by: Julia Rodgers
It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day has morphed into somewhat of an over-the-top, consumerist-focused holiday. While it’s becoming the norm to roll one’s eyes at the chocolates, roses, and stuffed animals that fill up the store aisles, this time of year can be especially tough on some. Much like the late December holidays that only just passed, sentiments around Valentine’s Day can be stressful for those who are going through a divorce or separation in Massachusetts. Even if you have previously been through Valentine’s Day as a single person, the holiday can be especially unpleasant when you’ve recently undergone emotional upheaval.
If your marriage was headed south for a while, it’s quite possible that you and your ex hadn’t celebrated Valentine’s Day meaningfully in years, or had just gotten generally idle with romantic gestures. Even if you are feeling better that you’re out of your marriage and no longer in an unhealthy relationship, it’s still easy to get down about missing out on Valentine’s Day romancing. What are you really missing out on at the end of the day though? A bouquet of flowers that will die in a week's time, or a box of chocolates that you may end up feeling guilty for eating? The best gift you can give yourself during this time is perspective, and it is important to remember that you’re beginning a new chapter in life. (and, candy hearts- don't forget to buy yourself some of those.)
The good news is that if you’re not necessarily a Valentine’s Day enthusiast, you are absolutely not alone. The anti-Valentine’s movement has become increasingly more mainstream with the popularity of new unofficial counter-holidays like February 13th’s ‘Galentine’s Day.’ While the original idea came from Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope in the sitcom ‘Parks and Rec’, Galentine’s Day celebrates platonic female friendships, and has become a day focused on empowering women. If you don’t identify as female, there’s no rule that says this is the only alternative to Valentine’s Day, though.
We won’t deny that your first Valentine’s Day post-divorce could be your hardest one yet. Surely the day carries potential to stir up old feelings of loneliness, nostalgia, and hurt from your past relationships. Ironically, this holiday that oozes romance and glorifies being partnered is painful for many. If tacky red and pink presents aren’t on your radar for this year, we’re offering up some suggestions to help you get through your first Valentine’s Day post-divorce.
Shift Your Perspective
At the end of the day, it’s imperative to remember that it’s better to be alone than trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Remember, an unhealthy relationship isn’t always blatantly obvious. Your ex-partner doesn’t have to have been abusive or in love with another person for your relationship to have still been unhealthy. When a romantic partnership draws to a close, it’s easy to look back at the relationship through rose-colored glasses, and put your ex on a pedestal that they don’t necessarily deserve to be on. Now, going for the opposite effect and loathing on all of the downfalls of your past relationship is not necessarily a healthy way to cope, either. Instead, we suggest focusing on the positive, and all of the ways that your life has improved post-divorce. Maybe you have more time to yourself now - whether you spend that catching up on your favorite shows, beginning a new hobby, or hitting the gym is up to you.
Why not use the holiday as an excuse to treat yourself and focus on you? It doesn’t have to be fine jewelry caviar, or anything obscenely expensive, either (though, we will say of course that you deserve that and more). Treating yourself can be something as simple as relaxing in the tub with a face mask, or indulging in a pint of your favorite ice cream flavor at home. You could even take yourself out to dinner, as after all, there’s definitely a certain joy that can be found in dining alone, or even seeing a movie solo. Once again, it all relates back to perspective.
Be with The Ones You Love
If you’re somebody who fares better being social and around other people, you may want to consider spending Valentine’s Day surrounded by the people and things that you love. Though you may have it all worked out in your head that you are absolutely the only person in the world who is alone on Valentine’s Day, we’re here to assure you that this is simply not the case. If you live near family, take the opportunity to spend the evening with a cousin or aunt. If your nearby family is all coupled up, chances are that if they are an older couple, they likely won’t be doing anything too extravagant. Obviously, it’s best practice to ask them about plans well in advance before suggesting hanging out with them for the evening. However, it’s likely that your family will be especially willing to be supportive on this potentially difficult day.
Alternatively, if you have children, you can make the holiday really special for them by focusing your energy around activities that are geared towards their entertainment. If you’re able to spend the weekend or evening with your kids, chances are that they will want to tell you all about the Valentine’s-themed activities they did in school. For many kids, February 14th is a day filled with fun classroom exercises, and of course, lots of candy. Why not get some art supplies and craft old school Valentine cards with them, or pick from any of these great craft ideas? Or, if they are all partied out of Valentine’s Day, use the time to do something meaningful with them, like a trip to their favorite playground, or going out to a restaurant that you love to visit together. If you don’t have kids of your own and still want something to focus your energy on, offer to watch a friend or relatives’ children for the night. Not only are you doing them a favor as they’ll be able to take a romantic evening for themselves, but you’ll be able to distract yourself by keeping the kids entertained.
Turn to A Furry Friend
If you’re feeling down and don’t have the kids on Valentine's Day to focus your energy on, try turning your attention instead towards a furry friend. According to HelpGuide.org, playing with a pet, especially a dog or cat, can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, the “happy hormones”, which can help you to calm down and relax. If you don’t have a fur baby of your own, visit a local shelter to play with the animals there. The animals will be just as happy to spend the time with you as you are to walk and play with them.
Find an Anti-Valentine’s Event
If you really want to give a middle finger up to all that is the Valentine’s season, check Facebook events and the bulletin boards at your local coffee shop to keep an eye out for any “anti-Valentine’s Day” events that might be happening near you. Oftentimes, these events are simply a reason for singles to party, with the help of drink specials and snarky anti-romance decorations. Bonus points if you make a playlist of upbeat songs to embrace being single. After all, a mix like that makes the perfect pregame playlist for an anti-Valentine’s Day party! Another option for a fun night out might be a stand up show that helps you to laugh off your Valentine’s blues. Some places may be holding Valentine’s Day stand-up specials that specifically revolve around mocking the romantic gestures of the holiday.
Try Something New
We’ve already mentioned that being single might be giving you some extra time to explore new hobbies (or let’s be honest, Netflix shows). But in all seriousness, picking up a new hobby is a challenge that can be invigorating. According to Connecthealth.org, pursuing a new hobby can effectively reduce and manage stress, and generally improve your wellbeing. This latter part especially applies to creative hobbies like song writing, knitting, visual art and musical performance, which have all been shown to improve moods.
Treat The Day Like Any Other
Chances are that in the chaotic world that we live in, Valentine’s sentiments are not even going to be that in-your-face throughout the actual day. As the holiday lands on a Friday this year, it will likely be just like any other weekday for you, with lots of opportunities to go out and socialize or simply stay in and have the evening to yourself. Basically, what we’re saying is that this day is only 1 of 365 of the year, and you have likely gotten through much tougher days in the course of your life
No matter how your day unfolds, remember that a holiday like Valentine’s Day can cause stress and unnecessary pressure for even the happiest couples, so you are not alone in the struggle.
Julia Rodgers is the business director of Mavrides Law. You can read her full bio here: Julia Rodgers' Bio
To speak with a lawyer about divorce or MA alimony matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston or Wellesley, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org
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