Speaking for myself, and many of the other women in my life, sometimes the expectations are so high for the power of love on Valentine’s Day that no matter what happens and regardless of their “status” (single, coupled, married), the reality of the day/evening bites.
However, relationship experts, single women and married women powerfully affirm that Valentine’s Day can be a time of joy—if our focus is the right place. The question is, how do we get there?
From Giveaway Girl to Got It Girl
Robin Moncrieff, a single woman from Chicago who is dating around and interested in a serious relationship, has turned herself from a Giveaway Girl into a Got It Girl when it comes to Valentine’s Day: “I think in the past I had a lot of expectations, both of myself and what I gave or did for other people, and expectations of the person I was dating or in a relationship with.
“When I think about Valentine’s Day now I think about what it really means. I can choose to be sorry for myself because I don’t have a special man as my valentine, or choose it as a celebration of all of the love in my life—my friends, my family, my son and dog—and of one single person I’m going to be with eventually.”
If you struggle with setting high expectations that leave you unfulfilled and disappointed, you may want to seek support in gaining a new perspective like Moncrieff did. “It’s a lot about the fact that I’ve worked on various aspects of my life with the help of God, my friends, many different self-improvement tools I’ve used including therapy. I had to be aware first that I had expectations of other major holidays, and that made me unhappy when they weren’t met. Even one year when I received 2 dozen roses, there were expectations that weren’t met on both sides.”
For Some, One Day Doesn’t Hold Much Weight
Ann Latinovich is a married woman of 20 years from Munster, Indiana. “I can’t remember the last time I received a Valentine’s Day gift,” Latinovich says, laughing. “It might have been 24 years ago.”
Latinovich and her husband, Musa, work hard on staying connected all year long. Consequently, the holiday doesn’t hold a lot of significance for them. “We text every single morning,” Latinovich says. “We’ll say ‘good morning’ and ‘how did you sleep?’ I heard somewhere that you are supposed to compliment your partner 38 times a day. I wink at him at the dinner table. Every day he leaves, he kisses me. Every time he comes to the door, he kisses me. It’s that kind of stuff that’s the core part of the union in a long-term relationship.”
Furthermore Latinovich makes a practice of relying on herself for her happiness, whether it’s a holiday or not. “I don’t think a woman should even count on a man to make her happy, to make her empowered or to make her okay with her life,” Latinovich says. “I should never assume it’s Musa’s job to make me happy. As a woman you should not count on anyone else for any of that.”
From the Horse’s Mouth
Lou Carlozo, a married man of 20 years from Chicago, and his wife are using the day to work on their relationship, but that took some doing. “We try to plan something together,” Carlozo says. “It gets tricky because with two kids and work schedules being spontaneous is very difficult. That said, we are trying something new this year. We are going away on a couples’ retreat that focuses on improved communication and understanding.”
Carlozo suggests that you be gentle with your special someone, even if you’re disappointed. “You may not be bowled over by what he has in store for you, but really open your heart,” Lou says. “Try to sense whether he’s doing his very best. On the other hand, a truly compassionate husband should understand if you speak your feelings in terms of what he may have overlooked.”
From Valentine’s Day Victim to Victor
Dr. Nicki Nance, a licensed mental health counselor who teaches human services and counseling at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, says there are some hallmarks of healthy ways and non-healthy ways to think of this holiday.
Do: Think of Valentine’s Day as a time to love yourself.
“Singles whose expectations are not getting met are the ones in my office,” Nance says. “I see people looking at old relationships engaging in a lot of negative self-talk like ‘What’s wrong with me?’ ‘Why am I not in a relationship?’ put-downs. If you’re not in a relationship what are you telling yourself about yourself? Some just start making the attribution that men are all jerks. That will not make them relationship-ready. Instead, say to yourself this year ‘I’m on my way.’”
Don’t think of Valentine’s Day as a measure of your worth (or the entire male species).
Do: Remember, it’s just one day.
It’s big picture time. Remember that your relationship is about 365 days of the year, not one. “What are the small things he does for you every day?” asks Sameera Sullivan, CEO and Chief Matchmaker of Lasting Connections, a national matchmaking service. “This is one day—it’s about a spreading love. Valentine’s Day can be every single day. Don’t get up in the commercial aspect. Ask yourself if you laugh every day with this person.”
Don’t use one day to take your relationship’s pulse.
Do: Give your partner guidance.
“Empowerment involves 2 things: taking charge of a situation and assessing realistically what is possible,” Sue Kolod, Ph.D., a New York psychoanalyst, says. “I have noticed that frequently, strong, independent women become passive in romantic relationships. Unless you have a partner who loves to celebrate Valentine’s Day and can anticipate your wishes, tell him/her what you want.
“I know you’ll say ‘If I have to tell him/her what I want, it ruins it.’ Sometimes you need to teach your partner to please you. One of the most common reasons a partner doesn’t plan something special is that he/she is unsure of what you want.”
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind.
Do: Keep it light. Think fun.
Don’t expect the moon and the stars on February 14th if your romance is new. “It can ruin relationships in the beginning when people act out in ways that they wouldn’t act normally,” Sullivan says. “If Valentine’s Day is coming up and you’re not exclusive, don’t worry about it. Only talk to the person you’re dating if you’re comfortable about it. There’s no pressure or set expectations.”
And keep it simple too. A card and flowers are just fine. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Do you love it or dread it?
Share your Valentine’s Day trials, triumphs and tribulations.
Lauren Bittner is an award-winning freelance writer who focuses on women’s issues. She is a self-titled Giveaway Girl.
Stop Giving It Away is a book and a movement aimed at developing a healthier relationship with yourself and other people. Stop Giving It Away recognizes the problem of excessive self-sacrifice and the burden of unnecessary pressure we place on ourselves. The book is a product of 20+ years of social work and counseling individuals and couples.
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