While Valentine’s Day may seem like a celebration of love and relationships and tiny candy hearts, this sweet holiday elicits a sour taste for many. If your current relationship status has you dreading February 14, it’s time to dump your anxiety and commit to having love in your life.
As a therapist, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a new relationship, flying solo, going through a break up, or dealing with a rocky relationship, this time of year can give rise to some serious anxiety. Here are some tips to combat several specific anxieties that I regularly come across in my practice.
If You’re in a Happy, New Relationship
You’re newly in love and life is great, but big Valentine’s Day plans and expectations can derail the most blissful of early relationships. Expecting to be blown away by a romantic evening can put too much pressure on your partner and even your relationship at large. On the other hand, trying to plan an ideal date so that you’re partner won’t be disappointed is another way to add on stress. Before going full steam ahead on Valentine’s Day plans, make sure you’re both on the same page.
- Talk about it beforehand. It may be helpful to have an open discussion about Valentine’s Day expectations in advance of the holiday.
- Set realistic expectations with your partner. Communicating what your partner can do to make you happy, and learning what you can do for your partner, is a good way to ensure no one is disappointed by how the day goes.
- Don’t set your mind on one ideal. Above all, be open to new experiences! If you always thought you needed a dozen roses and candlelit dinner, perhaps you will find that a relaxed movie night at home can be even more fun with your fantastic new partner.
Try to enjoy Valentine’s Day as a time to learn more about your partner. Instead of using this holiday to test your relationship, think of it as an opportunity to spend more time getting to know each other.
If You’re Single
If you’re single, Valentine’s Day might feel more like a reminder of your solo status than a cause for celebration. Battling this anxiety involves changing your mindset. On Valentine’s Day, a proactive attitude is ideal for a single person who worries about their relationship future. Taking small steps can propel you towards your goal of finding a happy relationship and bring you closer to self-love and contentment.
- Seek out social activities. Identify mixers and parties you may be able to attend in order to meet people. Check for love/relationship related events being hosted in honor of Valentine’s Day by your yoga studio, concert hall, etc.
- Take advantage of real life and online resources. Set up an online dating profile, or ask friends to set you up on dates. Reflect on what you want by creating a journal or collage.
- Treat yourself. Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself; plan something enjoyable, order a great movie-on-demand, have a personal training session, or go out to dinner with a close friend.
Doing some or all of these things will both highlight that you’re taking steps in the right direction to finding love, and will also remind you that until you do, you have the power to make yourself happy. It is important to plan the activities in advance so that when Valentine’s Day arrives, all you need to do is relax and enjoy the plans you have made.
If You’re Going Through a Breakup
For people who are going through a breakup, natural feelings of sadness and loneliness can be magnified on Valentine’s Day. If this is what you’re experiencing, try to shift your focus on what is positive about your situation.
- Remember why things ended in the first place. Try to focus on the benefits of being alone versus being with the wrong person. This may involve preparing a list to keep on hand of the reasons you broke up in case you get nostalgic on Valentine’s Day.
- Find ways to heal. If the breakup was not your choice, make sure to do something extra nice and self-nurturing on Valentine’s Day. A massage is especially good for people going through breakups because during a breakup, our bodies actually go through withdrawal from being touched by our partner.
- Keep your friends close. Definitely make plans to spend some time with a friend to decrease feelings of loneliness and help manage urges to contact your ex. If you are traveling or live in a new city where you haven’t yet made close friends and your breakup is fresh, consider asking a friend or family member to have dinner with you via Skype to provide you with some extra support.
Experiencing a loss of love when the whole world seems to be focused on applauding it can feel especially cruel, but it’s important to remember the areas in your life that are still filled with positivity and opportunity. More often than not, breakups open more doors than the ones they close behind you.
If You’re in a Rocky Relationship
Valentine’s Day can heighten a rocky phase in a relationship or even help you realize that you’re unhappy in your love life. Unfortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for anxiety in this case. Anxiety levels can rise because of the work you’re doing trying to pretend everything is fine. They can rise from feeling stuck and suffocated from an unhappy relationship. They can also rise from the frustration of trying to revive your relationship. In any case, there are two healthy ways of working through this kind of anxiety: face your problems head on to work on them with your partner, or decide to go your separate ways.
- Get in touch with what’s wrong. Use Valentine’s Day as a way to get in touch with what’s making you unhappy in the relationship, and then consider if you want to work on things or move on. For example, if you are unhappy because you constantly feel neglected and your partner ends up being unavailable on Valentine’s Day, don’t try to stifle your feelings and push the issue under the rug.
- Spice things up. If you’re just feeling bored in the relationship, use Valentine’s as a reason to shake things up. Take a partner massage class, try a new restaurant, or spend a night in a nice hotel—anything that will switch up the routine.
- Have a heart-to-heart. If your relationship seems to be full of endless drama, try to plan a quiet evening in for the two of you where you can focus on each other without distraction.
If you’ve tried everything but are left with the feeling that the relationship just isn’t meant to be, consider using Valentine’s Day as a springboard to launch yourself into single life. Remember, there is no “wrong time” to break up, even right before Valentine’s Day. You aren’t doing your partner, or yourself, any favors by sticking around if your heart isn’t in it.
Whatever your relationship status, you are not alone in feeling anxious during this particular holiday. To stop your anxiety from third-wheeling your Valentine’s Day plans, consider my advice. And, importantly, reassess where you are in your love life, where you want to be, and the steps you need to take to get there. All of this work can help you step away from anxiety and step toward creating the love you deserve to have in your life.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist known as Dr. Chloe. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Long Island University and a B.A. with honors in psychology from Columbia University. Her practice in New York City supports high-functioning business executives, artists, and individuals pursuing personal or professional goals. Dr. Chloe is the author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety, a book endorsed by Deepak Chopra. She is a board-certified member of the American Psychological Association and the National Register of Health Psychologists. She also serves as a consultant to Baker McKenzie and has been featured in various media outlets.