Valentine’s Day Unbalances People

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Valentine’s day is fairly lose-lose. If you’re single you imagine that everyone in couples is living out a romantic fantasy. If you’re in a couple the pressure of expectation can weigh upon you: not just whatever expectation you think your partner might have of you, but expectation of whatever you think your relationship should be like on this one day of the year.

Expectation of how things should be is never a great place to begin. Psychological theories of “normal” development often set us up to expect that things will go a certain way. Erikson’s model of life-span development suggests that we move through stages, each one involving a crisis which needs to be resolved before the next level can be reached. This paradigm of a life lived as a level-based computer game has its flaws. Erikson suggests that our teenage years involve resolving an identity crisis. Adolescents are supposed to be figuring out what is unique about themselves in order to be able to choose their roles in life. “Successfully” working out who we are at this age is associated with being able to have intimate romantic relationships later on. If we don’t have a clear sense of ourselves, we can find it hard to sustain a close relationship with someone else.

But is developing our sense of identity this simple? Do we really have a coherent sense of self that develops as a teenager and remains constant? Marcia takes a different view, that our sense of identity might continually be “reformulated”. Although it might be important to have a clear idea of who we are as we transition to adulthood, this will be subject to “disequilibrium”. “Disequilibrating events” can knock our sense of identity. Events don’t have to be negative life events, but can also be positive, like falling in love, or changing career path, things that might make us happy yet still unsettle our sense of who we are.

So falling in love is hard enough, without having Valentine’s Day added into the mix. Have a good one though.

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