Roses Are Red, You’re Blue: Five Steps to a Valentine’s Day Detox

Wilting roseValentine’s Day and its aftermath can be a worrier’s worst nightmare. Valentine’s Day itself can be so public, and, well, full of judgment—especially if you work in an office environment with others. Flowers arrive in waves, and each arrangement or bunch is judged. An expensive bouquet in a vase with chocolate says one thing, grocery store stems mean another, and nothing means, well … it probably means nothing in particular, but people act like it means something.

No matter where we are in life—in a relationship, out of a relationship, single by design, or waiting for Valentine’s Day to be over so we can be single by design—it’s hard to know how to handle Valentine’s Day. Do you act like it’s a high-stakes prom (something to be left out of), or is it a just a Hallmark holiday (something to be ignored)?

What lasts even longer than the day itself is the worry and rumination about what did or did not happen on Valentine’s Day. It’s Monday-morning quarterbacking, and about as helpful. We worry about what we sent someone (was it enough, or too much?), what was sent to us (smashed heart-shaped cookies?), and what it all means. Some people use the day as an important relationship gauge, looking for signs of what the other person is thinking. Sometimes Valentines Day is about sending a meaningful message, and sometimes it’s just a painful obligation.

What seems to add fuel to the worry on Valentine’s Day is the idea of scarcity. (Quick aside: Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan is a recommended read.) If we’re limping along in a relationship we’re not happy with, we may feel we need to make it work because another one might not come along, or so we tell ourselves. When we’re not in a relationship and we want to be in one, it seems like everyone is wearing pink and sharing a touching, romantic, heart-shaped story.

Here are five steps to getting beyond Valentine’s Day:

  1. Check in on your expectations. What is it you were hoping would happen on Valentine’s Day? Why? And why is that? What are the feelings underneath the expectation? If it gets too painful chasing down the whys, it might be a good idea to see a therapist to help investigate.
  2. Watch out for all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking. It might sound something like this: “She didn’t get me anything; she obviously hates me.” Although this type of thinking can be the genesis of dramatic stories for our friends, if “A” obviously equals “B” in your mind, you might want to check your evidence for that observation to make sure it all adds up.
  3. Notice the what-ifs and if-onlys. These recurring thoughts are the torture chambers of our minds. Whenever one of these thoughts rises, notice it—yes, it was something you wanted or didn’t want, and it happened—but try not to give it further attention. These thoughts thrive on attention, and they only lead you farther down the trail of despair.
  4. Consider compassion. If you’re unhappy with your relationship or status, go easy on yourself. Write, draw, or talk with a friend about it. If you’re unhappy with how people react to your single-by-design lifestyle, have compassion for those who feel they need to be in a three-legged race to make it through life—and for yourself for having to deal with them.
  5. Plug into your sense of humor. A good laugh can chase worry away—at least for a while!

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  • Kimberely

    Kimberely

    February 14th, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Oh it’s Valentine’s Day? Hadn’t noticed, I swore that off last year lol

  • Cahrla

    Cahrla

    February 15th, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    I have so many friends who place how valuable their relationships are or are not based on what they get for a gift on this one day. Yes I think that it would be great sometime to get an awesome Valentine’s Day gift, but then again it is going to be just as special to me no matter what day of the yesr I get that on. When I meet the right person, it won’t matter, every day will feel special like that.

  • sam

    sam

    February 17th, 2014 at 4:40 AM

    Always feels like a young person’s game anyway. Those are the ones wanting to be impressed and to do the impressing. When you have been with someone for a long time, one designated day on the calendar isn’t that big of a deal anymore.

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