Valentine’s Day is fraught with landmines and expectations, often unrealized. Whether you’re in or out of a relationship, the grass isn’t always greener. Below are often-occurring situations, and six tips to having a great holiday.
- You’re alone. I can recall Valentine’s Days I wished I were in love with someone who loved me. Worse were Valentine’s Days when I missed an ex or spent time thinking about someone who wasn’t in love with me. Looking back, what was sad was that I made myself unhappy and ruined one, if not more, days thinking “if only.”
- You’re in a new relationship.Another Valentine’s trap happens when you’re newly in love. It may be the first Valentine’s Day of your relationship, and you wonder whether your partner will surprise you with something special. Will he or she ignore the day or hopefully say the unmentionable, four-letter L-word?You’re stressed about whether your card should be funny or mushy. Fear of humiliation and abandonment restrain you from being vulnerable. You don’t want your feelings rejected or to scare off your partner. Guys, you could be afraid of hurting your girl’s feelings by not doing or saying enough. Or you could be afraid to do or say too much, which might be misinterpreted as a commitment for which you’re unprepared.
- You’re in a fight.One of the worst feelings on Valentine’s Day is to be fighting with your partner. Any other day wouldn’t be as painful. On Valentine’s Day, though, your worst fears and disappointments about your partner and the relationship are highlighted. In addition to being hurt or angry about the argument, you compare how you feel to how you imagine the day should be and how you want to feel.You don’t have to be fighting to be on eggshells all day and disappointed because your partner is an addict, ignoring you, or is looking for a fight to avoid admitting he didn’t plan anything or doesn’t want to go out. You can easily spend the entire day looking and waiting for cues, wondering whether you will spend the evening together. It’s hard to generate loving feelings seeing your wife neglecting the children or drunk all day.
- You’re in a dull or dead relationship.Many couples in long relationships have lost the spark of love. Valentine’s Day may be a cruel reminder or an opportunity to rekindle it. When romance fades, it can be replaced with love based on deep caring and shared life experience. You might decide not to do anything special. Yet you can still acknowledge your love for each other – even if it’s not romantic love, it’s deep and abiding.Some relationships have died. Intimacy’s gone, but the couple can’t let go, whether due to age, children, health, or finances. Usually, despite those reasons, there’s a deep attachment. Often one person imagines he or she is staying for the other and is in denial of his or her own attachment needs and fears about leaving.
- You’re in a loving relationship.You’re among the fortunate few if you’re in a long, loving relationship. Valentine’s Day may still present problems, especially for husbands who don’t want to disappoint their wives. You can get caught in the dilemma of not being able to decide whether to surprise your wife or ask her what she’d like. It’s okay to ask. Some people would rather know, but beware of a common trap: When your significant other replies, “it doesn’t really matter, I’m just happy with all you do. Don’t get me anything.” In this case, you should get him or her something special. Failure to act can be dangerous.Wives, too, can get caught up in waiting and wondering, and not wanting to upset plans their husbands may have made.
- Stay in the present reality. Take the label off, and just enjoy the day. Don’t look up an ex or waste time fantasizing about someone with whom you’re not involved. Don’t think about your relationship’s future or troubles or replay past disappointing holidays.
- Take responsibility for your feelings. If you’re experiencing painful emotions, honor them – for a half-hour. Then plan a great day. Remember it takes two to have an argument. Take responsibility for your contribution and your feelings. Own them, apologize if necessary, and make a fresh start with your partner. You’re the one who suffers if you don’t. Waiting for an apology feeds your resentment.
- Let go of expectations. They plant the seeds of disappointment and resentment. Instead, be open to what your partner and the universe have in store for you.
- Focus on giving love. Remember the love you feel is the love you give. Even if you’re in a relationship, write yourself a love letter about your wonderful traits and acts of courage. Tell yourself you love you. Read it aloud in the mirror. This may sound foolish, but it works and boosts your self-esteem! You can also focus on the positive traits of your partner. Imagine opening your heart and sending him or her love. If that’s difficult, recall a time when you shared love, and then bring that memory fully into the present.
- Be creative. It shows an investment of time, love, and thought when you create something special. You can create a treasure hunt for your partner to find a gift or card. Instead of roses, sprinkle the bed with flower petals. Give a sensuous candlelit foot rub, massage, or body wash. Write your favorite, shared memories with colored pens. Make a collage of your dream home, family, or past or future adventures together designed with leaves, dried flowers, photographs, or magazine clippings.
- Whatever you do, be real. Authenticity is romantic. Your true feelings are apparent anyway, and hiding them creates more problems. That doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts, but in a dicey situation, choose words that are true for you.
Lancer, D. (2013). 6 Tips to Avoid Valentine’s Day Traps. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/6-tips-to-avoid-valentines-day-traps/00015260
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Feb 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.