I used to hate Valentine’s Day. At least, that’s what I would tell anyone who listened. The truth was a little more complicated.
Growing up, Valentine’s Day became the day I’d watch other people receive elaborate gifts from family, friends, and significant others while I would sit there with my pile of class valentines and feel left out. Later, when I began dating, I realized that Valentine’s Day came with a whole other level of disappointment.
When I found myself, an incurable romantic, married to the least romantic person I’ve ever known, I let my jaded attitude about the day take over. I dismissed its crass commercialism because it was easier than admitting that I wanted more from the holiday than I’d ever gotten.
Sometime after my divorce, I began to reclaim my initial love for the holiday. I began to handcraft Galentines for my girlfriends, send valentines to friends, and helped my children prepare for class parties with cards and delicious treats. I no longer needed anyone else to show up with romance; I gave it to myself. I bought myself chocolate and flowers and made the day special for myself.
Of course, this year will be a whole other level of challenging. I met my now ex-boyfriend on Valentine’s weekend. The last time I saw him before the pandemic was a Valentine’s weekend, too. Do I have big, unwieldy, overwhelming feelings about this? Of course. Do I plan to enjoy the holiday regardless? Absolutely.
Jaded isn’t a cute look on anyone, but it’s often easier to dismiss the holiday than admit we feel disappointed, lonely, or left out. I don’t plan to do that this year. My relationship status is going to prevent me from enjoying a holiday that’s based on all things romantic.
Loving the day after years of dismissing it came more naturally than I’d have guessed. Here’s how I stopped being jaded and started embracing this day of love:
#1 I stopped complaining about commercialism.
I don’t roll my eyes when I see the aisles of Valentine’s Day decorations. If I’m entirely honest, I love it. I love the conversation hearts, even though I only eat the white ones. I love the flowers, the sweet cards, the stuffed animals, and the brightly colored candy and chocolate packages lining the aisles.
Yes, there’s an expense, but it also offers an opportunity to show love. In the absence of a lover, we can always treat ourselves. I don’t complain about the commercialism because I’m too busy focused on showing myself love.
#2 I started treating myself.
I love chocolate. I love flowers. I love romance. I don’t actually need a plus-one to enjoy any of that. I can treat myself — and not in a begrudging kind of way either. I deserve love and romance, and it’s not a terrible thing to give that to myself.
#3 I got the hell out of my head.
Not having a special someone on the holiday doesn’t say anything about our essential worthiness. We are worthy of love. We are worthy of romance.
If we only dwell on what we don’t have, we’ll exacerbate those feelings of loneliness, jealousy, and resentment. If we check that train of thought and focus instead on self-love and gratitude, we can enjoy the holiday without the pressure.
#4 I stopped thinking about myself.
If we really want to get into the holiday, we can treat a friend or family member to a valentine. Each year, I make it a point to buy special valentines for my children. There’s usually a stuffed animal of some kind, a box of chocolates, and a card.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to be special. In fact, they would be just as happy making cookies with me to celebrate. Instead of staying focused on my own experience, I can make it a great day for someone else.
#5 I let myself love Love.
This year, I will be grieving straight through the holiday for a relationship that just ended, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop loving Love. It’s tempting to be cynical, but the more courageous act is to keep loving and to celebrate love. I give myself extra love, and if I want a romantic gesture, I make it to myself.
This is not the Valentine’s Day I wanted. Still, I will do more than make the best of it. I will feel my way through it. I may be hurting, but that doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to chocolates, take myself out, and celebrate the love I have for myself and my children. I don’t need a plus-one to do that.
I used to say I hated Valentine’s Day, but what I said and how I felt were two different things. This year, I’m planning to enjoy it in my own way. If it wasn’t the day I dreamed of, there’s always time to build another dream.
This article was brought to you by PS I Love You. Relationships Now.