A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. On the one hand, it’s a convenient excuse to celebrate your love, make your partner feel appreciated, and rekindle the passion. On the other hand, it can sometimes feel like a high-stakes relationship test. For example, you might feel pressure to make elaborate plans or find the “perfect” gift.
Sometimes we receive pressure from a partner to do something special; other times, we heap pressure on ourselves. There’s also some degree of societal pressure—celebrating Valentine’s Day is something we’re “supposed” to do, right? And when life is busy and stressful, and you’ve been living through a global pandemic for a few years, it can easily start to feel like too much. You might be dreading the day instead of looking forward to it.
So let’s talk about how to take the pressure off so that Valentine’s Day feels like fun instead of work and actually gives your love life a boost.
Tip 1: Think of Valentine’s Day as an Opportunity, Not an Obligation
One helpful way to look at Valentine’s Day is simply as a friendly reminder to make some time for your relationship. It’s easy for relationship maintenance to fall through the cracks when you have a lot of demands on your time and attention, so think of this holiday as a natural opportunity to bring it back to the forefront—and make it an ongoing priority.
Valentine’s Day is sort of the relationship equivalent of other annual reminders that might be in your calendar, such as health and wellness check-ups, oil changes, and veterinary visits. Aside from anniversaries, there aren’t usually a lot of other things in our calendars that prompt us to prioritize and invest in our relationships, so having a wellness reminder for your love life isn’t bad when you think about it; to the contrary, it can actually be a good thing!
It’s important to recognize that happy and healthy relationships don’t just happen—they need to be regularly cultivated and maintained. So shift your lens on Valentine’s Day to look at it as an opportunity instead of an obligation.
Remember, too, that great relationships aren’t built in a single day. They need ongoing maintenance. We sometimes get too fixated on making some annual grand gesture for our relationship while neglecting it for the rest of the year. Instead of using up all of your energy and resources on making one “perfect” day, aim for something manageable so that you can continue to invest in the relationship throughout the year.
Tip 2: Celebrate Valentine’s Day When It Works For You
Valentine’s Day is always on February 14, but it can fall at any point during the week. When it doesn’t fall on the weekend (like this year), it can make planning a bit more challenging—and it can also make the experience less enjoyable to the extent that you’re carrying the stress of the workday into what’s supposed to be a special evening.
A handy way to relieve some of the stress is therefore to stop looking at Valentine’s Day as a rigid date on which you have to do something. You can celebrate it whenever you want! Pick a day that works for you and your partner when you’re both going to be relaxed and ready, and not feel as though it’s an inconvenient thing you need to cram into an already hectic day.
When you approach Valentine’s Day with flexibility, it offers another advantage: you won’t find as much competition for reservations, and you can avoid marked-up prices. This can relieve a lot of the stress and pressure while also increasing the number of options you have to choose from.
Tip 3: Ditch the Social Comparisons
One of the reasons many of us find Valentine’s Day to be stressful is because we play the social comparison game. For example, we might see our friends on social media doing extravagant things and having what appears to be a magical time. This can make us feel as though we need to keep up by doing something similarly lavish.
At the same time, a lot of retailers put out advertisements that amp up the pressure to “go big or go home” for your Valentine’s gifts and plans. These ads can instill a sense of anxiety and insecurity about our relationships that make us question whether we’re doing enough.
Don’t buy into the hype. Money doesn’t necessarily buy relationship happiness—and, in fact, overspending on Valentine’s Day can create financial stress that can negatively affect the relationship, thereby defeating the purpose!
Valentine’s Day is about you and your relationship. Think about what it is that you want instead of what you think you’re “supposed” to want.
Remember, too, that different people show love in different ways. Yes, gifts can be one potential way of showing love—but we can also show love through spending quality time together, engaging in intimate touch, doing something kind for our partner, or communicating through words how we feel. What this means is that there’s not one “right” or “correct” way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and it doesn’t need to have a materialistic nature.
Tip 4: You Don’t Need the Element of Surprise to Have an Amazing Day
A lot of people put pressure on themselves to add an element of surprise to their Valentine’s Day activities. This not only increases the stress of planning, but it can also be risky. What if the surprise you planned isn’t what your partner actually wanted?
You might be better off skipping the surprise and, instead, communicating with your partner in advance about what both of you want in order to make sure you’re on the same page. For example, maybe you (or your partner) don’t want a big night out on the town and would prefer to stay home and cook together or cuddle on the couch. Maybe you’d rather receive a relaxing massage instead of an expensive gift.
Communicating about your wants and needs can take a lot of the stress out of planning because you don’t need to try and read your partner’s mind. It can also help to set realistic expectations so that, when the time comes, no one is disappointed because they had something totally different in mind.
This isn’t to say that you should never try to surprise your partner—after all, surprises can sometimes be really exciting! I’m simply saying that you don’t necessarily need a surprise element in order to have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day, so don’t feel pressure to have one.
Valentine’s Day is a much-loved holiday by many—but a lot of people lament the stress and anxiety it can create. However, by thinking differently about Valentine’s Day, you can improve your mental health by removing a lot of the pressure while also giving your romantic life a healthy kickstart.
Start by viewing this holiday as an opportunity to invest in your relationship rather than something you have to do. Then, approach it with a flexible mindset. It can be anything you want it to be, and it doesn’t have to happen on a specific date, either. Make the day about what you and your partner want—and don’t make it a social competition. Lastly, communicate about your expectations in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Here’s to a very happy—and stress-free—Valentine’s Day!