The Keys to a Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has not escaped the powerful claws of media campaigns aimed at convincing consumers to celebrate and, of course, spend money on love. The pressure to conform is remarkably seductive, impacting everyone regardless of age and often creating unrealistic expectations. That’s not to say Valentine’s Day is never a good thing—it can be great as long as both the givers and the getters are clear about their intentions.

Communication, rather than spontaneity, should be the hallmark of a Valentine’s Day filled with love. Hopes for a romantic dinner or flowers must be expressed to avoid disappointment. It may not seem romantic, but good communication is actually the signature of a healthy relationship—far more so than chocolates or jewelry. And this extends beyond just romantic partners. Some people wish to include their children, grandchildren or friends in the love fest, but these people may not have the same idea for marking the day.

Alyssa loves sending cards and stuffed animals to her three grandchildren. Her kids and their spouses do not place importance on Valentine’s Day, but Alyssa asked if they mind her small expression of love for her grandkids. They were happy for her to celebrate as long as she didn’t expect reciprocity. These clear and practical “rules of the game” allow her to enjoy the day without feeling hurt or angry.

Companies looking to make a profit may push Valentine’s Day as the moment to declare love, but in reality love needs to be expressed and received by both parties year round for a relationship to survive the long haul. Small, daily actions—knowable only to the two people involved—are far more important than one large declaration on a predetermined day. Sometimes that expression can mean doing something sensitive or helpful for the other person like making the bed, not leaving dishes in the den or being on time. Consistent compromise and thoughtfulness is what keeps a relationship going.

But no matter what those daily acts of kindness may be, the most important tenet in a relationship is to not rely on a partner for measuring self-worth. Abiding relationships must start with loving yourself or you will never understand loving acts when they are being offered. Why not view this Valentine’s Day as an excellent opportunity to begin a campaign of self-love? Vow to eat healthier or exercise, nourish the mind with an interesting class or choose more supportive friends. If you share a common interest with a valentine, why not make the 14th a time to commit to the program?

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dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance.