Valentine’s Day, despite all the empowering Valentine’s Day messaging on social media and suggestions to schedule yourself a spa treatment, carries a layer of dread for singles everywhere who have yet to find a long term partner who meets their standards.
Whether single, seeing someone new, or in even if you are serious relationship, Valentine’s Day almost guarantees a barrage of questions from well-meaning relatives, friends, and friends of friends who seem to think they’re entitled to details about one of the most intimate parts of your life. Add that to the constant barrage of self-criticism going on inside your head and lamenting for a love that may have been, and the entire holiday becomes something to resent and protect yourself against.
Since the majority of these questions and self-limiting thoughts are unwelcome and often, quite frankly, painful, here are some special Dating with Dignity tips to quash those conversations early, wherever you are in the dating process.
Combat Your Inner Critic with Compassion
If your inner critic is stealing your joy this Valentine’s Day, remember to offer yourself compassion.
Normally, we give compassion to others but not towards ourselves. If someone is suffering we feel the urge to help in some way. You’re aware they are suffering, you respond with kindness and you offer support. In the case of self-compassion, you follow the same strategy but apply it to yourself.
Remind yourself ‘it makes perfect’ sense to be feeling your feelings on this day, whatever they are.
Take a few minutes to sit with the feelings, identify them, and then create an action plan to find healthy distractions that will fill up your self love tank. And remember, sometimes a spa treatment won’t be the easy fix. Whether it’s binge watching old episodes of Seinfeld or setting up a zoom date with your friends, choose something that feels good to you.
SINGLE / “So, is there a special someone in your life this year for Valentine’s Day?”
Whether on the prowl, unlucky in love, or choosing to focus on your career, single folks often feel questions such as these shed an unwelcome spotlight on their loneliness, insecurities, and fears about the future.
Though you may feel this question implies your solo status is something to be ashamed of, oftentimes it stems from nothing more than a quest for small talk. Or if the person is a close relative, the question likely arises from a place of good intention and they simply want to see you find someone who makes you happy.
Keep that in mind as you prepare a direct and authentic answer something akin to, “I’ve been dating but haven’t met anyone right for me yet.” If you haven’t been dating, or are finding dating during a Pandemic challenging, the invitation is to still keep it concise and real. An answer that conveys you are open to meeting someone special and are currently researching how to do it better will suffice. Most importantly, remember, you can stop the pessimist from stealing your optimism by keeping the conversation upbeat.
Rattle off some cool stats like, thanks to the pandemic, social distancing, and working from home, while solitude is unfortunately contributing to a loneliness epidemic, virtual dating has continued to thrive throughout the pandemic – from March to May 2020, OKCupid experienced a 700% usage increase – and apps that enable us to connect with our real-life friends, family, and colleagues have flourished, with Zoom’s user base growing by almost 2,000% between January and April 2020.
Let them know (and remind yourself) that timing has never been better and you are ready and excited for the future. If the questions continue, find a gracious way to change the subject by asking a question, talking about something else you have in common (e.g., “How about that Tom Brady?!”).
NEWLY COUPLED / “Are things getting serious?”
Even if you are dating someone but haven’t yet established an exclusive relationship with your new fellow, the folks waiting to ask you about your Valentine’s Day plans may already be one step ahead of you. If word has spread to family and friends that there’s a new man in your life, odds are the topic will come up and many may wonder aloud if he has serious relationship potential.
While you may be echoing these same questions in your mind, that’s also where you should be answering them. Don’t let pressure from family and friends push the timeline of your budding relationship, but do take time to figure out how you feel first. You may be bubbling over with excitement about your new guy and could talk about him all day, but keep the interrogators (and yourself) at bay by simply telling them that it’s too early to tell but that you’re happy how things are going. And if you don’t have plans for Valentines Day, let them know that the slower you go, the faster you get there.
IN A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP / “Do you think he’s the one?”
The incessant questions don’t stop once you’ve found someone you’d like to keep around. Even if you have been dating for six months or more, any sort of long term committed relationship begins to invite questions about “forever.” Answer only as much as you feel comfortable, depending on who it is and how they’re asking. It could be that you’re currently enduring a rough patch in your relationship or simply aren’t comfortable with sharing those intimate details. If it’s the former, you don’t owe anyone an explanation and can find a way to express that he’s a special person but neither of you are in any rush. The hope is that your ambiguity will signal that it’s time for a chance of subject without hurting the asker’s feelings.