A Survival Guide to Valentine’s Day During or After Divorce

Valentine’s Day is not for everyone. You might not expect chocolates and one dozen long-stemmed red roses every February 14th. Perhaps you regularly scoff at the idea of a candlelit dinner on a chilly February evening. Maybe you roll your eyes at the red and pink rows of sentimental greeting cards and advertisements beckoning you to purchase a product to show that “special someone you’re thinking of them this Valentine’s Day.” You might have experienced a dozen February fourteenths without a Valentine; but, you have to admit that it’s no cup of tea to be confronted by your first Valentine's Day post-divorce.

Even if you and your ex-spouse had not celebrated Valentine's Day in years, this one overrated holiday can lead to the realization that you will not receive flowers this year because you are no longer married, rather than because you and your spouse had gotten idle with romantic gestures over the years.

You are not alone if you don’t consider yourself a Valentine's Day enthusiast. In this day and age, it’s hard to cling to the fairytale notion of ‘happily ever after.’ Particularly when you are a recent divorcé(e), Valentine's Day can be a cruel reminder that you are now single.

The ‘most romantic day in the year’ can serve as a painful souvenir of the relationship you once cherished. The first February 14th after a divorce is known to spark feelings of loneliness, nostalgia, and hurt. For couples who have yet to take the plunge in filing for divorce, Valentine’s Day can be an equally glaring reminder of emotional distance. So, if a sentimental Hallmark card and chocolate covered strawberries are not in this year’s forecast for the first time since you and your ex parted ways, how do you cope?

Here are some suggestions for getting through this first Valentine’s Day during, or post-divorce:

Plan something nice for yourself.

Maybe your ex-spouse has the kids this Valentine’s Day. Take the opportunity to relax with a great TV show and a glass of wine. Spend the day catching up with friends or family. Do something just for you to show a little self-love.

Avoid throwing a pity party.

Whatever you do this Valentine's Day, do not wallow in the fact that you are alone. You might feel more tempted than usual to reach out to your ex-spouse, or to rebound to another suitor. You could be looking at a breakdown of heartache, solitude, and grief. Maybe you’re planning to sadistically broadcast your wedding video while crying into a pint of ice cream. Sitting on the couch all night alone—soaking in self-pity until your fingers get pruny—is certainly not the way to go.

Try not to go over the details of the breakdown of your marriage or to curse the universe for leaving you on your own this Valentine’s Day. Making a conscious decision not to beat yourself up can be difficult, but it is crucial. That bottle of wine might have your name and self-destruction written all over it, but opt for taking care of yourself. Remember that you can be perfectly happy and loved without your ex-spouse on this one day of the year.

Make it about the kids.

If you have children and Valentine's Day is yours to spend with them, see a movie, bake some cookies, go sledding, or play dress-up. Do some Valentine's Day arts and crafts. You can probably recall the joy of compiling V-Day cards for your friends and classmates as a young child. Tell your child that he/she is your Valentine this year. Make February 14th special in your own way with the most precious products of your marriage.

Get yourself a Valentine’s Day gift.

Are you lamenting the idea that you will be missing out on the usual heart-shaped box of assorted candies? Nothing can keep you from getting your hands on it yourself! Why not be a true romantic and buy yourself a nice piece of jewelry or a new cashmere scarf. Self-love can be extremely therapeutic in its most materialistic form. Maybe you are inspired to gift yourself something more practical like a gym membership. Any which way, remind yourself to love yourself.

Ban together with someone who does not have anybody with whom to share the day.

Send flowers to another single friend. Give some extra attention to a widowed acquaintance. Spark up a few conversations at a nursing home. Volunteer some time at an animal shelter or soup kitchen. Refrain from self-pity in your efforts to do something loving for someone who needs it more than you do this year.

Find comfort in being able to avoid the Valentine’s Day pressure.

Many people feel pressure to spend a fortune on gifts and plan an elaborate dinner weeks in advance. Be happy that you do not need to fork over the credit card after a seven-course chef’s tasting menu. Be at ease with the idea that you do not have to spend precious time brainstorming the perfect gift. You can feel satisfied that your New Year's resolution diet was spared the Godiva dark chocolate. Feel free to laugh at the absurdity of a $100 box of sugar. Who even actually enjoys the taste of those chalky candy hearts? Do you really want flashy heart-shaped balloons delivered to your office?

Treat Valentine's Day like any other day.

Go to the gym, make yourself dinner, and tune into the Winter Olympics. Feel free to ignore the brouhaha. After all, it is only one day out of the year.

Keep in mind that Valentine’s Day causes distress for even the happiest couples, so you are not alone if you cannot wait for it to pass you by.


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