Five Ways to Keep Valentine’s Day from Becoming an Emotional Massacre

About two years ago, my husband surprised me with a Keurig for Valentine’s Day.  It was an incredibly thoughtful gift; I’d been mentioning how I wanted one for my office, and there it was, a brand new, professional grade Keurig.  The problem was, I thought we had agreed not to exchange gifts that year.  I didn’t have anything for him.  I felt guilty and sad, so instead of enjoying his thoughtful gift for what it was, a display of selfless generosity, I tried to give it back to him.  You read that correctly.  I felt so guilty that I didn’t have a present for him, that I tried to give back his thoughtful gift.  Once I thought about it, and acknowledged that, not only did it give him genuine pleasure to give me this gift, but that I did, in fact, want and very much appreciate this gift, I accepted it, and worked on tolerating the feelings of guilt and embarrassment about my failure to reciprocate, as those feelings were mine to manage.  Have you ever had a lackluster or straight up disastrous Valentine’s Day?  Read on to learn five ways to improve your February 14th.

1. Focus on the entirety of your romantic relationship, rather than 1 out of 365 days of the year: We live in a culture where we place so much importance on relatively short and minor occurrences throughout the lifetimes of our relationships.  We focus more on the wedding than the marriage, attach inordinate amounts of importance to holiday gifts as opposed to how we’re treated day to day, and Valentine’s Day, for some, represents the pinnacle of these expectations.  Perhaps rather than focusing on the importance of going all out during this one day of the year, focus on improving your day to day interactions with your romantic partner.  The more satisfied you are in your romantic relationship, the less importance one single day will hold.  Check out the Gottman Institute to learn empirically supported ways to improve your romantic relationship today!

2.  Don’t hold on to a flailing relationship just because V-day is rearing its pink, rose-covered, head:  There are so many reasons that we give ourselves for holding onto relationships that just aren’t working anymore.  I often hear from folks, “well, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and wouldn’t I be a jerk if I ended things right before then?”  The cold, hard, truth is that there is never a good time to end a relationship with someone.  While it may seem cruel to give your partner the heave-ho right before one of the most romantic days of the year, it’s even crueler to lead them on with a big, romantic celebration (and all that implies), only to explain days or weeks later that it hasn’t been working for you for some time.

3.  A grand, sweeping, Hollywood-esque gesture is not going to fix deep rooted problems in your relationship:  The movies make it look like such an easy equation.  You take one struggling relationship, add a grand (typically over the top expensive and nearly impossible to pull off) romantic gesture, and everyone lives happily ever after.  This is NOT to say that your relationship problems cannot be improved, but it takes sustained effort and hard work.  One night of romance that drains the bank will also drain your emotional tank once you realize that it failed to fix any long-standing problems.  Check out these book recommendations  from the Gottman Institute to learn how you can make realistic changes to improve the health of your relationship!

4.  Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” so stop comparing yourself to everyone else:  If you spend time on V-day scrolling through your social media feeds, you will encounter those couples posting carefully curated photos of caviar and champagne, arranged on a beachfront table for two.  The key words there are carefully curated.  What you don’t see is the sand getting blown into everyone’s food, and the three changes of clothing the couple had to make after their toddler began to spew mashed potatoes like some sort of sequel to The Exorcist.  Instagram can filter out the dark circles under our eyes, and the messy, exasperating, normal parts of life.  Need more convincing?  Check out this article from Psychology Today about how social media comparisons increase general life dissatisfaction.  Then check out my helpful hints for how to be more mindful with your social media use!

5.  Are you not currently coupled this Valentine’s Day?  Join the majority of American adults who are not currently coupled!  You read that correctly, despite what Hallmark would have us believe, single adults currently outnumber married adults in the United States.  So while the candy displays and endless loop of rom-coms might trigger you to feel lonely, you are not, in fact, alone.  Does the prospect of a Valentine’s Day sans romantic partner still have you down?  There are other ways to celebrate love than shelling out for an overpriced dinner.  Celebrate the love you have for your friends by organizing a special day/night to enjoy one another and honor the unique and special friendships that you share!  Celebrate and cultivate love for yourself by treating yourself well.  Don’t wait for someone to present you with flowers, or a ring, or to take you to that restaurant you’ve been waiting to try.  Spend time improving the most important and long-lasting relationship you will ever have, the one you have with yourself!

Do you have tips for handling unrealistic Valentine’s Day expectations?  Comment below!

Dr. Scrivani specializes in the Cognitive Behavioral treatment of anxiety and related disorders, behavioral parent training, and provides tele-mental health services to residents of New York, Florida, and internationally. Call (888) 535-5671 or email [email protected]. Visit Dr. Scrivani’s iTherapy Webpage to learn more.

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