I may be dating myself a bit, but raise your hand if you remember the song, Love is a Many Splendored Thing? Anyone? It was from the 1955 movie of the same title and written by Paul Francis Webster, music by Sammy Fain. It’s been covered by tons of people – from Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra to Jeff Lynne as recently as 2012. It’s a classic. And it plays in my head whenever I think of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that people seem to either love (no pun intended) or hate. Children tend to love it because it typically involves candy of some sort. Grown-ups can go either way. If you are in a relationship, dating or otherwise, and if things are in good standing, it’s generally something you look forward to. If your relationship is not quite as solid you’d like, or maybe you’re in the midst of an ongoing disagreement about something, then it could be a little rough. If you are single, you may not be excited about “singles awareness day” at all!
I have spoken with many people, couples and singles alike, about the pitfalls and pleasantries of this holiday. It can be just as fulfilling and fun for singles as couples, no matter the status of their relationship. I’ll talk about that a further below. First, let’s check out the origins of St. Valentine’s Day.
HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
Back in the days of the Roman empire, there was a fertility festival on February 15 called Lupercalia. It was dedicated to the god of agriculture and the founders of Rome. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it involved animal sacrifice, goat hides dipped in sacrificial blood, and young ladies putting their names in an urn followed by young bachelors choosing one out to be paired with for the year! According to History.com, many of these pairings went on to marry.
Well, the Christian church put an end to that around the end of the 5th Century. Around the same time, Pope Gelasius deemed February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. The Catholic Church has three saints named Valentine or Valentinus – all martyrs, and all portrayed as a “sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure.” It took a few more centuries for the St. Valentine’s Day to be connected with romance though, and in the middle ages it really kicked in. The first valentines are reported to have been written in the 1400s. In the early 1700’s, the practice of professing your love to another person in writing or deed picked up steam in the United States. And voila! Now it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and the 2nd largest card-sending holiday!
SO WHAT IS THE “PROPER” WAY TO CELEBRATE?
The answer is, there really isn’t one. People celebrate this holiday in many different ways for many different reasons. The tradition of giving chocolate and flowers is always a good bet. Perhaps a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant? Always amazing. However, you don’t have to make a huge deal of Valentine’s Day. You may not be in the mood to do that if your relationship is feeling some strain lately. A big to-do, with lots of pressure for perfection, can potentially add more stress rather than take it away. Some couples choose to simply “Netflix and chill” and spend a relaxing evening at home with a home-cooked meal or pizza delivered.
Here are a few tips for helping you navigate Valentine’s Day like a champ!
I think the important thing to remember when deciding what to do to celebrate is to think about the expectations you already have. You might have something planned in your head already, or a vision of how you’d like the evening to unfold. Your partner may have his or her own expectations too. I may sound like a broken record, but communication is key! There’s an old saying that goes, “expectations unsaid will always go unmet.”
If you have a very clear idea in your head of how you want things to transpire yet don’t communicate any of this, even in the most casual of conversations, and/or are unsure of what your partner wants to do, then you could be setting yourself up for an easily avoidable disappointment. You have roses and fine dining in mind; he has pizza and the ballgame planned instead. Your partner wants a date night to the movies and dinner; you are thinking a (solo) bubble bath and your DVR’d shows.
If you’re in a relationship, make a point to talk about what you have in mind and make sure it fits what your partner or spouse is thinking BEFORE Valentine’s Day arrives. This can ease a lot of stress and hopefully lead to an enjoyable celebration for both of you.
The Pressure for Awesome
As I mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day can be a source of some trepidation for couples if their relationship is new and they don’t know each other that well yet, or it’s just not as super solid as hoped. This too can create a lot of pressure for the day to be absolutely awesome for one or both people.
It’s totally OK if it’s not helicopter rides and linen tablecloths for Valentine’s day! Whatever the celebration is, it should be reasonable and appropriate for the stage of the relationship. And just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you need to use the “L word”. Affection and connection are part of the act of love. Simply spending quality time together, doing something nice for the other person, or giving a small gift can be a very loving gesture! Cards are nice. So is writing your partner a love letter. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just an honest expression of how you feel about her or him.
Single and Loving It
“Being single on Valentine’s is the worst thing ever.” If this is your current feeling about the situation, I challenge you to look from another point of view.
What if… being single on Valentine’s Day meant that you could treat yourself to the decadent indulgence of your choice? What if rolling solo, as the kids say, on Valentine’s meant that you could take a well-earned opportunity to practice some self-care?
That could mean treating yourself to a massage, a mani-pedi at a fine salon, a day at the beach (weather permitting!), a delicious dinner with a close friend or maybe even someone you just want to get to know better. Yes, yes, most of these things are done by yourself anyway. If these things ARE part of your normal routine (yay!), then what would be something special?
Alone and lonely are two different things. In the practice of being alone, your loneliness will often dissipate. Taking time to focus on you, healing your wounds from the last relationship, or pain from lack thereof can open the door to perhaps the MOST important relationship there is – the one with yourself!
Here’s what I’d like to suggest. Spend some time reflecting on all the love you currently have in your life (your mom, your best friend, that co-worker that is always grabbing a coffee for you, your dog) and feel that glow of gratitude. If you consciously practice gathering up this feeling daily, it will start to take over. When we are full of positive energy, it pushes out the negative thoughts that creep into our minds automatically, without us noticing. With less negative and more positive in your mind, your outlook will inevitably change. You may even have the best Valentine’s holiday you’ve ever had!
One last thing, if you are feeling especially hard hit by this year’s holiday, please give me a call. I’m happy to have a 15-minute consultation (free) with you to see if I’m a good fit to help.