Enjoying Valentine's Day With or Without a Partner
While Valentine's Day is supposed to be the holiday of romance, it can be difficult for many people, whether they have a romantic partner or not. The key is to keep things in perspective.
“People who don't have a spouse or romantic partner may feel lonely, sad or left out, thinking that everyone else is having fun,” says Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., a Manhattan-based psychiatrist and president & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. “But even for people with partners, expectations can often be set too high and underlying relationship stressors can become even more pronounced.”
Putting the day in perspective
Each year around this time, we are inundated with images of cupids, fancy dinners, and diamonds. “While advertisers fuel these high expectations, it’s important to think about what the day really means to you,” says Dr. Borenstein. “Then come up with your own, more realistic definition of its significance and plan accordingly.”
If you’re single, focus on things that make you happy, like the good relationships in your life or even the freedom of being single – rather than thinking about what you may be missing, he says.
Perhaps you can organize a night out with other single friends or family members and do things you might not do if you’re in a relationship. Or make the day about others by doing something thoughtful for someone you care about. “Research shows that we tend to feel happier and better about ourselves when we do something nice for others,” Dr. Borenstein explains.
It’s not a test
If you’re in a relationship, remember that Valentine’s Day is not a test of your partner’s love. “Instead, use the day to reflect on your relationship and reconnect with your partner,” says Dr. Borenstein. Sometimes writing a simple card expressing what makes your partner special is all it takes to set the tone.
To avoid unsatisfied expectations, it also helps to clearly communicate what you want the holiday to be – and ask what your partner wants. “Remember, your partner cannot read your mind, so a simple conversation can ease the way,” Dr. Borenstein explains.
“More than anything, your partner wants to feel loved and appreciated,” he continues. So, if you’re exchanging gifts, give one that shows you’ve been paying attention to your partner’s needs and wishes. Or forego the gifts and plan a shared experience, such as an evening at the theater or dinner at a special restaurant – positive memories you will always share.
Fighting negative feelings
“Some people try to fight their negative feelings about Valentine’s Day by eating or drinking too much, but that only makes them feel worse,” Dr. Borenstein says. "It’s a challenging day for many people, but being sad on Valentine's Day is different from being depressed," he adds. “If symptoms of depression are frequent, that is a sign to seek professional help. Depression is treatable and people should not suffer in silence.”