Valentine’s Day when you’re single can feel like a challenge. Because it’s everywhere—on TV, in every restaurant, in every grocery store, in every card shop. You can’t avoid it. And though it’s never fun dealing with Valentine’s Day when you’re single, it can feel even more difficult when you’re the only single one (a.k.a. when your friends are all married or, courtesy of the recent engagement season, soon to be married).
And it shouldn’t be like that. You’ve probably tried to will yourself to just snap out of it, because, hey, you shouldn’t let a consumer holiday drive you up the wall when everyone knows it’s just an arbitrary day that shouldn’t mean anything, right?! Right?! But, let’s be honest, it’s way harder than it should be. Because no matter how much you intellectually understand that it shouldn’t be such a big deal, no matter how much you want to be above it, it’s just not that simple. The social constructs around Valentine’s Day are strong. So don’t beat yourself up for not being able to just shrug it off. Instead, focus on taking some constructive steps to make yourself feel better. Here’s how to handle it.
Remember That Almost Everyone Finds It Weird
First, it can feel like all of your married and coupled-up friends love Valentine’s Day. You’ve seen the social-media posts to prove it, right? The ones with rose petals and candles and ridiculous gifts. But the truth is, even many coupled-up people find it weird. You don’t want to be cheesy, but you also don’t want to ignore it. If you celebrate it on the actual day, it means dealing with ridiculously overpriced restaurants covered in lace and hearts—but if you don’t celebrate it, you’re one of “those couples” trying to look like you don’t care, when you really do. No matter what, it’s uncomfortable. So when you’re single, remember that what you see on Instagram is just a curated snapshot, not a realistic reflection of how those people are feeling.
Step Away From Social Media
Speaking of social media, give yourself a break. What you’re going to see on there isn’t realistic—and all of those #relationshipgoals posts are just going to make you feel bad about yourself. So turn off your push notification, block it on your browser, do whatever you need to do. Just don’t engage in mindless scrolling and really, really don’t spend Valentine’s Day social-media-stalking your ex. That’s a sure way to end up feeling worse.
Do Something Nice for Yourself
Valentine’s Day is really expensive. It’s a billion-dollar industry, after all. Many couples will be spending money on overpriced flowers and chocolates, but you can spend some cash on something actually worth it. Why not spend money on something that will make you happy? Go get a massage, buy a new outfit, or go to an exhibition or a play. It’s a lot better than wasting your money on something Valentine’s themed, and it will help you feel great on a tricky day.
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Are all of your friends married? Really—all of them? Even if it can feel like we’re the only single friend, we rarely are the only one. Think about who else you know who might be spending Valentine’s Day alone and see if you can team up to do something. I spent quite a few Valentine’s Days with a close friend and my mom. Sounds sad, right? But it was actually a lot of fun. We drank a little too much wine and ate a few too many cupcakes and had a blast. If you really can’t think of anyone, consider volunteering. Being around people can make you feel better and help the time go faster. Plus, you’ll be less tempted to reach for your phone and check up on how coupled-up friends are spending Valentine’s Day.
Just Stay Busy
The most important thing is just to stay occupied. That doesn’t necessarily mean going out; if you can be totally consumed by your favorite TV show and takeout, then that’s a completely valid option. But if being on your couch is just going to lead to feeling down and spiraling into toxic thoughts, then get out and about. A walk, a movie, going out for dinner with someone you care about—anything that’s going to keep you engaged is a great way to spend the day. I’m not sure if the idle mind really is the devil’s workshop, like they say, but I do know that it’s a perfect way to end up 30 weeks deep in your ex’s Instagram and accidentally liking one of his photos on Valentine’s Day. So stay busy.
Valentine’s Day is always tricky, so try to remember that it’s not just single people who find it awkward. Instead of spending it comparing yourself to your married friends, do something to take your mind off the day and stay occupied. Just be kind to yourself. Oh—and please, please stay off of social media. Seriously, it’s not going to do you any good.