It's February—not just the month of Valentine's Day, but also the height of engagement season. All around us, people are coupling up, proclaiming their love, and flashing the bling to prove it.
And here we are, divorced. Even if we're happily divorced, it's hard not to think about romantic love when that seems to be topic No. 1. We had it once, or maybe a few times—or so we thought. Now we don't. Will we ever have it again?
Maybe a better question to ask ourselves is: do we want it again and, if so, what will it look like? Will there be endless dating looking for The One? Would we want to live together? Would we consider marrying again?
But for now, probably the biggest hurdle we have to face is the endless, albeit no-doubt well-meaning, articles on how to survive Valentine's Day. Funny, didn't we just read similar articles on how to survive the holidays and the new year? Is February 14 the day that finally does us in? Not really. In fact, I'll bet you don't know anyone who met an untimely demise by not having a partner on Valentine's Day.
It's hard to escape the media blitz and our own complicated feelings about not having a partner we once had.
There are a few things we can do with that feeling, according to "surviving Valentine's Day" experts and articles, most of which sound cliché:
- We can buy ourselves the typical trappings of the holiday, whether chocolate, flowers, or jewelry.
- We can go out, alone or with friends; stay at home solo; or invite friends over for a night of watching rom-coms and eating ice cream.
- We can pamper ourselves by going to a spa, getting a mani/pedi, having a facial or, for the more frugal among us, taking a bubble bath by candlelight.
- We can make it all about the children, if we have young kids at home.
But, if you do end up sitting at home alone and having a good cry, don't beat yourself up for it, writes comedian and divorcee Juliet Jeske. "Anyone divorced has been there, and times like these are never easy. And remember, now that you are divorced, you have no obligation to try to impress anyone on a holiday that, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that big of a deal."
And if think all these coping mechanisms are just geared toward women, well, they're not. Even men are being instructed to treat themselves, have a party, or just veg out.
So, is there a good way to approach the holiday without feeling bad, or going out of our way to feel good? Maybe.
According to Wendy Paris, author of "Splitopia," Valentine's Day is a perfect time to expand our definition of love. She suggests bringing love to someone who needs it, perhaps paying a visit to an elderly single or giving something to someone in need; celebrating the love you have, whether from friends or family or pets; and getting physical, such as hugging ourselves.
Even that might feel onerous and inauthentic, not only to ourselves, but also to others. Forcing ourselves to do something because we "should" doesn’t offer anyone much.
But the bigger picture is, why can't we feel sad on a holiday like Valentine's Day, or any day for that matter? Why must we force ourselves to do something fun or pampering or kind? There's nothing wrong with taking a day to reflect on what we had, what we lost, what we miss, what we want in the future. Most of our growth occurs in the dark, introspective places. We need to grieve, and we need to have perspective.
However you choose to mark Valentine's Day, even if it means ignoring it, please know that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to approach it. The articles and experts suggesting that you should do this or don't do that don't have any better idea than you do, nor do they know where you are in your divorce process right now. Maybe just allow yourself to feel exactly what you're feeling. That may be the best Valentine's Day gift you can ever give, or get.