Dealing with Valentine’s Day

When you’re widowed or divorced, single by choice or single by chance, there are certain times of year that tend to cause some introspection, reflection, melancholy, or pure sadness. We make it through Thanksgiving and Christmas/ New Year’s (which I lump together as one big holiday hurdle), and then we get slammed with Valentine’s Day.

First, I need to state again for you something you already know – it’s totally normal to feel sad or lonely on Valentine’s Day. It even happens to people in relationships that are somewhat lacking, and to people with unreasonable expectations caused by a Valentine’s Day culture. The sting is extra sharp when a breakup is new, or a beloved is deployed amidst worries of danger. When your loved one has died, it’s another type of sharp, permanent sting.

Sometimes things unexpectedly trigger that sting. It could be something like a scent in the air, a song you hear, or something you unexpectedly receive in the mail or by email.  Like this promotion that came in my mailbox a couple of years ago:

I’m sure for the company it was a great marketing concept for multiple reasons. Receiving it, as a widow, was horrible.

On Valentine’s Day, and in the days leading up to it, it might seem like everyone is pairing up like there getting ready to get on board Noah’s Ark.  Single-shaming becomes widespread and takes all different forms.

There’s absolutely no reason you can’t spoil yourself for Valentine’s Day. If you want to pamper someone you love, pamper yourself. Have a favorite dinner. Watch a movie you like or would like to see. Sappy love stories are fine, but there’s no reason you can’t choose to enjoy an action flick filled with car chases or check out a movie starring your favorite superhero. Lounge around and read a romance novel, or a dark fantasy thriller, or try something from a genre you’ve never read before.

No matter how well you treat yourself, no matter what you try, you may still feel sad, bad, or blue about Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has days when they feel low. Nobody has the right to judge or second guess how you feel.

Be busy

If you keep your Valentine’s Day busy, and maybe the days around it as well, you’ll definitely have less time to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. If you normally pride yourself on being an independent person, or somebody who is in charge of your destiny or your life, why are you going to let being single ruin your day?

It’s also a good time to volunteer at a charity, veterans organization, senior citizen organization, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, pet shelter, and so on. All living creatures need to feel that somebody cares. Why can’t that somebody, sometimes, be you?

There are other love relationships in life

If you think back, your very first Valentines were probably school friends or parents. Life is full of all different types of love. Valentine’s Day or thereabouts is a good time to reach out to people who you care about and let them know that you do care.  My parents always acknowledged me on Valentine’s Day with a little gift or a card. I still do the same with my own children.

You know, it’s OK to be single!

Regardless of what popular culture relentlessly tells us, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being single. Plenty of people choose to stay that way their whole lives. There are endless other relationships you can have in life, aside from a committed, monogamist, “romantic” one.

There are also many people who believe that staying single is the secret to a long life.

How can you change things if you don’t want to be single?

If being single really isn’t for you, give some serious thought to how you can make your life different. Maybe you need to figure out a way to let go of emotional baggage from a previous unsuccessful relationship. Could be time to explore more hobbies so you meet more and different people.  Try going to new places and doing new things. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that interests you. If you aren’t being authentic, then anyone you meet that way is going to be meeting you under false pretenses, and that’s not good.

Don’t have unfair expectations

If you have a current relationship or are involved in one on a future Valentine’s Day, please remind yourself that real life is not a movie.   You can’t judge somebody’s feelings for you based on how much money they spent on a gift. Some people don’t give gifts for Valentine’s Day. Some only give a card; some never give a card.

You don’t want to be angry or disappointed in someone because their idea of an appropriate Valentine’s Day doesn’t correspond with what you have in your mind as an ideal.

The focus of Valentine’s Day really should be on love, not on just loving an individual in a romantic way. Of course, that’s a big part of it. But the world would be better, and we would be better, if it was more than that. Try to love and appreciate your life and the people in it. I know it can be really hard to do that sometimes. Believe me, it’s a daily struggle for me. Like with so many other struggles though, it’s worth it.

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