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How to Celebrate Being Single on Valentine’s Day

Here are seven ways to make this day work better for you.

For many people who observe Valentine’s Day, it marks a celebration of romantic love. It’s all about flowers, hearts, cards, cupids, chocolate, diamonds, and professions of love for a mate.

Unfortunately, if you’re single, you may feel like you have nothing to celebrate. You may long for flowers, hearts, and the rest of it. Or you may wear black in protest. Particularly if you are grieving for the breakup of a relationship or the death of a partner, you may feel especially devastated and alone on this day.

But what if you could rework Valentine’s Day into something that actually feels good for you?

The history

Start by realizing that there is really nothing special about the date of February 14. In fact, its origin as V-day is murky. Some historians cite the ancient Roman festivities of mid-February, celebrating sex and fertility, likely timed with the noticeable return of longer days and promises of impending springtime.

Then, in the fifth century, the Roman Catholic religion marked February 14 as the day to celebrate several martyred saints named Valentine. The legend that persists is about the Roman priest Valentine, who supposedly performed secret marriages for soldiers who were forbidden to marry, as the Emperor decreed that unmarried soldiers were better warriors. This priest is now known as Saint Valentine, the patron saint of love.

Then, in the 1400s, an era that celebrated courtly love and partnership, the word “valentine” came to mean “lover.” Valentine cards came along in the mid-1800s. Currently, companies fill the airwaves, advertising all the many ways couples can spend money on each other for Valentine's Day. Popular gifts are cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and dining out.

Your options

Next, consider how you might observe this day. You could always wear black in protest, but does this really make you feel better about yourself, your life, or this day? Does it fill your heart with love? If not, here are seven other options to consider:

  • See Valentine's Day for what it is. Decide that it’s OK for society to grant a day for couples to celebrate their love. It's simply not intended to be a commentary on being single or to make singles feel undeserving or left out.
  • Remember, celebrating Valentine’s Day is optional. You don’t have to observe this day just because it’s automatically marked on your calendar. Certainly, we tend to observe the festivities that are significant to our culture, religion, and country. But you can choose whether and how to participate.
  • It's OK to grieve. If Valentine’s Day feels more like a day of mourning for you, go with that flow. Feeling the feelings triggered today can actually advance you through your grieving process.
  • Celebrate love. Think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love for the people you feel close to. That’s how a lot of people treat it—many parents and children wish each other Happy Valentine’s Day. Same with friends. Siblings. Colleagues. Neighbors. Bask in the love you feel and the love you receive from others.
  • Celebrate self-love. Valentine’s Day can also be a celebration of self-care and self-compassion. Think about what nurtures you, and do something special for yourself today. And if you want a pretty card, flowers, candy, jewelry, and/or a fine meal on Valentine’s Day, do it, for you!
  • Create your own Valentine's Day ritual. Write yourself a note, letter, or poem of affirmations. Light a candle. Dance as if no one is watching. Sit quietly in a favorite spot. Get outside. Whatever you do for yourself today, treat it as a meaningful ritual, from you to you, and see how it feels.
  • Start the healing necessary to feel the love in your bones. These last two ways of reframing might be a big ask if you don’t feel worthy or deserving of self-care or special gifts from the heart. But you can start by contemplating the idea that you are made of pure love, and all the love you might ever wish for is already within you, waiting to be tapped and shared.

You may have a long road of healing ahead of you to get to this place of Valentine's celebration. But it’s not this day or you that’s got it all wrong—it’s what has happened to you. And it's never too late to learn how to boost your emotional intelligence, tap into the love you’re made of, and find your way back to your true self.

If seeking a new path feels too daunting, but you feel curious or wishful, ask someone to accompany you or help you get started. A trusted doctor, clergy, or supervisor at work could be that person. Or is there someone you admire for their ability to thrive? Or someone you’ve watched and wondered how they got their life back? Even someone who struggles as you do could be thrilled at the prospect of having a partner in healing. Reaching out today could turn this into the best Valentine’s Day ever.

More from Deborah L. Davis Ph.D.
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