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Beating Valentine’s Day Pressures

Feb/11/2024 / by sweta-vikram

Focus on self-love this holiday, irrespective of your relationship status

South Asian woman in pink top hugging a bunch of white flowers and smiling
Photo via Shutterstock

I am going to let the cat out of the bag: Valentine’s Day is not my favorite holiday. I didn’t like it when I was a young girl, and my worth (along with that of other girls around me) was calculated based on how many boys gave us red roses on this holiday. No one asked whether I or my other friends even wanted those flowers. 

I have been married for over 25 years, and I told my husband on our very first Valentine’s Day together that I don’t like society dictating how I should be feeling on any given day. I didn’t need him to prove his love by falling prey to this materialistic holiday and taking on the pressure to plan an epic evening on “the most romantic day of the year.”

Supporting each other through daily joys and tribulations is what a relationship needs, not a piece of designer jewelry. Love, much like breathing, is an intuitive and a daily practice that requires you to show up effortlessly.

You must do the work 365 days of the year. You can’t be an awful and inconsiderate partner otherwise and think that champagne, opulent dinner, chocolates, and gifts one day of the year is all you need to think about once a year to make a relationship work. Commitment and companionship can’t be dependent on the amount of money we spend on a gift on one holiday.

Valentine’s Day Expectations

Everywhere you go, Valentine’s Day tchotchkes annoyingly stare at us in our faces—in stores, in commercials, in conversations, and on social media. Corporate America teaches us how we need to share and express our love. There’s so much stress put on us by society to have a memorable Valentine’s Day when it’s an emotionally exploitative and non-inclusive holiday.

One of our friend’s wives expected him to bring her the moon for their first Valentine’s Day. The guy was working a full-time job, going to part-time school, schlepping between boroughs, barely keeping it together as a new immigrant while struggling to please his wife. But this woman had been promised an extravagant Valentine’s Day celebration consisting of a lavish dinner, expensive gifts, romantic gestures… all by carefully crafted images and messaging by social media and the idiot box.

Financial Stress

According to the National Retail Foundation, Americans spent nearly $26 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2023. People were also expected to spend an average of approximately $193 for Valentine’s Day.[1]

Americans spend on love but where does self-love figure in this holiday centered around materialism and exploitation of vulnerabilities? You can’t afford something, but there is societal pressure to prove your romance and commitment by overspending on a gift and dinner. How does that even make sense? 

Emotional Toll

Don’t forget that Valentine’s Day can trigger sadness in people! Over 31% of American adults are single. If you are single, this holiday might get you down and enhance the feelings of anxiety and loneliness. You could be the most kind, successful, bright, compassionate, thoughtful, and wonderful human being. But if you are not in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can make you feel lesser than you are. Society, family, and friends ask you questions and remind you something is amiss.

What if you are bereaved or getting over an abusive relationship? Think of the trauma response. I am thinking of friends who are recently separated or divorced and the toll this holiday might take on their mental wellbeing. Or you might be married or dating but still feeling lonely if you feel uncared for, invisible, or unheard.

The Importance of Self-Love

I used to teach my father that nothing is more important than self-love, because the longest relationship you have is with yourself. If we can learn to love ourselves fully the way we are, we will automatically be kind and loving towards others. Many psychology studies attest that self-love and self-compassion are key for mental health and wellbeing, keeping depression and anxiety at bay.[2]

You don’t need to be in a relationship to experience love. For example, a girlfriend of mine is hosting a Galentine’s Day potluck dinner for an intimate group of friends. I am going to recreate my mom’s special recipes (that’s love too!) for the gathering. Having a tribe of supportive women friends is also pure love. 

Consider self-care activities that are beneficial to your mental health. In our home, we close the kitchen on Valentine’s Day evening. I don’t cook or preheat or warm up anything. We order takeout from a local restaurant and eat dinner in a relaxed environment. Midweek restorative rest with dinner and a movie. Now that’s hitting the jackpot of restful love! 

When it comes down to it, remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day of the year, and on February 15th, everything will go back to normal. Just twenty-four hours later, none of the fluff from the holiday will matter.

Whether you are spending Valentine’s Day with a special someone or flying solo, don’t forget to honor the number one relationship in the world—the one you have with yourself. 

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” ~ Lucille Ball

[1] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/a26863/valentines-day-facts/#

[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321309

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