When the Pain of Relationships Dampens Valentine’s Day

When your heart is broken, you plant seeds in the cracks and you pray for rain.” — Andrea Gibson

Valentine’s Day is nigh upon us. It is a day of love, hugs, happiness, chocolates, roses, and romance…but for some, it is anything but that. Some of us are struggling with finding or maintaining a meaningful relationship–due to our own actions or those of others. Some are single, some are separated or divorced, some are widowed. Regardless of whether the pain from our relationship is our doing or not, let’s talk about how we can cope this upcoming Valentine’s Day. 

Life is tough! Especially at this lovey time of year when there is an added emphasis on relationships and romance and looooove. So, this post is dedicated to those of us who are feeling pain this Valentine’s Day–regardless of whether we caused that pain or our counterpart did. Here’s how we can cope with the pain:

  1. Give non-romantic love.  Remember that love is not limited to just romantic love–it also encompasses platonic love! We could flip Valentine’s Day into a “Galentine’s” or “Pal-entine’s Day” celebration of friendship with our friends. Or we could take the time to tell our siblings why we love them…or our children or neighbors or whoever! We can still have a love-filled day even if we do not have a significant other. 
  2. Focus on self-care. Yes, Valentine’s Day symbolizes love, so let’s take that idea and apply it to ourselves. Instead of focusing on love through an intimate relationship, we can focus on loving and supporting ourselves. I have written at length about self-care; about quirky ways to practice self-care, about how it is not selfish, about how even men need self-care…the bottom line is that we meet our own needs, show up for ourselves, care for ourselves–however that might look. 
  3. Limit the media. Valentine’s Day can mean an Instagram or Facebook feed full of roses, hotel getaways, romantic candle-lit dinners, etc, and it can be triggering for some. If we know this might include us, let’s just steer clear of social media for a day or two or seven. There is nothing wrong with this.
  4. Practice fun hobbies!  One productive way to fight the tendency to wallow in self-misery and self-loathing this Valentine’s Day will be to engage in hobbies that make us tick. This can lift us up, give us new purpose, fill us with endorphins from creativity or movement, and completely change our mood. Whether we spend time at the gym or bust out the paints and canvas, having hobbies is a great way to care for ourselves. 
  5. Sit in/acknowledge grief.  Awhile ago, I wrote about the five stages (or the five “chairs”) of griefThis holiday may cause some of those feelings to pop up again and it might catch us by surprise–especially if we feel we have already processed or worked through those complicated feelings. That is just fine–normal, actually. If that happens to us, let’s just sit with those feelings for a bit. Acknowledge them. Let them flow through us. And then move on. We will be better for having done so!
  6. Focus on the future. Whether we are the ones that caused the pain or the victims by the pain caused, lamenting over the past is not productive. Let’s focus on the future–what we can control, how we will act, and what we will do to make it brighter than our past. Focusing on the future might encompass goal-setting, resolutions, and new habits. The bottom line is that it is up to US to make the most of the days ahead. Let’s do it!
  7. Invest in OURSELVES. Here’s an idea of how to invest some money into something this Valentine’s Day that could actually help our future relationships:  Get some counseling. Happy Valentine’s Day! Going to see a therapist to talk about our problems is not comfortable; it is hard and painful and frustrating and it can be like ripping the scab off an old wound. But it might also be the only way to get to the heart of the “stuff” we struggle with so we can get the healing we need. Our future selves will thank us. 

Few holidays evoke as wide a range of emotions as this one. February 14th can be an incredibly difficult holiday for many people. The day can be full of painful emotions. Luckily, there are healthy things we can do to help ease some of the stress. So, this Valentine’s Day, let’s give non-romantic love, focus on self-care, stay away from hurtful social media, practice a hobby, acknowledge grief, focus on the [bright] future, and invest in ourselves. If we can get through this year and focus on improving ourselves, maybe next Valentine’s Day will be exactly what we hoped it would be. Even more than that, maybe next year our relationships will have improved from where they are today. That would be better than all the chocolates, flowers and jewelry in the entire world, right?

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.