Few holidays arouse the vitriol of Valentine’s Day. No matter where you are relationship-wise, you may be feeling the pressure — and a burning desire to swat Cupid right on his little rear end. But take heart (sorry!). Your V-Day sentiments of sadness, anger or simple annoyance are justified, and — more importantly — there are plenty of ways to cope and feel some love this February 14th. Here’s how:
If you’re suddenly solo…
Breakups suck, but they suck the most right about now. If your relationship just fell apart, even an innocuous Hershey’s kiss has the power to dent your self-esteem. “Why do I hate Valentine’s Day? Because I’m alone! Thanks for reminding me!” snaps Maura D., 27, who lives near Baltimore. Ease the angst by reaching out to friends and family. “There is love in your life, a lot of it,” says Santa Barbara, CA-based marriage therapist and coach Wendy Allen, Ph.D. “Celebrate the people who love you, no matter what.”
Since V-Day hype can hurt, protect rather than punish yourself. “Have very little media interaction and avoid the public arena if possible, so you’re not faced by all the hoopla,” suggests Boston-based career and relationship coach Suzanne Blake. “Have friends over for a potluck dinner or to watch DVDs rather than go out to eat or to the movies,” suggests Blake... thereby avoiding all the goo-goo-eyed lovers.
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If you’re a social butterfly…
Maybe you’re dating around, having fun — but searching for The One isn’t your priority at present. Or maybe you just don’t appreciate being told that there’s a certain date where you have to rev up the romance. “Valentine’s Day makes romance feel like an obligation,” says Ruthie A., from Oahu, HI. “Love is not an obligation, and I don’t need some overblown money-making business telling me when to do romantic things.”
Unfortunately, the V-Day marketing machine is cranked up to give you the guilts. You may even believe the holiday is a conspiracy spearheaded by your mother to get you to settle down. “Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a defining moment — a time to take stock of your love life,” says Blake. “It can be hard to go against the grain.” If you’re really into playing the field, dare to be dateless on V-Day. “Show off your independence by going out solo as you might on any other night of the year or with a buddy,” says Blake. “It sends a good message to people less secure about being single.”
If you’re dating someone new…
There’s enough pressure on those who’ve recently started seeing someone. Then V-Day comes along to up the ante. If you have a new sweetie, you can’t help but wonder: “Should I ask him/her out for Valentine’s Day? If I do, what does it mean? Is it possible to treat February 14th like any other day? Are gifts, cards, the whole nine yards required?” It’s easy to misstep, as did a wealthy client of Blake’s who bought a woman he was casually dating expensive earrings as a V-Day gift. “He thought that’s what he was supposed to do, but she thought it meant they were a rock-solid couple and put a lot of expectations on the relationship he wasn’t ready to deliver on.”
The moral of the story? Keep it low-key. “If you’re dating someone new, don’t ignore the holiday — that won’t work,” says Allen. “Instead, reframe it. Decide to celebrate your new friendship, not love.” One idea: You and your date could buy some stuffed animals (relax, not for each other!) and take them to the children’s unit at your local hospital. Doing service with someone offers insight into the person, and being around those less fortunate may make you forget Valentine’s Day drama.
If you’re contentedly coupled…
Yes, even members of blissful twosomes can abhor the holiday. “I hate Valentine’s Day,” vents happily married Matt M., 39, from New York City. “You’re supposed to feel romantic in the face of all those schlocky pink lace decorations? Yuck. Talk about how to take something special and make it feel silly and commercial!” Adds Catherine E., 38, of Los Angeles, who’s engaged: “It isn’t enough to make a simple gesture. Now it feels as if you have to show everyone how much you care.” In fact, it can feel as if doing less than long-stemmed roses, candlelit dinner, and $40-a-pound truffles is downright uncaring.
When expensive gifts and fancy dinners feel de rigueur, what couple wouldn’t want to snuggle at home watching multiple seasons of Lost on DVD? That’s definitely an option. As Blake suggests: “Bond by doing the most un-V-day-oriented thing you can think of — have a sports marathon, go shopping for a refrigerator. Dare to break the mold — do something goofy and different to declare your independence as a couple.”
By following these tips, hopefully you can break away from feeling beset by Valentine’s Day — and enjoy the 14th in an unconventional way.
Nina Malkin is author of An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle.