By Chelsea Leonard
I learned the stress that Valentine’s Day can inflict at a very young age. In second grade, Allan Thompson* got down on one knee in front of the entire recess and asked me to be his Valentine – chocolate box with a train spouting “Choo- Choo- Choose Me!” and everything. Mortified doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling as a 7-year-old with a strict “No Dating Until You’re Married” household rule. Of course, I did the mature thing – I said yes, scarfed down the chocolate, disposed of the evidence on the school bus trash can, and did my best to ignore Allan until we went to middle school 5 years later.
I relive that shudder invoking experience to let you know if you feel angst over Valentine’s Day, you aren’t alone. Here are three ways to have a more enjoyable February 14th.
*Name changed to protect his identity and because I have to imagine he is just as embarrassed as I am to this day.
Establish Boundaries around the Day
There are a lot of aspects of a traditional Valentine’s Day that can be uncomfortable so, establishing what you are and are not comfortable with beforehand can ease stress and expectations. If you would rather not carry a massive stuffed teddy bear or half a dozen roses around campus, make that clear ahead of time. One person’s romantic surprise can be another’s social anxiety meltdown (see kneeling Allan above). If you are exchanging gifts, plan ahead together on when and where you will exchange them and set a dollar amount if you do plan to spend money. Don’t feel the need to recognize the day with a candlelit dinner or look to media and culture to define how it should go. A nice Valentine’s Day gift, dinner or display of affection does not establish a quid pro quo for anything you are uncomfortable with.
Ignore the Whole Day All Together
As much as Hallmark and Hollywood would like you to believe, participation in Valentine’s Day is not a requirement for a heart-warming coming-of-age story or a relationship that ends in a country club wedding and a honeymoon in Hawaii. You have every right to ignore the candy-grams, wear not a thread of red, and move about your day as normal – regardless of your relationship status. If someone has an opinion about it, that’s on them. Besides, who’s the real winner when you go get 50% off all the Reese’s hearts on the 15th?
Take this Time to Evaluate Your Feelings
This is a great opportunity to take a good look at your relationship – new or long-term. Did you want to get together with your friend group on Valentine’s Day, but your partner only wants to hang out with you because “that’s how much they love you”? Did you tell them you don’t want to exchange gifts at school, but you’re worried they may make a grand gesture anyway, even knowing you’re uncomfortable? Are you worried that if you mention anything that’s contrary to what they want to do, they’ll get upset or angry? If any of these are true, it’s time to talk to a friend or a trusted adult about the possible unhealthy signs that you are experiencing in your relationship and decide how you want to move forward.
We already have enough pressure to have the perfect relationship – don’t let this one day define who you are as a person, a couple, or anything about your relationship. Remember, one of the 10 Healthy Signs is Fun and that’s exactly what your Valentine’s Day should be if you choose to celebrate it.
Chelsea Leonard is One Love’s Director of Development for the California Region. Her “why One Love” – Relationship education is the information everyone needs but few have – it’s a no-brainer for me to be involved in expanding these resources to as many people as possible.
Chelsea’s favorite Healthy Sign is “Healthy Conflict.”