Written By: Rebecca Hirsch, AMFT
Valentine’s Day can be one of the most anxiety-provoking holidays of the year because couples and singles put too much pressure on themselves to do something extra special and fulfilling, and one day or event often cannot live up to those expectations. People want to feel loved, cared for, and appreciated. But how can one date or one gift show all of that? What if you just started dating someone, how do you acknowledge the holiday? If you’re in a relationship or you’re single, there’s unnecessary pressure to make the day something special and out of the ordinary. There are so many questions regarding this holiday that cause people unnecessary angst about their relationship. I often see clients in individual and couples therapy struggling with how to approach the holiday as well as how to approach their new or long-term partners about the holiday. Here are ideas for how to celebrate Valentine’s Day if you’re single, in a relationship, or somewhere in between.
If you’re single:
Being single on Valentine’s Day can be really annoying and difficult. If you want to stay in and watch Netflix, more power to you. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to spend the holiday with friends by going to dinner or going out. Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating all kinds of love, which definitely includes your best friends. If you just want to avoid the holiday all together, then treat it like any other night of the week. Spend time with friends, do your self-care; basically, do you. There is nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate the holiday, hating the holiday, or doing something in between the two.
If you’re just starting to date someone new:
What do you do about Valentine’s Day if you’ve only been dating someone for a couple weeks or even only a couple months? If you have not had the exclusivity conversation or the “what are we?” conversation, then I do not think you have to put too much pressure on yourself to celebrate the holiday. Simply acknowledging the holiday is a great place to start. If your relationship is very new, maybe have a conversation before the holiday about what the holiday means to you and if it is important to you.
As you are getting to know a new partner, it will be important to learn what their “love language” is. The 5 Love Languages is a concept by Dr. Gary Chapman that identifies how people like to give and receive love. The 5 Love Languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. You can find out what kind of love language you have by taking a test online here . By knowing what kind of love language you or your partner has, it will be easier to decipher what kind of gift to get them (or not give them). If their love language is Receiving Gifts, then they may enjoy receiving a thoughtful gift. If their love language is Acts of Service, cooking a nice meal for them may win them over. If their love language is Quality Time, it may be fun to go to an event or do a new activity together. These are important characteristics to learn when dating someone new because you may have a completely different love language than your partner, or your new partner may have a different one than an ex. The best way to find out is to be direct and ask what your new love likes.
If you’re in a long-term relationship:
If you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while, you are probably already aware of what your expectations are for Valentine’s Day (and if you don’t know, then ask!). As you are with your partner for longer and longer, gift giving and holidays seem to be less important. While it can be easy to forget about the holiday or say we’ll celebrate next time, it is important to still remember to be thoughtful and caring during holidays like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. Big grand gestures seem less important, and often being logical and realistic becomes more important than emotion and romance. In order to keep that spark going, you still have to put the time and effort into your relationship, even if it means celebrating “Hallmark” holidays like Valentine’s Day. Simple acts of love and kindness can go a long way in a relationship. Talk to your partner about something they’ve been wanting to do, whether it’s try a new cocktail bar or restaurant or see the latest award-season movies. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, it shows your partner you care.
While giving presents may seem important in the beginning of a relationship, it is not the expensive gifts or fancy dinners that keep a relationship healthy and happy at the end of the day. Try not put too much pressure on yourself or your partner to make it the “most romantic day ever”. When in doubt about what to do for Valentine’s Day, a great place to start is to simply ask your partner what they want to do. Enjoy the day with yourself, a loved one, or friends, and remember that love comes from more than just candy hearts and flowers.
If you are having anxiety about Valentine’s Day or about your relationship, contact Symmetry Counseling to set up an appointment with an individual or couples therapist.