It's easy to get cynical on the yearly celebration of romance that is February 14th. Whether it's the non-stop perfume commercials and materialism or just the fact that you're single or recovering from a hurtful relationship yourself – many people don't feel romantic at this time of year. If that's you, here are four suggestions to get you in a more amorous mood.
1) Make friends with some elderly couples
There's nothing like a love that has lasted 60 years or more to give you the feels. Older couples who have been through the wars (sometimes literally), who are loving and serving one another as they face the challenges of ageing, and who have stuck together through thick and thin, are an amazing inspiration to us all. Many older people care for a disabled partner following a stroke or cruel diseases like dementia. Others just share a simple and gentle love that's only possible through a lifetime of trust and sharing life together.
The older generation knew a lot about sacrifice, loyalty and commitment that younger folk can really learn from. When you're young the sparks fly and passion is at its highest, but if you want to find a deeper love, age can often bring something much more beautiful.
2) Read Song of Songs
You can sometimes get the idea in church that romance is a bit worldly and real Christian love is hard work and self-sacrificial and difficult and ... that's about it. But the raunchy and passionate verses of Solomon's romantic poem are a significant antidote to all that. From "your love is more delightful than wine" to the "your breasts are like two fawns" - and a whole lot of potentially even more raunchy metaphors - this chapter of the Bible doesn't just celebrate love. It celebrates the biblical vision for sex, romance and passion, and reminds us that they are not unbiblical, unChristian or too worldly.
3) Appreciate the love that is already in your life
We're at our most cynical about romance if we've been hurt, or perhaps if we want something we don't have. If you're single it can be hard to accept. A relationship that's currently unhappy is pretty romance-dampening too.
In both situations one way to address it is to practice gratitude for what you do have. It's hard when things aren't as we'd like them, but appreciating the love we do have can boost our mood and help us to see things in perspective. If you're single, that Valentine's you got two years ago that you're still not sure who it's from, can remind you that someone found you interesting romantically.
If your relationship isn't going well and neither of you are your best selves, remind yourself of the good times and what your partner has done for you in the past. And if you're hurting after something went wrong, appreciating the support and friendship of those around you is one way to remember that we're not alone and love exists.
4) Watching truly romantic films
A lot of rom coms are pretty unrealistic, presenting romance as an exciting ride until you get to 'happily ever after' and the credits roll. But there are films that are a bit more realistic, and can inspire or encourage us as well as entertain us.
'The Painted Veil' starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts begins as a grim story of a very dysfunctional marriage, but the ultimate understanding of forgiveness and redemption is a real tear-jerker that touches the heart. 'Hacksaw Ridge' starring Andrew Garfield and is a war film (with some violent bits – be warned) but it is underpinned by a beautiful love story, and probably one of the only modern depictions of sex saved until marriage - as well as telling an incredible true story of bravery and God's power.
On the less wholesome level there's 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' where Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone give us what is ultimately a great celebration of genuine love and commitment that mocks promiscuity and casual relationships.