Whether you’re single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can stir up quite a bit of pressure and anxiety. As the day approaches, worries about what to do, or not do, on this nationally-sanctioned “day of love” come flooding in. With the incessant jewelry promotions, pop-up advertisements, and store displays swathed in pink and red, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the messages telling you that you should be head-over-heels in love with someone right now. The fact is, the pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day can make love-centric festivities seem like more of an obligation than something to excitedly plan for with your spouse or friends. Who want’s that?!

Well, I’m here to help. This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to make it an unforgettable experience by shaking it up. Ditch the $300 prix fixe meal and use it as an opportunity to connect with those closest to you in a meaningful way. Whether you’re single, dating, or married, strive to make this Valentine’s Day one to remember by keeping in mind these things to do and things to avoid:

  • View this Valentine’s Day as a built-in opportunity for protected couple time. If you’ve gotten stuck in a rut of taking care of the kids, going to work, making dinner, then passing out from exhaustion every night, it’s likely that you haven’t had much time to connect with your partner. Now is your chance to arrange a pleasant night — or night in! — with your significant other with the sole purpose being to focus only on the two of you. Check in with each other and use this time to talk about your needs, wants, dreams for the future, and other miscellaneous topics that are typically put on the back burner for later.
  • Although many claim that Valentine’s Day doubles as Singles Awareness Day, do not waste these 24 hours by wallowing in despair about not having a partner (or ruminating on your dissatisfaction with your relationship). If you’re single, hang out with your friends and let them know how much you appreciate them! A massage, enjoyable meal, or leisurely stroll around a park are excellent examples of ways to bond with the people you love. If you are dissatisfied with your relationship, use this as an opportunity to reconnect with your partner and rebuild that lost connection. If you sense that you two will need some assistance in reestablishing your bond, couples therapy could be a very helpful option.
  • Use Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate all of the people you love including children, friends, and extended family members. When I was younger, my mom and I always did something special together. Even when I went away to college, she would send me teddy bears, balloons, and chocolate to celebrate Valentine’s Day together even though we were hundreds of miles apart. These are special memories that I will never forget.
  • Do not become fixated on the actual date. February 14th falls on a Tuesday this year…with work and school schedules, that can be very inconvenient! The weekend before through the weekend after Valentine’s Day is the perfect window to do something special. If you do decide to go to a nice restaurant, it will likely be easier to make a reservation (and will certainly be cheaper) if you do it on a day other than the 14th.
  • For those of you who would like to shake things up this Valentine’s Day, try a non-traditional activity for the first time instead of the usual dinner and a movie. There are an endless number of new, fun, and creative things to do in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. An Escape Room adventure, dancing lessons, and pottery classes are just a few ideas.
  • It’s possible that you put more stock in Valentine’s Day than your partner or friends. If that’s the case, be sure to utilize your communication skills to talk to each other about your expectations for the day. If one of you wants to go out and one of you wants to stay in, work together on a compromise. Maybe you go out for a few hours during the day and then spend the rest of the night in. Or maybe you do an activity that does not require a lot of traveling and will keep you relatively close to home in case you tire quickly. The possibilities are endless!
  • Valentine’s Day can also be viewed as an opportunity to put your normal responsibilities on hold and take an extended break from everything. After all, nothing says “I love you” like cuddling on the couch and binge-watching your favorite shows with your favorite person (or people). Get the popcorn and pajamas ready and prepare for a night of mindless bliss.
No matter what your activities of choice are on Valentine’s Day this year, do something that you know will recharge you and your relationship. It’s the perfect time for something fun and exciting, or something relaxed and refreshing…the choice is yours!
What are your plans for this Valentine’s Day? Are you going out or staying in? Do you look forward to this “holiday” or is it just another day to you? Let me know in the comments!
Shy Porter, MS, LGMFT provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda, MD location. Email or call her today for a complimentary telephone consultation or a first appointment.