Perhaps this Valentine’s Day you are not wondering what gift to buy for a partner. Perhaps you’re not thinking about where to go for a romantic dinner. Perhaps you have other concerns.
Maybe instead you are one of the millions of people who are actually dreading the holiday. Maybe you’re feeling alone and lonely, or wondering why your broken heart is lasting so long.
Valentine’s Day has a way of making you feel acutely aware of the relationship you do not have. If you are single, February 14 is likely to make you feel doubly alone. Approaching the holiday in this position can easily lead to feeling down and sad even when there is no actual reason to feel this way.
Yet those who are alone on Valentine’s Day can get through the holiday with flying colors if they use it as a catalyst for self-examination and positive change. Here are four important ways to do that.
4 Ways To Use Valentine’s Day When You’re Single
Define This Time Alone as an Opportunity
Whether you are between relationships, trying to recover from a broken heart, or haven’t been able to open yourself to have a serious relationship yet, everything can change for you if you reframe the negative to a positive.
Truth be told, spending time outside of a relationship can be incredibly healthy. I wish I had a tally of the number of times I have, as a psychologist, asked my clients to take some time alone before looking for another relationship. There is great value in being single, especially if you use the time in a good and positive way.
So this year, use February 14 in a healthy and strategic way. Think of two ways you want to be better in your next relationship, and set them as goals to work on.
Now is your time to grow!
Focus More on Yourself, What You Feel and Need
It’s hard to get to know another person (like a partner) on a deep and meaningful level if you haven’t done this yet for yourself. If you are having a little trouble thinking of the goals I suggested above, then please do make this one of them.
The idea that you may not know yourself may seem strange. But I assure you that many, many people enter relationships without having a deep and true knowledge of what they want and don’t want in life, what makes them happy and unhappy in general, or what they feel and why. This is especially true if you grew up in a household that under-attended to your feelings (I call this Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN). Your time alone is the perfect opportunity for you to turn your attention toward yourself, answer the questions that you were not asked often enough as a child, and start to fill the gaps left by any Emotional Neglect you grew up with.
Start making lists, if you can of what you want, feel and need not just in a relationship, but in your life. If it’s hard for you to identify your feelings, please know that many, many people do. Yet knowing what you are feeling is an essential skill for a healthy, resilient relationship.
Now is your chance to build your self-knowledge and emotional awareness!
Think About Whether You Might Be Happier on Your Own
Our society certainly sees being in a relationship as “the way to be.” But research now tells us that many people who choose to stay single are making the best decision for themselves and are actually happier that way.
Studies have shown that many never-married people enjoy a number of advantages in life, including lasting friendships, less weight gain, less debt and more independence.
Now while you are single is a wonderful time for you to think deeply about what you really want. Are you happier when you’re in a relationship or when you’re alone? When you picture your future, are you with a partner or alone? Do you really, truly want a partner, or might you be bending to the pressure you might be feeling from society, your family or friends?
Clarifying this for yourself and making a clear choice will help you move forward and seek what you really want.
Now is your opportunity to make an important decision!
Work on Building Your Assertiveness Skills
Having been the relationship therapist for literally hundreds of couples, I can say with great confidence that there is one other skill-set besides knowing yourself that is absolutely essential for a resilient long-term relationship. It’s the ability to manage what you are feeling, whether it’s anger, hurt, sadness, or something else; come up with the words and tone to express it to your partner, and do so in a way that your partner can hear it.
The skill of assertiveness is extremely useful whether you are single or in a relationship, so even if you’re happier single, it is definitely worth learning.
Learning assertiveness takes time and practice and so you will need some help and guidance. There are many good books on the subject. Look at them all, pick the one you like best, and use this time to build this vital skill!
Now is your chance to become more assertive!
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is often invisible and unmemorable when it happens. But it can set you up to have difficulty knowing yourself and your feelings as well as sharing yourself and your feelings. If you struggle with any of these, Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.
To learn much more about the relationship skills and how to deepen your significant relationships, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.