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How to Reframe the ‘Month of Love’

Fewer teddy bears and chocolate hearts, more showing up and doing the work, even when it’s uncomfortable.

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If the sight of pink teddy bears and bouquets of roses this time of the year starts to give you the ick… I’m with you. We’re inundated with messages about what our love should look like and how we should feel about them. But if I’ve learned anything in my years of talking to people about intimacy and relationships for my award-winning podcast Embodied, it’s that love doesn’t always look the way it’s presented in pop culture—or marketing.

Love isn’t about teddy bears. It’s about showing up and doing the work, even when it’s uncomfortable. So with that, I offer you a ‘Month Of Love’ reframe! What if Valentine's Day was less about performing your love and more about learning how to love yourself—and other people—better?

Here are some of the stories, insights, resources, and pieces of art that have helped me complicate my understanding of love and relationships. They’ve taught me how to better care for myself and the people I hold close. I hope they’ll help you do the same!

Auto-Mated: When a Bot Becomes Your Boo [LISTEN]

Embodied
The Podglomerate

“We heard a lot about AI in 2023. But (IMHO) we didn’t hear enough about the deep, emotional relationships people are already forming with certain forms of AI technology and what that means for our human connections. That’s the gap this episode (and the other two in this series) filled for me. They helped me understand how new technology can be a tool for bettering my relationships…if I recognize its limits and have a clear understanding of when we need to put the chatbots away.”

A Shortcut for Caring for Others (and Being Cared for Yourself)

Anne Helen Petersen
Culture Study

AR: “I aspire to be the friend/sister/ partner/boss who knows exactly what you need if you’re navigating heartbreak or hardship, but sometimes it’s hard to know! Enter: This incredible resource that you can ask your community to fill out (and that you should fill out yourself) so that we can all love each other a little better.”

How Amal El-Mohtar and Her Pen Pal Wrote a Book About Pen Pals on Opposite Sides of a Time War

Jane van Koeverden
CBC

And now, one last rec from Embodied’s lead producer

“As someone who has kept the spark of several long-distance relationships alive through letter writing, I loved the premise of This is How You Lose the Time War, where artfully crafted letters chronicle the love story of two would-be enemies in a different universe. The novella has a poetic beauty to it as well as sci-fi intrigue. It’s a unique and unlikely love story that will make you think about time, distance, and intimacy in a new way.” -Kaia Findlay

Anita Rao

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of Embodied, the acclaimed weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health from North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC. Anita is passionate about exploring identity, connection and power through storytelling. She grew up in an immigrant, mixed-race family in the Midwest, and this constant straddling of multiple worlds fueled her curiosity.

She studied Women's Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and started her journalism career as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. For several years, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department. After returning to WUNC, she served as lead producer, managing editor, and guest host of the station’s flagship state-wide daily talk show, The State of Things.