Cupid gets a lot of credit this time of year. That flabby little buck-naked body. Those large, soft wings that allow for swooping, diving, and soaring around, between, and beyond any inclement weather or clouds that may appear (metaphorically speaking). Cupid’s face is an angelic one with those puffy cheeks, just begging to be pinched if not straight on kissed. All of cupid’s cuteness arguably distracts us from the duality that exists beneath the saccharine softness that little love hungry tiny baby exudes.
Yes reader, there’s something far more devious and dare I say sinister than the average Valentine’s Day observer may care to acknowledge. Beneath the guise of fluffy pink and red hues of softness and sweetness, beyond those oversized wings and the heart shaped intentions and all that lovey hoopla is a small, seemingly tender, yet cunningly silent villain hiding in plain sight.
Cupid may be a tiny baby, sure, but I’ll just come out and say it, he also just so happens to be the only holiday mascot who openly carries a weapon, ammunition, and the thirst to attack. Then we’re supposed to want to be on the receiving end of its prick. Ouch!
That’s part of the game though, isn’t it? Relationships hurt sometimes. We sign up for that pain as well as the glory of love. Anyone who’s ever dared to fall in love knows that.
We make ourselves vulnerable every time we subject ourselves to the experience of falling in love, whether it’s for the first time with someone or more deeply with a long-term partner, family member or close friend. We sign up for the heartache and the highs whether knowingly or inadvertently because the future is uncertain.
“We don’t know what we don’t know.” Those are the words my therapist would use time and time again when we’d discuss how scary it feels to allow someone else in. She’d remind me that for those of us with anxious minds, we allow ourselves to go to a worst-case scenario in our minds because it’s a welcome relief from the anxiety of not knowing. It doesn’t matter whether we were talking about romantic pursuits or any kind of close relationship. Existing in the not knowing, she’d say, is where the magic stuff is, especially when it feels unbelievably nerve-wrecking.
One way I’ve found to emotionally process all the uncertainties that come along with all things love is to play games with those closest to me. I love games so much that I created one. It’s called PARTY FREUD. It’s a card game for people who probably need therapy. (Ahem, everyone!) We also offer a NSFW expansion pack that specifically focuses on sex and relationships.
I created PARTY FREUD because games can be a sort of low stakes way to test the waters and bear witness to how romantic partners, family members, loved ones and friends of all backgrounds fare in various situations. Through games, especially those geared toward intimacy and humor, we get to see how our fellow players react as well as compete in a safe, low stakes environment.
The cards I wrote provide players with the opportunity to pretend to be each other’s funny therapist and give each other comical “prescriptions” to real world “ailments”. For example, one card reads, “What to prescribe to your friend who holds themselves back more than a seatbelt at a red light?” Players can choose from remedies such as, “A designer watch that doesn’t work but attracts hot babes” or “Goggles for when things start to get messy” or even “A dark cave for a rebirth of their wildest true being.” (That last one is a personal favorite of mine.)
My experience creating the game was deeply rewarding. I worked with real life couples, therapists, singles, and comedians to identify which conversations people are most eager to have and which feel fun and cause the most laughter. Spoiler: People’s favorite cards are the ones that pulled back the curtain on themes that historically were clouded in shame. Releasing that shame feels better for all involved.
It turns out, we all want to feel more seen and heard as well as enjoy the beautiful release that comes along with laughter. Nearly everyone feels terrified that if they show their true colors, they'll be rejected or ridiculed. Almost all of us feel behind in the timeline of our lives. The good news is that by revealing ourselves more clearly to one another, we can build healthier relationships with less shame and withholding. Sharing doesn’t have to be a ridiculously painful process. It can even be hilarious. Much like cupid’s prick, the pain associated with vulnerability looks much sharper than it feels, especially in safe spaces where everyone is encouraged to let loose and be totally themselves.
Just as my therapist told me, all of us have the ability to open up and foster more connection in our lives, even when we aren’t positive of the outcome. We all get to try and mess up and improve slowly and make mistakes and still ask to be dealt in for another hand. It’s all part of the game of life. Laughter, play, and love, especially love, are the most worthy prizes.