Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day can be a tough day for single people. Whether you’re yearning for a romantic partner or happy to be spending the day solo, licensed therapist and relationship coach Rachel Sussman says that the holiday can magnify people’s insecurities about being solo — even if you’re generally OK with it every other day of the year.
“Valentine’s Day is heavily marketed to connote connection, partnership, love, romance, and sex,” Sussman tells Apartment Therapy. “If you are single and longing to be in a relationship, that can be challenging enough, but when Valentine’s Day comes around, even content singles can feel out of step with their coupled friends and even with society.”
While some singles feel pressured to couple up on Valentine’s Day, clinical psychologist Alice Shepard, Ph.D of Mirielle Therapy Practice in New York City notes that others simply dismiss it as a commercial holiday. “Most, however, believe that they need to meet an idealized version of the holiday,” she explains. “Valentine’s Day can be difficult for singles based on their definition of the holiday, but in reality, you can define it to be anything you want it to be.”
Curious how you can celebrate Valentine’s Day when you’re single and safely hunkering down at home? From scheduling a virtual cocktail hour with friends to ordering delivery from your favorite restaurant, here’s what therapists say you can do to enjoy V-Day when you’re on your own at home.
Concentrate on the upsides of singledom.
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy on Valentine’s Day, Sussman suggests focusing on the positive aspects of being single. “There are many benefits to being a single person, so write down a list of everything that you love about your single life to celebrate,” she advises.
Whether you treasure your independence or simply can’t stand the thought of cleaning up after someone else, Sussman says the perks of singledom are many. “Being single means you are free to make decisions on your own whatever they may be,” she explains. “Try to focus your energy on celebrating the freedom that singlehood provides on Valentine’s Day.”
Relying on other people to bring you happiness can be detrimental to your emotional health, which is why Shepard recommends treating yourself to some feel-good indulgences to celebrate Valentine’s Day solo. “Set your expectations for the day, but avoid depending on others to meet those expectations,” she says. “For example, if you want flowers, jewelry, or a delicious meal from a good restaurant, order those longed-for items in advance for yourself so you can enjoy them on V-Day.”
Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday of a long holiday weekend this year, Shepard also suggests turning the day into a self-care extravaganza at home. “The extra time removes the pressure of having to complete your normal Sunday to-do list while offering you the opportunity for a ‘stay in bed’ day or a staycation-style spa day, so you can pamper and indulge yourself at home,” she says.
Connect with friends.
If you’re craving connection on Valentine’s Day, Sussman recommends scheduling a virtual activity — or even just a FaceTime call — with some friends. “Plan a Zoom happy hour with your closest friends and enjoy a couple of cocktails (or mocktails) together,” she says. “You could also host a virtual V-Day dinner, and have everyone order delivery from their favorite restaurant to eat as a group.”
Inviting your friends to join you at a virtual dance party is another fun way to socialize when you’re solo on Valentine’s Day. “If you can’t find an online dance party that’s already happening, ask your friends to contribute their favorite songs to a playlist and let loose while listening to it together on a virtual call,” says Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist and Director of the Center for Love and Sex in New York City.
Redefine the day.
Just because it’s considered a romantic holiday doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate different types of love on Valentine’s Day. “V-Day has traditionally been marketed as a day for lovers, but this excludes more than a third of Americans, who are single,” Cooper explains. “Valentine’s Day should really be re-introduced as a day to commemorate all kinds of love, including love for oneself, as well as one’s friends and family.”
Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re single on a couples-oriented holiday, Shepard suggests renaming the day so you can concentrate on something else that you truly love. “Valentine’s Day can be anything you want it to be: Self Appreciation Day, Friends Appreciation Day, Giving Back Day, Walk a Shelter Dog Day, and so on,” she says. “The redefinition can help shift your perspective, moderate your expectations, lift your mood, and remind you that you are in control of the day.”
Enjoy a steamy night with yourself.
There’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to plan a sensuous date with yourself. “Purchase a new sex toy and explore all your senses, including touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell,” Cooper advises. “Dim the lights, put on your favorite tunes, light a scented candle, and try out your new sex toy — there are even waterproof toys that you can use in the bath for a wonderful experience.”
If you aren’t sure which sex toy is right for you, consider an ergonomic, targeted vibrator that provides both vaginal and clitoral stimulation, like the Arc at Dame, or a handheld sleeve with textured ridges that enhance every stroke, such as the Sidekick Sleeve #2 at Babeland. “Wear something that feels good on your body to help get you in the mood,” psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini says.
Try something new (that makes you feel good.)
When you don’t have butterflies in your stomach over a significant other on Valentine’s Day, Cooper says practicing a new activity at home can be just as exciting. “Try out a new skill that you don’t have to take too seriously, like belly dancing, improv, or wine tasting,” she says. “Many of these practices are intended to get you off the couch and move, in order to generate more dopamine, endorphins, and potentially oxytocin.”
Whether you sign up for an existing class on a site like Eventbrite or scour YouTube for free video tutorials that interest you, Shepard says that having a feel-good activity planned ahead of time can help ease your anxiety about V-Day. “I recommend reserving a time for one or two fun virtual activities on Valentine’s Day, such as an online kickboxing class or an evening solo dance party,” she says. “This way, you have something to look forward to that helps move the day along.”
Embrace your feelings, even if you’re sad.
Although it isn’t exactly fun, Shepard says that feeling sad about being single on Valentine’s Day isn’t something you should be afraid of. “Feeling emotional pain can at times help move us faster towards the desire for happiness,” she explains. “If you recently had a break-up, allow the negative feelings to surface. Give yourself the time to experience sad feelings but don’t let them dominate your day.”
However, it’s important to remember that there’s a big difference between embracing your feelings of sadness and engaging in activities that provoke (or worsen) them. Even when you’re mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds, Shepard says that being bombarded with pics and status updates from coupled-up friends could make you feel worse about being single. “Avoid social media on Valentine’s Day if it makes you feel bad,” she advises. Sometimes putting the phone down and focusing on yourself is the greatest act of love you can give yourself.
Photo: Photo by Gabby K from Pexels