Valentine’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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plug into your sense of humor. A good laugh can chase worry away—at least for a while!
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