The Friendship Doctor

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Valentine's Day: Call Me a Hopeless Romantic

Call me a hopeless romantic but Valentine’s Day isn’t only for lovers.

In elementary school, I remember buying packages of Valentine’s Day cards to share with all my classmates. Admittedly, I saved the prettiest ones with hearts and flowers for my closest girlfriends and gave the ones with giraffes and monkeys with long tails to the boys. Sometimes I tucked little conversation hearts (also called love hearts) inside, carefully selecting sayings for each like Friends 4Ever.

For my very best friends and my family, I crafted Valentine’s Day greetings out of construction paper and pretty doilies. Using Elmer’s glue, I pasted cut-out heart shapes in red and white on the cards.

At school, we sealed the little cards in little envelopes that had hearts on the outside and placed them in a big box at the back of the room, which was wrapped in red paper with a wide slit on the top. Two of the kids in our class had the job of delivering the cards to each of our desks on Valentine’s Day. What fun it was to receive them.

As I grew older, for reasons I’m not sure about, Valentine’s Day seemed to veer towards romantic rather than platonic love. Yet  for many women (and some men), Valentine’s Day means much more than hearts, chocolates, and roses; the affection they feel on that day extends beyond lovers to their close friends and relatives, too.

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Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or the Día del amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship)—as do many Latin Americans—February 14th offers a perfect opportunity to show affection for close friends, who add so much to our lives.

Since even the strongest of friendships needs to be nurtured, here are eight ways to let your closet friends know how important they are to you on Valentine’s Day (or any other day of your choosing):

Say it in words

Call her or write her a card, note or email telling her just how much her friendship means to you. After all, Valentine’s Day gives everyone license to act a bit more affectionate than usual.

Remind her visually

Send her a photo of a wonderful time you had together in the past and tell her how happy it makes you feel that you’re still friends after all those years.

Give her the gift of time

Instead of always saying, “We have to get together,” make concrete plans. Get out your electronic calendar or datebook and set a time when you can spend quality time together—even if it’s just over a cup of coffee.

Plan a getaway or trip together

Perhaps you’ve both been busy and haven’t seen each other for a while. Your lives have diverged yet you still feel like you’re kindred spirits. Make a relaxed lunch date, spa date, or commit to a weekend when you have uninterrupted time to make new memories.

Weave her into the fabric of your life

If she’s single or divorced you’re married with children, invite her to join one or more of your family traditions. If you think she might enjoy the company of another close friend of yours, introduce them to each other. Introduce her to your mother, sister or cousin.

Do something together

Suggest that you both read the same book or go to a movie so you can talk about it afterwards. It can be a great springboard for discussing feelings and values.

Apologize if you should

If something has recently gotten in the way of your friendship and you believe you may have been at fault, don’t be too big to apologize.

Express your love

Tell the people you care about how important they are to you and give them a hug or a kiss.

This is a revised version of a post that previously appeared on The Friendship Blog.

In memory to my Dad who died on Valentine’s Day, 2006, the day of my parent’s 60th anniversary.

What’s your opinion? Is Valentine’s Day only for lovers? 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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