Valentine’s Day is a time when lovers around the world celebrate their love for each other… or is it? When couples have a healthy, loving relationship, they tend to celebrate their love every day. Loving each other is motivation to continue loving each other; it feeds itself. But there are people who aren’t happy in their relationship, others who aren’t in an intimate relationship, and there are those resent the holiday for a variety of reasons. For these groups, Valentine’s Day can be its own private hell. It’s also a time when different expectations for the day can cause misery and conflict within a couple.

If you are in a happy, healthy relationship, then please remember to give thanks for that on Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year. Most couples are not experiencing that kind of relationship bliss and security.

If you are in a relationship but not necessarily happy, why not use Valentine’s Day as the impetus to do something nice for your partner? While your mind may drift to things you would like your partner to do for you, try your best to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and deliver something he or she would really like and appreciate. If you like the results, why save this for Valentine’s Day? It could be part of your regular weekly routine.

If you resent the mandate to be loving on a certain calendar date, then share your thoughts with your partner to see what he or she is thinking. If you think the same way, you may choose to do something low key or absolutely nothing on the holiday. But then, be sure to make special plans for different day. While celebrating each other, you’ll be able to celebrate the light crowd and reasonable prices.

If you are not currently in a relationship, whether by choice or not, you can spend the day doing things that are meaningful to you. The play Vagina Monologues offers a phenomenal girls’ night out around the Valentine’s Day holiday, and I believe PBS runs around the holiday. Make it a Galentine’s Day and celebrate being single with your other single friends. It can also be a time to stay home, visualize your perfect partner and meditate on the knowledge that he or she is on their way to you. My most meaningful Valentine’s Day ever was when I spent the day writing thank you notes to all the people who helped me with my sons after my husband died. There were lots of people, so I was writing notes all day long. I turned Valentine’s Day from a lonely holiday into a day of gratitude I’ll never forget.

If you and your partner have had mixed signals on Valentine’s Day in the past, take the time to process those past expectations and disappointments. You may find a way to laugh about it, but vow to do it differently this year. Discuss your idea of how you’d like the day to go. It you want different experiences, see if you can develop a plan for both to happen. Flip a coin and create one desire the weekend before Valentine’s Day and another desire the weekend after. If you lose the idea that all special things must happen on February 14, then you are free to create a both/and solution rather than an either/or one.

I have friend who says Valentine’s Day is the holiday when “women are disappointed, and men are confused.” This would be funny if it didn’t ring true for so many couples I’ve seen. Many women believe that if they have to spell out exactly what they want from their partner on Valentine’s Day, then somehow it won’t ‘count.’ Women want to be surprised by their lovers but they also want it to be exactly what they want! A man may think he is doing well to buy his wife pots and pans for Valentine’s Day. He knows she likes to cook and she always visits the kitchen section whenever they are out shopping. She may indeed want new pots and pans, but not for Valentine’s Day. Then there was the woman who asked for flowers from her husband for Valentine’s Day. He obliged her and brought her flowers… in a pot to be planted in her outdoor garden! She wanted a dozen roses in a vase, but he, being more practical, thought it would be best to give her flowers she could see all summer long.

Perhaps this problem could be solved by a woman making a list of at least ten things she would love to do or receive for Valentine’s Day. Her partner can look at the list and choose the one he would most like to give. This allows the man to get more than some obscure clues about what to do and it also allows the woman to be surprised. Give it a try and see how it goes.

Whatever your status on Valentine’s Day, how the day will go is totally up to you. If you decide to feel lonely on Valentine’s Day, you will be lonely. If you decide to be disappointed when your partner doesn’t buy you the one thing you were hoping for, you will be disappointed. If you decide to be mystified because you don’t understand what she wants, you will be mystified. Why not do something different this Valentine’s Day? Talk about it ahead of time and make plans that suit you, whether you’re alone or in a couple. Don’t listen to the commercialism, your family or friends. Sit down with your loved one and craft a day that will result in happiness, not heartbreak.

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