Americans will spend almost $26 billion for this year's holiday, including one billion greeting cards, 58 million pounds of chocolate, and 250 million roses.
But if you're searching for the true meaning of Valentine's Day, you're not alone.
Despite the pomp and circumstance, there's still widespread “Valentine's Day blues” — a form of situational depression, according to modern scientific research. Perhaps the answer isn't more candy and commercialism but connecting with something deeper and more primal.
Romance Is an Adventure
Expert traveler and noted adventurer Jenn Coleman paraphrases Helen Keller when she says, “Love is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Over the years, she has recommended diving with sharks and snorkeling with sea lions for couples looking to reconnect. Coleman says, “Adventure travel has long-term benefits for couples by building their relationship through shared experiences and igniting romance and intimacy.”
She advocates for adventures partners can take together instead of lounging by the pool. For her, this could be climbing cliffs in the desert, jumping off jungle waterfalls, or mushing through a frozen forest under the arctic sky. “It doesn't matter what you do; anything can be an adventure, so long as you escape your comfort zone and enter that growth zone.” proclaims Coleman. She added, “If couples do it together, it's a romantic adventure.”
Explore the Adventure Within
Couples don't have to travel together to experience romantic growth. Sometimes, the adventure is within yourself.
Owner of Pure Orgasmic Love, Holistic Somatic Sexologist, and Certified Sexological Bodyworker, Dragonfly Lee facilitates female-only retreats for women of all sexual orientations who want to dig into who they are and what they desire.
Lee often hears women talk about feeling like something is missing or wanting something more from a relationship. However, many need help with what that missing thing is. Making these discoveries can be an adventure.
It is fun, exciting, scary, and sometimes exhausting. Having the right mindset is vital. Just like the view from a mountaintop, there will be challenging moments getting there, but the pleasure is indescribable when you reach the top and experience the view!
Lee believes, “Life is a rich tapestry of experiences once you address the invisible roots that hinder your journey to happiness and a life of pleasure.”
She invites women to explore the transformative power of somatic (body-based) learning to identify and start to remove what she calls the “7 Main Obstacles” to their connection and pleasure.
By unpacking their “life luggage,” they can move forward along their unique path without the extra weight and with the support of a community of heart-forward, like-minded women.
“The need for authentic, deep connection is in our DNA. If we don't connect with touch, we don't thrive; many negative things happen mentally and physically. We wither and die in a manner of speaking. A significant part of working with our biology to improve our overall health is authentically connecting with those we share our lives with and having safe, connective touch. Providing yourself with the opportunities to learn, play, and have adventures is part of this. Understanding what it looks like for yourself and then with your partner allows you to expand and create more exciting new adventures in and out of the bedroom,” Lee continues.
Mentor and colleague of Lee, Caffyn Jesse, explains that learning to regulate autonomic nervous system responses and reclaim pleasure may feel stressful or scary. People can learn to recognize the difference between feeling uncomfortable and feeling unsafe. They can learn to regulate and tolerate the stress mobilization of discomfort.
Gradually, they can restore a sense of safety and awareness to the body, but only when they work in their personal Learning Zone. That means not too much, and not too fast.
The Learning Zone exists beyond the Comfort Zone and is different for everybody. Remarkable experiences live in the Learning Zone, whether it’s reached through a couple's adventure or a guided personal retreat.
Navigating the Panic Zone
Experts warn of another, more ominous place beyond the Learning Zone called the Panic Zone, where controlling anxiety depletes your energy, and nothing is free to flow into learning.
Licensed Therapist, Relationship Coach, and Registered Yoga Teacher Catherine Scantlin encourages people to identify the triggers that can send them spiraling from the Learning Zone into the Panic Zone. “I love working with couples that dare to move beyond comfort and lean into their growth edges, but sometimes the line between the Learning Zone and Panic Zone is a thin one.”
When people are triggered, they experience the “Four F's”: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn,” Scantlin continues. “Not only does identifying your triggers help you avoid them, but you can develop techniques to help regain the emotional regulation required to meet the goals of diving into the Learning Zone together, which is to deepen connection and intimacy.“
Scantlin is the founder of the practice Expansive Connection Coaching. She and four other growth-minded coaches offer education and processing sessions for anyone seeking to better understand themselves and their relationships and meet their connection goals.
Scantlin has seen many triggers ranging from jealousy, insecurity, body image, and fears of violating perceived societal norms. Her advice is simple. “The first step is learning when you and/or your partner are triggered so you can proceed with care to protect yourselves and the relationship from potential damage from the behaviors initiated by the Four Fs.
“When you notice you are triggered, start with your breath. Slow it down and notice how different your body and mind feel. Not only does mindful breathing create space between the triggering stimulus and your potentially traumatic reaction and flood your body with positive neurochemicals, but it can be a signal for your partner to take a breath as well. Slowing down your descent along well worn paths of conflict and staying tuned into your breathing together can help you find connection through the incident instead of further damaging your relationship.”
Scantlin believes that relationships and adventure travel share many common traits, and sharing adventures has the added bonus of deepening your connection. You develop skills to navigate challenging situations and resiliency when things go awry.
During your journey, you have experiences and undergo personal growth and healing while developing the neuroplasticity required for deep and meaningful connections. Being adventurous together and facing the challenges in your Learning Zones brings you closer and emphasizes the team feeling that is a cornerstone of all great intimate relationships.
If you want a more intimate connection this Valentine's Day, the answer might be more than a box of chocolate and a new trinket. Adventures in and out of the bedroom create shared experiences and build deeper relationships that will last longer than a bouquet of flowers.
Everybody, every couple, has their own definition of adventure, and that's a beautiful thing. Be true to yourself and your partner, have fun, protect your precious relationship with education and therapeutic support, and don't be afraid to try something new to ignite your flame.