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Valentine's Day for the Broken-Hearted

What do Valentine's Day and rocky relationships have in common?

Romantic dinners at candlelit restaurants, Godiva chocolates, two dozen long-stem roses, sentimental Hallmark cards — that's the stuff Valentine's Day is made of. But what if your relationship is on the rocks and Valentine's Day is just another painful reminder that your life isn't what you hoped it would be? What do you do?

I know, this isn't exactly an uplifting topic, but the truth is, the vast majority of people in my practice are not exactly big Valentine's Day enthusiasts. My practice generally consists of one spouse who desperately wants out of the marriage and the other who wants nothing more than to live happily ever after. So, February 14th often means hurt, confusion, and loneliness. I would also venture a guess that there are many, many non-clinical couples who, though not on the brink of divorce, feel an emotional distance that has them wishing Valentine's Day would just pass without fanfare.

So, what can you do if a romantic dinner and words of affirmation are not on the agenda for you this year?

First, have a plan regarding how you will approach the day. Get some feedback from friends, family or a therapist regarding questions like:

  • "Should I buy my wife a card or get her a gift when I know she is pulling away?"
  • "Would it be a good idea to simply ignore the day or would my spouse take offense?"
  • "I would love to plan a romantic dinner but I don't know if my husband would feel too pressured."
  • "We're separated. Should I even email or text my wife?"

Next, if you're not going to be with the one you love, plan something nice for yourself.

When I asked people on my Facebook page about what they could do to avoid throwing a pity party on Valentine's Day, here's what some had to say:

  • "On my own without kids, I would have a nice hot bubble bath with a good book. Perhaps go for a walk and maybe call my mom or dad and say I love you."
  • "With kids, make it about them. Bake cookies and decorate them and if there is snow outside go sliding or have a snowball fight."
  • "I'll get a pedicure, massage, fashion magazine, and a bubble bath, single girls day out, good book and hot tea."

Even in a relationship, I get myself something nice for V-day. That reminds me to love myself. A gym membership, a manicure/pedicure, a cashmere sweater. Just something nice for me.

And I like this one the most:

How about doing something loving for someone else who may not have anyone with whom to share the day? Bring lotion to a nursing home and give hand massages? Take a widow to lunch? Sometimes shifting my focus helps when I'm poised to throw myself a pity party.

So, while those of us who are fortunate enough to be with spouses who share our desire to celebrate our connection, years together, children, and history, we should be mindful of those who, for this year, at least, have missed Cupid's arrow.

Michele Weiner Davis is the creator of the Divorce Busting Centers, where you can learn how to solve marriage problems and stop divorce.