A number of my single friends who aren’t seeing anyone just hate Valentine’s Day. They feel completely left out of everything it represents.

When they see couples out celebrating, it only reinforces their feelings of loneliness. They “have no one.”

If they’ve just gone through a divorce, it’s even worse. Seeing all those apparently happy couples reinforces what they’ve lost. It seems to erase the memories of the awful times with their exes and inflates any good ones.

On the surface Valentine’s Day is the perfect holiday for our consumer-oriented culture. The standard expectations about how one shows love are all involved with buying something. The more expensive the gift, the more it proves our love.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that about one billion valentine cards are sent each year worldwide. That makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas.

So the lonely on this day have no one for whom to buy – cards, roses, chocolates, dinners, jewelry, wine, pajama-grams, or stuffed animals. The fact that they’ll be saving money by not participating is no emotional consolation in the face of all the ads and store displays that remind them they have no reason to be caught up in the buying frenzy.

For those who are coupled in one way or another, the expectations of how a significant other proves their love can become more important than the reality.

Did they “care enough to send the very best?”

Did they wait until the last minute to buy that present or spend days dreaming about it?

Was the candy expensive enough?

Was the restaurant five-star?

Expectations are supposed to be high and good for the economy. In fact, the merchandising of it all has distorted them beyond proportion.

The non-coupled can take heart. Because of these market-driven expectations how many of these holidays have actually ended in disappointment, frustration, or an argument for that loving couple you wish you were?

None of this, of course, has to be. But it takes a lot of willpower and rebelliousness against the dominant expectations to make it different.

There have to be other ways to measure our value and lovability than this. Here’s what we know.

(1) Love and romance are two different things.

Choose to celebrate love.

If you’re single, make it a time to celebrate the love you and your friends share. You can even choose to get out of all the consumerism.

How about a potluck dinner where every friend brings the dish they really love more than any other food? It might mean an all-dessert potluck. Why not make even that a reason to celebrate?

(2) Romance is a choice.

No one is inherently unromantic.

The whole relationship might have begun with hormones raging and chemistry out of control, but choosing to be romantic can be a way to celebrate the love you share.

If you’re a couple, make a decision to do romantic acts. The more you decide to do them, the easier they become.

(3) In both love and romance, practice makes perfect.

To say this is not to say that love and romance should be a chore. When they feel that way, it’s a hint that our priorities have been usurped by the other things we’ve been told we must do to increase profits and ease our fears of failing by an outside standard.

In a society where many people never take a vacation, what would we expect? How much time and energy is left for the people around us?

But the more we practice love, the more we become loving. The more we act romantically, the more likely it will be that romance becomes a part of our lifestyle.

And It’s never too late to start that.

Contributed by

Bob Minor

University of Kansas
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
A national resource for information on gender issues and gay/straight relationships for organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets such as NBC and USA Today, Bob Minor, Ph.D. …

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