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Fail! A Tip for Valentine's Day

It is necessary to fail in our relationships if we ever want them to grow.

Mark O'Connell, LCSW

No matter who you are or what your relationship status, Valentine’s Day can be too much. We could all use a GPS to guide us through the wintery mix of roses,"be mine"-tarts, pre-fixe oysters, bubbles, bawbles, ridiculously over-sized boxes of chocolates, cheap-stuffed-fluff and the endless RED that gets projectile-vomited at us every mid-winter. This blizzard of hearts can induce morose hibernation if we're single, or the pressure to make our partners swoon—like s/he never has before!—if we're in a relationship. One way or another, we are all made to feel inadequate, and there's no flu shot for that.

Some of us hope to escape the V-Pocalypse unscathed by: 1) Receiving a token of admiration from a desired love object; 2) Gifting a (gratuitously over-priced) token of admiration to a desired love object—and hoping to high heavens we receive her/his unadulterated gratitude…; or 3) Shielding ourselves with a botox-stiff, unblemished, face that seems to say, “I can’t be bothered with these shenanigans,” if we have no love object to give to or receive from.

Here’s my advice: rather than trying to succeed this V day, Fail!

That’s right, Fail. I’m saying, don’t try to “Pass Go and Collect $200”. Instead, risk going “Directly to Jail.” That means go ahead and be disappointed if you don't get the "right" Secret from Victoria, but do NOT throw a tantrum. Instead, love up the gal or guy who made the effort. It also means give your partner the gift, message, or massage, that you truly think would make them feel special—without spending two month’s rent. And then be informed and improved—without beating yourself up—when s/he tells you (lovingly, we hope) what s/he really wanted. It means let yourself feel lonely if you're single—without conjuring some sort of brittle, anti-Vday shield around yourself. And then call, text, or visit someone who knows you, cares about you, and believes in you.

Don’t put all of your effort into getting things just right. Don’t contort your foot—or chop off your heels and toes—to fit into the glass slipper. Fail. And then survive the V-Pocalypse with someone you trust by your side.

I believe Samuel Beckett gave the best relationship advice of all time: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

It is necessary to fail in all of our relationships—with family, with friends, with lovers—if we ever want them to grow. Failure allows the cracks to show and makes room for the light to shine through. Failure forces us to be vulnerable, empathic, and curious. It forces us to love ourselves better and increases our capacity to connect with other people.

Hitting the jackpot, on the other hand, is only a momentary delusion. We feel in the instant that we’ve “made it” or “gotten away with it” but “it” doesn’t last. (Those of you who have ever won that stuffed toy from the machine with the vexing claw know exactly what I mean). The security you cultivate in a relationship to allow for taking risks, failing, and failing better, is both nurturing and sustaining.

The following video is of a reading I did from my book Modern Brides & Modern Grooms: A Guide to Planning Straight, Gay, and Other Nontraditional, Twenty-First Century Weddings, on the importance of failing in all of our relationships. It’s my Valentine’s Gift to you. Enjoy.

But one more thing: You know that King Kong-sized heart-shaped box of chocolates at your local drug store? The one you think would make the perfect gift if only you had $60? Yeah. It will be $3 on February 15th... And you’ll have more fun eating it then too.

Fail! Again and Again: The Curse and Blessing of Elizabeth Taylor.

Copyright Mark O'Connell, LCSW

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