Relationships can be difficult, but when Valentine’s Day approaches those of us that are in a relationship feel just that little bit better about ourselves: ‘at least we are not single’. Others might seriously loathe it.
Over the years, it seems like Valentine’s Day has earned quite a mixed reputation, you either love it or hate it and your relationship status usually determines it all.
I have to be honest, I might have only spent two or three Valentine’s Days with a boyfriend, but the other 14th of Febs I truly dreaded. It felt like that was the day when EVERYONE had a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and I was the loneliest creature on earth.
This year just in time for the Valentine’s Day, I was lucky enough to interview one of the experts in the field of love, Jennifer Boon. She is a life coach, relationship expert and author of her new book Survive & Thrive: Dating and Being Single. Here is a little Q&A covering love, balance, friendships and loneliness.
Let’s plunge into it.
1. Dear Jennifer, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. My first question for you is why do you think a day that was supposed to be a celebration of love has turned out to be disliked and/or bluntly hated by so many?
I think it plays on our insecurities and makes us look at our relationship or relationship status. If we are in a relationship we feel pressure to make it a special day and we can question our relationship. If we are single we feel with the sea of red roses, chocolates and red paraphernalia we are the odd ones out, but we aren’t. Social media, media and society doesn’t help this and there is almost a pressure to conform in some way. This I think, leads people to hate it. How many of us have had a bad experience? Suffered disappointment or hurt on Valentine’s day? Regardless of whether we were in a relationship- more than just one or two of us, I imagine.
2. Do you think we have lost our ability to appreciate Valentine’s Day or there is something else behind it?
I hope we haven’t lost our ability to appreciate Valentine’s. I think we need to get back to the basics on what the day is about- love. We all have love in our lives in various forms and the love we have for ourselves is also key, if we love ourselves at our core, we are more likely to attract a healthy relationship where we are treated well and loved for who we are. I think the disillusionment with Valentine’s day comes from disappointments we’ve had and how there is a sense of expectation about the day.
3. In an above scenario, where I was clearly feeling extremely lonesome, what do you think I should have done? What would be your tips for overcoming these feelings? Do you think we can enjoy Valentine’s Day on our own?
It’s really hard when you feel the whole world is in a relationship apart from you. Firstly recognising that even if it feels like everyone is in a relationship, not everyone is and no one knows what state a given relationship is in. Many people unfortunately are unhappily together and stay together out of fear of being alone.
When you’re faced with a tough time such as Valentine’s coming up, looking after yourself is key. Firstly survival and damage limitation- how can you make it as least difficult as possible? Avoiding certain insensitive friends or social media for the day or run up to Valentine’s can really help. We are in built to compare ourselves to others and often at the expense of ourselves. Our imaginations can fill in the gaps and we can feel worse than we would have done.
Do something to make you feel good about you. Yes, you are single but that doesn’t mean life is to be endured – it’s to be enjoyed.
Yes, you can enjoy Valentine’s day on your own- what rule says you can’t? It’s about love and surely the love we have for ourselves creates a healthy foundation for finding someone that loves us just as we are.
Make your favourite meal or watch your favourite movie. Create an evening of indulgence just for you and savour the time on your own. When we are happy in our own company it becomes easier to make decisions on what we do with our time without the fear of being on our own influencing our decisions.
Tips for overcoming these lonesome feelings- focus on what is lovely about you and what makes you amazing. We often get lots of compliments, but just listen to the negatives; how is the time to write a list of the things you like about yourself and the things you have been complimented on- keep this somewhere you can see to remind yourself you are a catch just as you are. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a great for hard-to-deal-with feelings. Check out Brad Yates on YouTube on effective EFT videos. Remembering that it is one day and that “This too shall pass” can help. Life is a series of ups and downs and challenging times. What are the benefits of being single? What can you do now that you can’t do when you are in a relationship? What dreams and adventures are you putting on hold? Make the first step towards these dreams now.
4. Deep inside, I am sure we all hope that even if we are single on a Valentine’s Day, we find a friend who is single as well. In such a situation the prospect of Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem as dreadful. But, there could be a time when you find yourself being the only single person in your group of friends. What do you do?
If you find yourself being the only single person then be kind to you. Do something for yourself that day, something you’d look forward to doing. Cook yourself your favourite meal, have a nice bath, make yourself feel special in some way. It is hard when all your friends are coupled up, but making the most of the situation you are in and making yourself feel good is key.
Falling into a slump can be really easy to do. Remembering it is one day of many and that if you can get through these challenges you will be stronger, your resilience is built on getting through challenges like this that come along, knowing you have already got through challenging times in your life can really help bolster yourself belief on what we can get through.
5. In my opinion, something like the Galentine’s Day should be given the same accolades as Valentine’s, wouldn’t you agree? Today, it seems like friendships are often more stable and long-lasting than romantic relationships. Why do we not celebrate that instead or at the same time as romance, and being taken? More importantly, however, what do you think makes friendships today much more lasting and romance so fleeting?
Friendships are often more long-lasting than romantic relationships and yes all, relationships in our lives need to be valued. Who knows why we don’t value our friendships in the same way. I think there is such an emotional investment in romantic relationships we are in built to want to find a mate and a person to share time with intimately which means our friendships often suffer.
If you are aware that this happens with you, reconnect with your friends, look at your life as a whole and see where there is spare time and space to devote to friendships. Creating balance in your life is challenging but key.
6. To really dive deep into the topic, I have a more personal question to ask. So, for next Wednesday, I already have my Valentine and it seems I should feel sorted, right? But the funny thing is that although I have a date the pressure is still on, whether I want it or not. There is a pressure to make it special and almost cinematic, but what usually happens, at least in my experience, is never as special as I would want it to be and I know that I am not alone with this feeling. Should we lower our expectations? And if so, how to deal with the endless #couplesgoals images and videos portraying the ‘perfect’ Valentine’s Day or relationship?
Avoiding social media at this time of year is really helpful regardless of your relationship status; there are definitely expectations on it being a perfect day/night which leads to disappointments. Additionally, it focuses on the gestures of one day rather than the year and relationship as a whole. As mentioned earlier, we are designed to compare ourselves to others, which means we often feel worse with the comparison and our partners don’t live up to our hopes. Yes, I believe lowering our expectations would really help as it would focus us on the relationship we are in, not the relationship we want to be in. If things aren’t right in a relationship, Valentines can be a catalyst for change. It’s making sure though that the decision is based on looking at the relationship as a whole, not the gestures made on one day.
7. Also, as I have mentioned above, friendships need to be celebrated, but when we are in a relationship we often find ourselves swept away and completely and utterly invested in it. However, sooner or later we might realise that we have lost touch with some of our friends and so, we are faced with a huge need to balance our love life and friendships. How to choose when to prioritise what? Should we prioritise one over the other at all? Should we still keep the Valentine’s Day for lovers and Galentine’s for the 13th?
Only you know what feels right with prioritising friendships and relationships in your life. Balance is key in all our lives. When we start something new like a relationship we often need to invest the time and energy to see if it is something to pursue.
Listening to your intuition and your heart and what feels right is the way forward. Often we are swayed by those around us, but listening to what feels right for ourselves helps us follow our heart in making decisions in all our relationships.
We can all get out of balance with friendships, not being afraid to reconnect is key and remembering that friendships need nurturing too.
8. My final question is the following: How would you, personally, redefine Valentine’s Day to mean something more that it does today?
I would personally define Valentines as a day of love. A day to celebrate the various loves in our life, not just the romantic relationships, but love for ourselves, love for friends and family. I would take away the need for gifts and expectation and strip it back to the basics of showing appreciation for all the love in our lives.
Jennifer Boon is an experienced life coach and author. Her new book Survive & Thrive: Dating and Being Single is now available on Amazon.