You know that line in the series The Good Wife when Alicia says she does better when she’s tethered? She's talking attachment styles, co-regulation, and about being emotionally attached and committed to someone. Something most people spend a lot of their life pursuing and perfecting.
And even when we’ve created a great single life for our self with friends and fulfilling work and relationships and creative endeavors and gardening and books and yoga, and family, et al, we are still a species that evolved with pair-bonding aspirations pretty intact. And while in some ways a mate may be as unnecessary as a bicycle to a fish, there are still deep and meaningful, heart touching, soul soothing moments in a romantic partnership that you just don’t get (if you are heterosexual) being alone or with a group of friends on Valentines day.
So if you think you may be prone to self beat up, grief, sorrow or loneliness this coming Wednesday, here are some ways you might prepare yourself so you can lessen the negative effects on your well being and self esteem.
First of all be conscious. Don’t sweep negative thoughts and feelings under the proverbial rug and “act” like it’s all ok. Most of it may be ok, but like Murphy’s Law, those little bits that can cause heartache WILL come out from the recesses of your heart and mind and provide a slippery slope to depression or self beat up if you simply enact a version of bravado and pretend it’s all ok.
So take some time NOW and recall the things that have tripped you up before and prepare to uplift yourself from pending depression.
1) One thing you might do is inventory as many negative thoughts as possible that have the clout to grab you and pull you down. You know the ones: They usually have a component of “always" or “never": “I’ll never have a mate.” “I’ll always be alone.” "No one will ever see and love me for who I am.” “I’ll never find someone I respect and find attractive."
This is the time for some CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)1 on yourself. Pretend these thoughts are simply statements on an exam you are assessing for their merit and accuracy. How true are they on a 1-10 scale? A 5? A 3? An 8? What ever the score, write down a few counter thoughts that offer an alternate reality that you can douse yourself with when these heart breaking thoughts intrude upon what should be the inner sanctum of your mind. Remember “ Don't Believe Everything You Think.” Your mind can be fertile ground for intrusive and faulty thinking 2.
2. Unless you are a true introvert who will enjoy being home alone with Netflix, a book and comfort food, make some plans. Something lively and celebratory at a place that won’t be filled exclusively with people on romantic dates. Bowling with your friends? Think of something that is interactive and lets you experience your relationship with the people you are with—not something passive like going to a movie unless you can go with someone who will engage in lively conversation about the film afterwards. And no talking about your “plight" of being single, your ex or your dating mistakes and failures.
Being relational is what counts here.
3) Think about what will be better for you. Arranging something at home and then bathing in the memories when people leave? Or going out and coming home to your sanctuary? Plan accordingly.
4) Indulge. You can be the one to indulge yourself. And don't just rely on go to “self-care” cliches. Sure, a massage, flowers, yummy food or a new accessory are all great. But also think outside the box. That book or magazine you've put off getting for yourself? Attending to something you really care about but get too “busy” to actually do? Let yourself be the focus of attention and treat yourself in ways that promote feeling loved and special.
Now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling, you can take over. Plan ahead and incorporate things that let you experience the bounty of your relationships and have a love affair with yourself.
Yes, being with that special person who puts you first and has your back and goes out of their way to please you is great. However, if you don't have that in your life right now you can actually be all that for yourself, can't you? At least for a day?
And- this is real important- do not compare what you have to anyone else's life. If your goal is to be in a relationship, that’s fine and normal, just don't spend your time looking at what is missing—particularly at trigger times like Valentines Day. Practice these things for at least this one day and maybe you’ll start a trend.