Every mental health clinician knows that patients typically spiral down on holidays. Certainly Valentine’s Day is a loaded gun, whether you're alone or in a relationship. If you’re alone, there’s the obvious dilemma of being lonely and ignored rather than showered with gifts and adoration. There are the self-tormenting questions that arise—why have I still not found someone? Why did he/she leave me? Will I ever, ever, ever find true love? Does true love even exist? Why does he/she have a partner, and not me? And so on. That’s one type of Valentine’s Day Neurosis—the “I was fine being alone just yesterday but today I feel crummy because nobody gave me a box of Russell Stover candy” variety.
It may be some consolation if you’re single to know that for those people in couples, the day also can be fraught with difficulty. Valentine’s Day gives rise to many fights. It’s predictable that most mates fall short of the romantic notions their partners have in mind for them. The mate may forget the day entirely, or give a card that isn’t mushy enough, or give chocolate but no card, or a card but no chocolate—any number of disappointments are possible when expectations run high. And naturally, expectations may run high because for weeks leading up to February 14, the media bombards us all with images of everlasting, ever-perfect love and constant ads for gifts you may receive if your mate really loves you.
All this expectation spells trouble because it’s highly likely that your mate will have entirely different notions than you about what constitutes an adequate acknowledgement of your bond. Your mate may think three naked hours in bed more than suffices; you may be hoping for a vacation in Tuscany—and vice versa. Valentine’s Day neurosis convinces you that such disappointments—the lack of the hoped-for gift or the lack of the more-exuberant-than-usual display of affection--mean that you aren’t really loved. Any other day of the year you wouldn’t care if your mate got you an ugly card or only six roses instead of a dozen, but on Valentine’s Day, you suddenly care a whole lot. You want the fairy tale, the prince or princess who magically understands everything about you including your deepest whims, you want to be swept off your feet into lover’s lala land.
On Valentine’s Day, we collectively regress into childish thinking about partnership, love, and romance. Maybe you’ve risen above all the hype and you feel nary a twinge even if nobody fawns on you—but many of us lose perspective. We feel truly lousy, rejected, alone, and depressed. For many of us, Valentine’s Day is a rotten, lousy, no-good, very bad day. It’s a day when we confuse the giver with the gift, when we confuse our own self-worth with our partnership status.
It doesn’t have to be so. You can avoid falling prey to Valentine’s Day Neurosis. Try these things:
If you are without a partner, do NOT give in to moping. Take yourself out on a special date. Go to a movie, have a great meal at your favorite restaurant, dress up, get together with your friends, see a comedy show, spend time in nature, write, paint, sing, celebrate the fact that you are here on earth. Remember that it will all be over in a mere few hours. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, let your mantra be, “I am a whole person, an integrated being capable of great love and great wisdom.” And above all, prepare ahead to have a session with your coach or even a friend. I’ll be available for emergency 30-minute “clear-the-distress” sessions all day. Just call or email.
If you have a partner, scratch your wish list. If your partner blows it, remember the other 364 days. Get yourself what your partner didn’t get you. And just as for the singles, if you start feeling sorry for yourself, let your mantra be, “I am a fully grown adult, a whole person, an integrated being capable of love and wisdom.” And for you, too, if you know your partner is romantically challenged, prepare ahead to have a session with your coach or a friend. I’ll be available for emergency 30-minute “clear-the-distress” sessions all day. Just call or email me. See my website for more details.