Love it or leave it, Valentine's Day is a holiday that stirs up strong emotions for many people on both sides of the fence about it.
Tri-Valley residents are no exception, with some on board for celebrating the year's most reputedly romantic date while others merely wait for the deep day-after discounts on chocolate.
For more than 20 years, Hosai Mojaddidi, spiritual adviser for the Muslim Community Center East Bay in Pleasanton, has played matchmaker and counseled countless couples. She believes love is a gift that we can only give others after we've given it to ourselves.
"Our notions of love are often informed by what we see in pop culture. In our specific faith tradition, we have our own understanding of love," Mojaddidi told the Weekly. "It's very God-centered -- understanding the gift of existence, the gift of life that we've been given, and honoring that by being a presence that exudes goodness and compassion."
"Instead of getting wrapped up in romantic ideals," people should focus more on self-love that Mojaddidi said will easily manifest in their relationship.
"When you recognize the great experiences of life, that sense of awe, that sense of beauty, that sense of wonder will translate to anyone that comes into one's life," she added. "Naturally, you will exude that in your relationship -- being selfless, caring for other people, serving other people, being thoughtful."
How that love is expressed can take on many forms, which is why Mojaddidi likes using "a more modern toolkit to help people really understand a more empathic concept of love" such as the "Five Love Languages" principles to help couples grow closer.
"I love that because it's very much in line with my faith-based understanding of love -- caring for other people by reading what their needs are," Mojaddidi said. "It comes from a soul that's equipped to give. A lot of people just come into committed relationships not whole, but what does wholeness mean? It emanates from someone that has a sense of purpose, of self-love and being able to share with others."
Although modern Valentine's Day has overtaken, in a way, by commercial interests, as long as the holiday doesn't "end up being something that makes (a relationship) or breaks it," Mojaddidi said it can also be a sweet way of "reminding people to don't forget, be appreciative and make someone feel special, because we do get caught up in life."
We decided to ask a few people around Pleasanton for their thoughts on love heading into Valentine's Day this Friday. Here's what they had to say:
How do you define love?
Love is sometimes from the word '"eros," which is erotic, physical feeling, and then sometimes ..."agape." It means appreciation, that you care about the person's life and their happiness -- more of a mind lover than physical body lover. You have to keep that balanced so there's a kindness involved. - Kay Donohue
I think love is something that's eternally never-ending -- love grows within growing pains as well. I'm married, I've been for 18 years and it's always up and down and as long as you know how to get into arguments, know how to handle situations, how to clear out things then that makes your love grow more within the relationship. - Emeterio Negrete
I think love is about sacrifice. I think a huge portion of love is about sacrifice; it's not necessarily sacrificing your well-being for someone else ... Let's say your friend wants to watch a movie that you love but it's not your typical thing ... but you do it because you want to hang out and spend time with them. - Jay Razzell
It's a lot of giving, mutual giving of yourself or your time, your space as well. - John Razzell
Any advice for a lasting partnership?
Take good care of them, cook for them, clean for them, pay attention to what's important to them ... The most important thing is to teach your children to love them. - Kay
When you fall in love with someone, you have to have your eyes wide open. People do not change -- if you don't have a very strong basis because you're not connected, it's not going to last. - Edye Letterman
Always pay attention to your wife or to your significant other, be more attentive to them, always comply, try to be romantic once in a while, not just on Valentine's Day but go out on Friday nights, Tuesday nights. - Emeterio
I've never been fortunate enough to be in a long-term romantic relationship but I know a lot about making friends and making sure to keep them around. Listening and communication is a big part of a relationship, regardless of whether it's romantic or platonic. - Jay
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I believe it exists, but I don't believe it's necessarily lasting. I do believe you can fall in love with someone instantaneously. - Edye
I've never been in love at first sight; I've seen couples, I've seen friends that'd been love at first sight and it's worked out. Yeah, (it) could be a thing. - Emeterio
No, not really. Because you don't really know someone just by looking. Sometimes you meet someone and at first there's an attraction and then they say something or do something, and you go, "I don't know why I liked you in the first place." - John
No, I don't believe in that either. A large part of love is trust and I think most people would say they have a hard time trusting people that you've only really just met or just looked at. You don't know how well your personalities will sort of click together or if they won't, there's certain things you can't determine just by meeting someone for the first time. It takes time to develop an actual authentic relationship. - Jay
Does Valentine's Day get a bad rap?
For my generation, Valentine's Day used to be a very big, romantic thing -- I don't believe it's that vitally important to (younger people) now. I've been married twice, neither husband believed it was a special day -- maybe exchanging cards. - Edye
It does; it's played out. I think it became more of a holiday than an actual meaning of love. It's been a business thing and more people are spending more money instead of spending more time with their significant other. - Emeterio
There are two sides to the argument; there are those who think it's all about companies making money off of it, the over-commercialization, so there are people who fit into that category. But I think it can also be a good opportunity to show your friends how much you appreciate them. I have even as an adult made Valentine's cards and given out candy to people who I appreciate just because I want to let them know and, well, a holiday's just as good an excuse as any. - Jay
Any Valentine's Day plans this year?
I've habitually never done anything for it. The last relationship I was in, she was against it, she didn't like the day, period. I was expressly told not to do anything, so I've never done anything for it. - John
I don't have any plans right now. I might try to treat myself to something nice just because I don't have anything concrete and I'm not in a relationship right now, so maybe take a day trip somewhere or ... get myself some nice soaps and stuff. - Jay