The holiday that’s built around hearts and romance can be a tough one to love, thanks to the stress and expectations that often come along with it. But a simple check-in with your emotions and desires can help you navigate this holiday with ease, says Josh Klapow, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy at UAB. The best way to do it? Manage your expectations and remember that Valentine’s Day is more than flowers, chocolates, and the perfect date. “Many people quickly get caught up in what the media and marketers want us to believe the holiday is all about,” Klapow says. Follow Klapow’s tips for a more fulfilling February 14th.
Define Your Valentine’s Day. In order to make this holiday great—in your eyes—you must decide what it means to you. “To truly experience a fulfilling Valentine’s Day, ask yourself, ‘What am I looking for?’” Klapow says. “What do I want this day to be about? What do I want to happen? Then write down your answers, and read them out loud. How do they sound? Reasonable? Possible? If you used words like ‘perfection,’ ‘flawless,’ or ‘fantasy,’ you need to prepare yourself for a day that doesn’t live up.”
Concentrate on Communication. The idea of over-the-top, romantic surprises may sound like ingredients for a perfect Valentine’s Day, but Klapow says communication—not ostentatious displays of affection—is the true recipe for love. Here is his advice for couples and singles:
For couples. “As much as romance is about mystery, sometimes open and honest communication can be just as intimate,” he says. “Don’t assume you know exactly what your partner wants. Try working together to come up with an evening that meets both of your expectations. Remember—being together, communicating, even compromising, are all forms of love and intimacy.”
For singles. “If you are single and have a date for the evening, a conversation about your plans may also be a good idea,” Klapow says. “Maybe your date wants to take things into their hands and surprise you. Maybe they want you to take control. Maybe they want it to be a shared decision. Prefacing the conversation with, ‘I want this to be a wonderful evening for us, so let’s talk about how to make that happen,’ will set the stage.”
Spread the Love. Klapow emphasizes the importance of remembering the true meaning of Valentine’s Day. “This is a holiday of love, and love comes in many forms other than a date or a romantic dinner with a love interest,” he says. “Instead of focusing on one aspect of the holiday, broaden the definition, and make plans to show love and caring. Maybe it’s visiting a nursing home or hospital with friends. Maybe it’s spending time with a family member. Maybe it’s a movie with your dog or cat by your side. Wishing for a night of romance when there isn’t going to be one only wastes your time.”