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Valentine’s Day is a holiday meant to celebrate love. But for many people, both single and in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can end up causing misery.  For singles, Valentine’s Day can be a glaring reminder of what is missing in your life.  You can’t go into any store without seeing the bright red and pink hearts, flowers, candy, and cards.  But even for those of us in relationships, the holiday can evoke a host of negative emotions from disappointment and jealousy to complete heartbreak.  Why is this?  A lot of it has to do with our thinking, unrealistic expectations, and unfair comparisons.  Fortunately, with a little awareness, you can end up enjoying the holiday regardless of your relationship status.

First, take some time to reflect on your past experiences, thoughts, and feelings about holiday. Were you the popular one in school whose mailbox was loaded with Valentine’s or did you only get one from the teacher?  Were you broken up with a week before the holiday?  Did you come from a broken home where the holiday was ignored because one or both of your parents felt bitter and jaded about love or did your parents celebrate the holiday lavishly?  Have you been showered with gifts by past partners but let down last year by your current partner?  Have you enviously watched co-workers receive bouquet after bouquet of gorgeous long stem roses and listened to friends gush over the romantic weekends spent in jacuzzi suites with bottles of champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries?  Whatever your experiences, they have no doubt shaped your expectations, thoughts, and feelings about the holidays.

Now that you understand where your feelings and thoughts about the holiday come from, you can work on managing these expectations, thoughts, and feelings so that you can survive February 14th without resenting your partner, hating your best friend for having the holiday you dreamt of, or being jealous of all your coupled up friends when you feel doomed to a life of single holidays.  An important part of this is working on being honest with yourself about your feelings.  And doing this in a nonjudgmental way.  If you are jealous, be jealous.  If you are disappointed by past holiday experiences, be disappointed.  If you are feeling lonely on your fifth straight single V-day, then feel lonely.  But don’t hold on to the feelings.  Identify them, acknowledge them, and move on.

Next, you need to challenge some of your unrealistic expectations and be honest with what you need to be happy. Not with what your friend or co-worker needs, but what you need.  Once you are able to be honest with yourself about what the holiday means to you, take some time to reality check your expectations.  Are you expecting champagne and caviar on a ramen budget?  Are you looking for travel when neither of you have time off?  And if you are single, are you expecting to find Mr. or Ms. Right on Valentine’s Eve?  Be able to balance your expectations with reality and come up with something that can really happen.  Now, you need to communicate your realistic expectations with your partner.  Don’t expect that he or she will know the best way to make the holiday special without your sharing your wants and needs.  No one is a mind reader and communication is an important part of managing relationship expectations.  If you’re single, make sure you repeatedly communicate the expectations with yourself and challenge yourself anytime you find your thought veering from what is realistic.

Finally, stop comparing yourself to those around you and look at others with a sense of gratitude and happiness. This can be tough in a world where we are trained to want more and better than those around us, but you can do it, I promise!  When the flower deliveries start at work, enjoy the beauty of your co-workers flowers and bask in their happiness.  When your best friend tells you every detail of her romantic getaway, ask questions and be genuine in your response – this is your best friend, right?  Be happy for her!  Remind yourself of the expectations you identified earlier and what Valentine’s Day means to you.  Keep that focus and don’t get sucked into jealousy.

My hope is that you are able to have the Valentine’s Day that is right for YOU. If you’d like some help navigating through your expectations, comparisons, thoughts, and feelings, call or email today.