous. You nailed it.

      • Eoin Brennan

        Ok I’m willing to give it a go!

  • JC

    I like to think that if I could have gone through a cosmic drive-thru to request who I wanted to be with for eternity; I could have thought with every level of creativity and selfish desire and when I got the bag through the window, there was my wife…only she’s more than I asked for, beyond my wildest imagination of who I could have. I’m not just talking bonus fries, I mean bonus everything and extras I never thought of to ask. Evidence in case, if I turn the analogy over; she has accepted the greasy stained bag out of her cosmic drive-thru window that is me. I’ve been bad for her health (spiritual, mental, and even physical with all my chocolate apologies) and I have given her cosmic indigestion I’m sure, but I’m her choice, every time. There isn’t a part of my soul that she is unaware of, nor secrets deeper and darker than what I’ve shared with her. I’ve been so weak in her presence, but she has stayed by me, lifted me up and loved me for me, every day. I know it’s love because she too has given her whole self to me. All the bumps, bruises, and icky parts that she wouldn’t dare expose to the world. And I love her, I choose her, every day. We are the King and Queen of our shared ego castle and slowly but surely we are lowering the drawbridge together and maybe one day we’ll be brave enough together to hold a banquet for all to attend; to celebrate our messy grace as Kelly likes to describe it. Yes, it will be the bestest, greasiest, cosmic fast food that humility and grace can buy on the menu too.

    • I love the whole messy, greasy, graceful analogy, thank you so much for this! 🙂

  • LK

    Good post. I have exposed many cracks to my husband only to be ridiculed or put down fomost of them; the rest are mostly ignored. He, on the other hand, still contends he has no cracks (we have been married for decades ). All his posturing has done is push me away in every way and lower my respect for him. I want to know and be known but that cannot happen where in everyday life I have to put on a happy face or be ignored. I know he has broken places but I have no clue what they are. He keeps everything surface or under lock and key. It’s a sad and lonely relationship from my perspective. Any ideas on how to break through? Everything I’ve tried makes him more firmly entrenched in “I’m fine, it’s you who has or makes the problems. ”

    • This is a very painful situation you’re describing, and I’m really sorry to hear that you are in it. I can’t speak to your specific situation, because I don’t know all the details, but generally, I recommend that if one spouse is unhappy and the other is unwilling or uninterested in seeking treatment, then the dissatisfied spouse can seek counseling to sort through his or her options with a professional. I hope that helps a little.

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    Ah, you hit me right in the late, great Leonard Cohen with this surprise Tuesday post! I am made of far too much awkwardness and inner weird to have managed Hallmark holidaying, but I confess to a soft spot for this valentines business of contextualizing the lovability of our people on this day—not just our partners but all of our people who need to be told that they own real estate in our hearts.
    Happy Valentines Day, Kelly and family. I hope you do make that lip syncing a twice annual event. It sounds like a blast.

    • “You own real estate in my heart.” How do you do that every week, Shel?!? That is a lovely way to look at this day. Thank you.

  • Judy Lawrance

    I feel as if I have let my demons out–maybe too much–to my husband of 52 years….but I really don’t think he has done that! But, before I read today’s posting to myself, he and I were just chatting as we looked at our ipads! I decided to read your post out loud to him and I did! Maybe this will be good for both of us!

    • Judy, I hope it’s the beginning of a mutually revealing and healing conversation!

  • bjeanneb

    Here’s a quote I like, Kelly:

    “Bless the thing that broke you down
    and cracked you open because the
    world needs you open.” -Rebecca Campbell

    Believe me, I’ve had a lot to bless
    over the years! Thank goodness.

  • Dori Anne Abbott

    Beautifully said, as always, my friend.

  • rC

    Kelly..your article is powerful and moving and the cracks have left me alone…but managing. Your words help move things along…
    (wedding drink)

  • rC

    Kelly…your article is powerful and moving and the cracks that I light shine in have left me lone…but managing. Your words help move things along…
    (wedding drink)

  • Joyce Slaughter

    <3

    My hubby and I have cracks. We maybe even talk about them TOO much, if that's possible. We have both seen the damage done by the not talking.

  • Dennis Knoer

    Kelly – I recently discovered your blog and books. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your grace. I have been surfing through many of your posts and they really resonate with me. I am a 47 year old father of two. My wife and I have been married for 25 years this summer. Our marriage has struggled mightily for a number of years. We are going to counseling (individual and marriage). On the theme of cracks letting the light in, we are going on a trip to Japan with our family this summer and we are taking a Kintsugi class. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of recognizing beauty in broken things by repairing those broken things (e.g., pottery) using laquer mixed with precious metals. It accentuates the flaws, rather than hiding them. Just thought I would share that with you.