More so than other holidays, Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for some. For those who are unintentionally single, unhappy in their relationships or perhaps just having performance anxiety, Mazzoni therapist Liza Linder offers some words of wisdom to help you make the best of it.
I’m single, and as V. Day approaches I feel incredibly alone. When it comes to my romantic outlook, Renée Zellweger said it best:
“Unless something changed soon, I was going to live a life where my major relationship was with a bottle of wine ... and I’d finally die fat and alone ... and be found three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs.”
Great line — awful situation! Any advice? — Bridget Jones-ing for a mate
We all know the feeling — especially this time of year. First, get it out of your system — cue up the Morrissey, Phil Collins, whatever’s on your personal wallowing soundtrack, and let it blast ... then let it go.
Remember that the past isn’t always the best indicator of the future. Just because you’ve had unsatisfying relationships doesn’t mean you’re doomed to repeat them — or to end up sad and alone. We all have the ability to grow and learn from past experiences, if we choose.
Being single can be a fun and exciting time (just ask any of your partnered friends!). Too often we make the mistake of looking ahead to the “next” thing in life, work or relationships and not enjoying the moment we’re in for what it can offer. “Alone” time can be immensely enjoyable if you choose to spend it that way, doing something constructive, relaxing or fun, and not dwelling on negative thoughts.
Ironically, these activities can often lead you into relationship territory. If that’s what you’re looking for, our advice is to seek out something you truly enjoy, whether it’s a sport, hobby or volunteer gig. You don’t have to swear off bars and dating sites all together, but don’t put all your stock in them.
You might take time on Valentine’s Day to list the qualities you definitely want (and those you don’t) in a partner — realizing that no one is going to match every item on your list. It’s a great, simple exercise to clarify your core values. Besides, doing something active feels much better than sitting around feeling blue.
Make a conscious decision to enjoy V. Day by doing something you love. (Three words: “Millionaire Matchmaker” marathon.)
Help! My “stable” relationship has grown increasingly stale ... Wondering if it’s time to call it quits? — Unsure Dear Unsure:
Great question. For those of us who are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can be a good time to evaluate things. Is it heading in a mutually satisfying direction? Are you getting what you need from your partner? If there are specific issues troubling you, have you raised them? (By this we mean, with your words, out loud — not by sighing when your beloved leaves dirty laundry on the floor, or avoiding eye contact when he suggests moving in!) Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions: It can save you lots of heartache in the long run. Be sure to raise the issues in a calm, respectful way. You may find that you’re closer together on things than you knew.
Remember that no relationship is smooth sailing all the time. The test of a lasting one is how well you weather the challenges that inevitably do come up. Can you talk about your concerns in an honest and constructive fashion, and resolve them in a way that leaves you both feeling OK?
Let’s say you’ve tried everything (including an LGBT-friendly counselor, such as you’ll find at Mazzoni Center) and you’re still unhappy. Don’t feel a failed relationship was wasted time. Focus on whatever positives came out of it: fond memories, shared experiences and, most important, lessons learned. Just be sure you keep those in mind the next time you’re sizing up a potential partner.
I’m lucky to be in a great relationship with a terrific guy, but here’s my Valentine’s dilemma: I’d love to treat him to something special, but money is tight at the moment. I don’t want to seem cheap or unromantic. Any tips?
So many people get caught up in the hype and pressure of Valentine’s Day. While we love the idea of celebrating L.O.V.E., we feel strongly that money can’t buy it — and when it comes to romancing your Valentine, a simple, heartfelt gesture goes a long way.
A few creative and low-cost suggestions: Make a romantic playlist; offer a massage; dinner and a movie at home; framed photo of the two of you together; an old-fashioned love letter. Think about the person you love, what would make his or her eyes light up, and take it from there!
Liza Linder, MSW, LCSW, is a therapist at Mazzoni Center as part of its Open Door counseling staff.