Valentine’s Day: A Survival Guide

Next week is Valentine’s Day and I’m already gathering the requisite supplies to send in to school with my children:  shoe boxes, red construction paper, heart stickers.  Being in elementary school, they are still of an age where they will be forced to bring in a card for everyone in their class.  The school takes upon itself the task of protecting those who might not be as liked as others.  As my kids get older, however, the rules will change.  I can still remember watching Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown in which Charlie Brown watches everyone else get cards except for him.

What a strange holiday this is that evokes such different feelings from different people!  Not as strange as the Roman holiday that preceded it where men ran naked in the streets hitting willing women with switches to ensure fertility and easier childbirth.  When the Roman gods fell out of favor, the Christians cleaned the holiday up by adding the name of a saint and eliminating the naked men.  Although I know some people who would prefer to be hit with a stick then celebrate the modern incarnation of this holiday.

Why do people have such mixed emotions about this holiday?  The only people who seem to truly look forward to it (besides flower shops and restaurant owners) are those newly in love couples who take any excuse to shower each other with gifts and affection.  For those who are single, it is an obnoxious reminder of their being alone.  For those in long term relationships, it can feel like a costly obligation instead of a true expression of love.

If you are newly in love, there is little advice I need to give except to embrace the holiday.  Some people feel pressure to get the perfect gift or set up the most romantic situation.  I would say to give yourself a break.  Unless you make no effort at all, you are in the relationship stage where it will be hardest to disappoint. The most important element will be the quality of time you spend with each other, so prepare to focus your time and attention on the other person.

If you are in a long term relationship, the best bet is to acknowledge the holiday no matter what your personal feelings are about it.   Even if both people agree Valentine’s Day is too commercial and a waste of money, there may be a sense of disappointment or irritation if the day passes without any acknowledgement. Remember expressing appreciation and affection towards your significant other will only serve to improve your relationship no matter what day of the year it is.   Participating in this holiday does not have to be about spending gobs of money.  Ideas for a cheap celebration include: writing love notes, giving each other a massage, renting a favorite movie to watch, looking through picture albums together, making time for a romp in the bedroom.  Make sure you both have clearly expressed your expectations, however, since expectations can make or break this holiday.  If she or he is expecting an expensive dinner and you show up with carry-out, the disappointment can spoil the whole day.

If you are single and especially if you are still mourning the loss of a relationship, you certainly have a reason to dislike Valentine’s Day.  The best bet for surviving this holiday is not to hide under the covers until it goes away, but to treat yourself as your own Valentine.  Make this day about indulging and treating yourself like you deserve to be treated.  This may include curling up with a favorite (non romantic) movie or book, getting your favorite foods to eat, pampering yourself with a candle lit bubble bath, calling a friend on the phone, scheduling a massage, listening to your favorite music.  Whatever you decide to do, make it all about taking care of yourself.

These are just some of my ideas for surviving this holiday.  I welcome any comments or feedback on your survival tips.

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About Jennifer Sober

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and a mother.
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