Dreading Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day is associated with tremendous cultural pressure around romance for singles and couples alike.
For singles, there’s pressure to be in a relationship, have a date, or look desirable to a romantic partner. As a result, it’s common to experience feelings of loneliness, social isolation, sadness, anxiety, social pressure to celebrate, and even self-pity on and around Valentine’s Day. For example, a study by the online dating site Plenty of Fish (2020) involving 2,000 singles revealed that 51 percent of the sample felt pressure to be romantic, 43 percent to be in a relationship, 42 percent to go on a date, and 41 percent to act like the holiday is meaningful. Even more strikingly, 43 percent of respondents thought it was the most pressure-filled holiday.
For couples, pressures come from the expectations to express love in a romantic, overly positive way through gifts, cards, and loving gestures. When these expectations aren’t met, people often report dissatisfaction. For example, a recent study of over 2,000 participants by Lange and colleagues (2022) found that people who did not receive a gift on Valentine’s Day reported more symptoms of depression than those who did get a gift (Lange, Jerabek, & Dagnall, 2022). While the men in the study tended to rebound in mood after about two weeks, the women’s self-reported symptoms of sadness often lingered over three weeks.
Given the stress associated with Valentine’s Day for singles and couples alike, here are three ways to help yourself handle the pressure.
1. Express love of all kinds—not just romance.
Choose to use February 14 to celebrate everyone you love in your life. Friendships, family relationships, and even pets make our lives more meaningful. So, do something fun with a friend, try a group activity that you enjoy, and communicate to those you love the most how grateful you are for them.
2. Choose not to celebrate it.
Treat it as a regular day, or tell yourself that it’s actually a highly commercial holiday crafted to get the public to spend money! According to data from the National Retail Federation, people in the United States spent $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2022. Instead of indulging in it, actively make a choice not to celebrate.
3. Celebrate yourself.
When outside relationships still feel stressful, use it as a day to celebrate yourself. Take yourself on a nice vacation, have your favorite lunch, or buy yourself flowers! Do something to affirm that you don’t need a date or a romantic partnership to feel whole, healed, and fulfilled in life.
The naked truth is this: Valentine’s Day can exert significant pressure on both singles and couples. Not actively celebrating it or observing it in a different way—such as focusing on love in all kinds of relationships or your relationship with yourself—can reduce the pressure. And always remember that whether you have a partner or are single does not reflect your true value as a human being.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D., ABPP
Note: This content is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. I cannot respond to personal requests for advice over the Internet. Best on your continued journey.
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