Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is the epitome of our romantic love fantasy. It represents all that we wish love could be and would be 365 days a year. Valentine’s Day feeds into our notion of romance….every romantic comedy, every heartfelt love song, every “We’ll always have Paris.”

by Susan J. Elliott J.D., M.Ed. Copyright ©  2005-2019

But like the movies and songs, it’s a fantasy. It’s not real and it’s not going to be real. Ever. I make this point over and over again in Getting Back Out There. Although people are thinking it’s a book for when you’re ready to date, it’s NOT (I keep saying this). It’s to change how you think about “love” your “type” good relationships and romantic fantasies like the ones that surface on Valentine’s Day. If you want to rethink the relationship you had and the relationship you WANT, that book is the second place to look (after GPYB). You have to smash these ridiculous notions hoisted on us by movies and songs.

I have a lot of days of the year that upset me after losing Michael but Valentine’s Day isn’t one of them. We sometimes did things but more often than not, we didn’t. It wasn’t necessary. We did a lot of little things for each other all the time. We bought gifts and sent cards for no reason. We didn’t need Hallmark to tell it it’s time to send overpriced roses. Sometimes I would see something that I could only find around Valentine’s to give to him (like one year a pair of boxer shorts with a devil whose pitchfork ended in hearts) and get it but if he didn’t get me something, it was fine. And visa versa. We never made Vday a big deal. We didn’t need to.

I wrote a post on here once about good sex in bad relationships. There are so many people who hang on because “the sex is incredible.” but intimacy, TRUE INTIMACY, happens in every room in the house. Love making happens every day all day. It’s not sex, it’s not just the physical, it about loving and caring for each other ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Love is an action. It’s not simply good sex.

And to give up being treated with love and dignity for a physical act, no matter how electric or toe-curling it is, is simply wrong. It’s selling yourself so short and is tantamount to pimping yourself out. Good sex is part of a good relationship otherwise it’s simply more settling for less.

Valentine’s Day is a similar notion. To couples who truly love and cherish each other 365 days a year, Valentine’s Day is another day. You don’t put a lot of stock into it. Michael and I did the first one or two and then we would usually watch a movie together, maybe get something to eat, and only did a few small gifts in the first year or so. We went away some years when it fell on a weekend. We kept it light and fluffy because it should be light and fluffy…it should be no big deal. Neither Hallmark nor the roses industry should get to dictate when you express your love. It’s pretty twisted that they do and no one objects to it.

Further, some people “test” the other on that day. “Let’s see if he remembers…” “Is she that kind of person who thinks only women get gifts on Valentine’s Day?” “Will he take me out?” “Will she demand a dozen over-priced roses?”

It should never be used as an opportunity to trip up your mate or try to see how much you are loved. If you want a dozen roses sent to the office and you can’t ask for that, why not? (better yet, why are you so high on getting roses sent to the office?). Valentine’s Day is not a test. If you don’t know on February 13th whether you are loved or not, Valentine’s Day isn’t going to clear things up.

My first wedding anniversary (to the mother of all bananaheads) was February 9th. I used to say if you forgot our anniversary, you can make it up on Valentine’s Day. Well, I never got anything for either date. Not a card, not an I love you. Surprise! There was no test or strategy needed. This was not someone who was EVER recognizing either date. The week became torture for me. Is it amazing that I ended things for good on February 10th? Not really. But the real question to myself should have been “Why did it take him missing these two dates in February to get you to see that he was a dysfunctional bananahead who didn’t treat you right any day of the year unless it was in his favor? And why did it take you TEN YEARS of that?” Those questions didn’t get asked. Instead it was why oh why, poor meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …. without Valentine’s Day! without Anniversary love! We broke up the 1st of Feb and I expected him to come back home on the 9th and he didn’t because he wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with the new girlfriend (who had become the new gf while we were still living together)…so that whole nonsense backfired in a HUGE way. Stupid. stupid. stupid.

People who play games in their relationship any other time of the year can go both ways on Valentine’s Day. They can use it to test you, use it to proclaim some sort of love that is not in their actions the rest of the time, or use it to zing you.

People who play games in relationships are going to play them on Valentine’s Day. People who are insincere are going to be insincere on Valentine’s Day (and that can work for or against you, but it’s not REAL.

And remember, more people file for divorce on February 15th than any other day of the year. When I’ve looked into it, it’s often the ones who were ready to breakup before the holidays who hung on, never finding the right time, and then it’s the middle of January and then they hung on for Valentine’s Day. Then when Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers failed to save their relationship, they ended it. Relationships that end on February 15th do not suddenly unravel on February 14th, but it can be a trigger that “Hoo boy, don’t want to sit through another dinner feigning romance or interest like I did last night!” and people get ready to run for the hills.

For me, one year in a relationship that was about 8 months old, I did not buy the reason why we weren’t seeing each other ON Valentine’s Day and it gave me pause. He said he had to see his kids and his ex WAS manipulative enough to demand his presence on Valentine’s Day because she knew he had a girlfriend, but it still didn’t wash with me. Something was going on. I never did find out what but I went to the dinner on the 13th and received a rose (one) and a card and tried to have a good time. The relationship was well over by March (ended by me). I don’t know what was really going on in February, but because of the shady character of Valentine’s Day, I’m still convinced, after all these years, that something was.

So all those relationships you have romanticized in your head? Not so much. More CRAP is being played out on Valentine’s Day than good stuff. So just be glad to be out of the drama.

If you’re alone this year, you might have a romanticized version of Valentine’s Day. You might think the whole world is getting hearts and flowers and you’re getting zilch, nada, nothing, bupkus. You might think the rest of the world is enjoying candlelight dinners and walks on the beach.

Well, get over it, it’s not like that most of the time and when it’s like that, it’s not really real. And remember all those people about to file for divorce…not exactly the happiest of campers on Feb. 14th. No matter what they are projecting.

I KNOW couples who are having the biggest of problems that go out on Valentine’s Day like it’s lovey-dovey night. Time to show the whole world what we are made of! I know a woman who fell for the Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers show every year because her bananahead boyfriend (then husband) threw balloons in as well. She would talk about those stupid balloons all year long. Really? How about the fact that he’s a jerk most of the rest of the year? Nope. Didn’t count. But…those ballllllooooooooonnnnnnssssss……

But remember Valentine’s Day should not be a big deal whether you are in or not in a relationship. It should not be a day of gestures that don’t hold up the rest of the year or a day of tests for someone who is failing the rest of the year or a day to be passive-aggressive toward your mate


if Valentine’s Day is bothering you because you are still somehow hooked into the Hallmark/roses fantasy, NOW is the time to think about how much you have done for YOU.

Well, what is the answer?

Have you been good to yourself?

Have you been spending time with yourself?

Have you been making you your Valentine?

Not just February 14th but every day? If not, now is the time to start.

If it’s bothering you or even if it’s NOT bothering you, go out and get yourself something special. Book a massage or a half day at a spa. Order something nice for you. Take a bubble bath and drink champagne (just a few sips. :)). Get yourself a piece of jewelry or a new golf club or a new sweater. Something nice, something different, something WOW. Do your affirmations and tell yourself how FABULOUS you are. Because you are.

Use Valentine’s Day as a day to be good to you and to start loving yourself FIRST…and get rid of the notion of romantic love that exists only in movies and on posters and in Hallmark commercials.

All healthy love starts with caring about yourself FIRST. Not waiting for the prince or princess to come along and tell you how great you are.

Love yourself like all get out and others will follow your example. Not just one or two days a year, but ALL YEAR.

Get a copy of Getting Back Out There and make a list of Standards and Boundaries, the acceptable and unacceptable and the “may be” acceptable. Do those lists and change them as you review your last relationship, your history and your life inventory.

You MUST MUST MUST know what kind of partner you need long before you’re ready to date again. You have to become committed to yelling “NEXT” if someone doesn’t live up to what you absolutely MUST have in a partner. You MUST become committed to that list and become committed to walking if someone doesn’t measure up and that takes TIME – a lot of time before you are ever ready to date….so DO IT starting today.

Be good to YOU.

Start today and plan for tomorrow. BE GOOD TO YOU NOW.


Copyright © Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author


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Susan J. Elliott

Author, Attorney, Grief Counselor, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, Relationship Expert, Breakup Coach BA English Mount Holyoke College, magna cum laude, High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa M.Ed., Counseling Psychology, Cambridge College J.D. University of California, Berkeley Licensed to practice law in federal and state courts in NY. Licensed but Inactive in Texas and District of Columbia Creator of the Getting Past Your Past and Getting Past Your Breakup programs, seminars, workshops, bootcamps, videos, blogs and podcasts Author of Getting Past Your Breakup, Getting Back Out There and the GPYP Workbook

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. A terrific and much-appreciated post! Thank you for sharing it, knowing as you do how emotionally charged this day can be and how self-pity can do a number on those of us not in relationship (while disappointment or conflict is doing a number on many in relationships). My ex and I had butted heads over VD along the lines you describe, she being a big gift giver and me resisting for many of the reasons you describe. Thank you for reminding us that love is not an occasion, but a behavior expressed throughout the year.

  2. A great post, thank you Susan! I have missed you on this blog, I hope that you are well and that your writing projects are going well too.

    Today I realised just how far I’d come, I haven’t cried over the relationship since December. Earlier this week I had felt a bit weird about Valentines but decided to make plans, I did a few hours over time at work and then I took myself into London and walked around Camden Market. I had wanted to do this for a long time, and today felt right. I bought myself a new scarf and went out for sushi.

    I was thinking on the train about how far I’ve come since this day last year, things were going wrong, and I spent the day with my parents. The ex had come to see me a couple of days before hand and decided to go back to uni, because he was planning to go to the bar with his friends. I thought it was his depression flaring up again so bought it, I can remember texting him on the day, asking how he was and I can remember him saying ‘I’m probably not going to call you today.’
    I was retelling this story to my friend, and I found myself laughing, I guess at him and myself. I still amaze myself at how much I bought his BS, but I didn’t know that I didn’t know… or rather I was terribly stupid, and codependent.

    Thank goodness it is over, the thought ‘what’s so great about relationships anyway?’ probably referring to that last relationship more than any healthy ones I hope to have in the future. I realised that the happiness I experienced then was genuine, but so much of it was an illusion and me putting my value in him. I realise now that I experience happiness and love differently now, in a healthier and much more truer way. I took the time to tell my best friend that I love her, but she knows that already.

    I am so thankful for my life now, I realised that no matter how many off days I have, or days I forget to be thankful for what I have. I have so much, so much more than I had when I lost myself in my ex. I am so glad that I didn’t miss him, or feel sad about being single today. I actually felt empowered being alone and doing things for me 🙂

  3. Thankfully I’ve never believed in this stupid commercial day and have rarely celebrated it in any form. I’m on Susan’s page here. Romance should be there throughout the year. One less “special” day I need to stress over.

  4. I think it is a “very big money making holiday” and I agree you should treat someone special every day of the year not just Valentines Day.

  5. This is a good, tough love post. I removed myself completely from the drama; spent the day at home, totally alone. Cut some wood, cleaned house, started to clean my basement (never, EVER run a power saw in the house!). Some dude, actually good looking, from an online site wrote me that I am exactly the woman he was looking for but too bad about where I live. Why do this? I politely replied that yes, I do live in dating hell but until there’s a way to get serious dollars for mi casa, I need to stick it out, pay down debts incurred after my dads passing, rebuild savings, etc. He then accused me of being materialistic. Nope, tis called being responsible, meeting obligations. End of convo. It did bum me out for the rest of the day, reminding me that even when I do get free of here, the realization that I can never live a plastic bag/television/ convenience life, that I need to be in woods, growing my own food, being highly active, sustainable may mean I am doomed to be alone for good unless I want to marry a homeless down and outer. At 55, I truly feel time is running out. Widowers disconnection these days makes it worse along with the deteriorating work situation. I face everything totally alone here. Folk who are OK living the redneck/bar life, those like Widower and a good friend who have inherited money and are set for life just don’t understand having to gut it out without the luxury of taking off, escaping. You have to face your loneliness every damn day, in place, deal with the turmoil, uncertainty and plug away. The two days previous to VD, I went to a coupla parties. I dressed to the nines, no gaudy hearts, but good jewelry, tasteful, put on the 4 in heels and held myself proud. Totally locals-only so went knowing I would not meet anyone, even flirted a bit with guys not likely to become a problem, like the bank president. Do like to be able to look like a girl on occasion. Susan is right on here. When I was married, my husband and I did zip for all holidays. No Xmas, Thanksgiving, VD. Roses are grown with serious pesticides and candy is bad for you. Yet, I never doubted that I was loved completely because we both were present 24/7/365. Thinking over this weekend I really am convinced that if these sorts of manufactured holidays get me down, it’s because there is because other things are very wrong.

    1. did the woman he is looking for include one that will tolerate insults without even knowing him? He sounds like a jerk. Why rationalize your decisions to someone who is clearly a creep.
      What. a. jerk. You’re exactly the woman I’m looking for except I’m going to twist your responsible life decisions into something negative and share that view with you and hope that you don’t mind being insulted by someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know you. F him and the unwelcomed broken down cart he rode in on.

  6. VD was never a big deal to me until I met the BH. For me it was just another day and I felt the same way as was posted here, that love was something you showed in little ways through the year. The BH stated that he was big on the whole romance thing and the first 2 VDs were very romantic. Unfortunately, the last 2 were absolutely awful with lots of head games and passive aggression involved. Needless to say, I found them very stressful and extremely confusing. I can relate to the whole Feb 15th. We broke up a week after VD. I was DONE with all of it!

    The year I had planned, in fact I was looking forward to, just having a stress free day and being grateful to not have to deal with drama and expectations of “demonstrating” my love. However, anniversary grief got the better of me and I became most and more anxious last week. I couldn’t get it out of my head thoughts of the BH with my replacement having the happy life I imagined we were destined to have and him having a wonderful romantic VD with her while I sat at home alone trying to put my life back together and move on. It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that it’s not a competition or knowing deeply that not only was he wrong for me but also that I could never go back to being treated so poorly even if he wanted me back, or that I was risking a whole world of hurt by breaking NC in any form, I just couldn’t shake it. On Friday I looked to see if he was still on the dating website. I was mad at myself for looking since I would have made it to get my red NC chip if I held out another 3 weeks but the relief I felt when I saw that he was there and had been active that day far exceeded my disappointment in myself. I only looked long enough to see he was there and I didn’t click on the profile to read it but closed the window instead. I got what I was looking for, he wasn’t going to have a spectator VD day with my replacement whom he was so convinced this time last year he would find and his profile/user name was sad and pathetic (victim) not up beat and confident.

    After that, I decided that although I was originally planning to go back to my true self and just treat VD as another day, this VD I need to treat myself with extra love and care and celebrate my love for me, after all there will be other VDs to just do nothing. So I made plans with another single friend who is into the singles VD movement and we went to see “How to be Single” movie and then we met up with some other friends for dinner. The next day (V day) I spent the evening with a couple who don’t do anything special for VD because they do little things for each other throughout the year.

    All and all, it was a nice VD weekend. I even found some time to have a “me morning” to deep condition my hair and read a little more from GBOT. Love it! What Susan says is so true. It’s not a dating book. It a relationship book and I’ve been using the stuff on boundaries and standards for my friends and family. It’s not always easy, I it’s changing my life. I’ve thought a bit about looking up on the BH since it’s happened. I know that the opposite of love is indifference not hate. That I felt so compelled to look and that I felt so much relief that he seems sad and lonely, tells me that I still have some stuff to work on in me. The funny thing is, it just doesn’t feel the same anymore. I don’t fully remember him and the connection that was so strong and painful before has faded to the point where the only way to fully feel it is to focus on it. If I don’t “feed it” its just feels like a half forgotten remanent. There is still emotions attached to that connection such as frustration and anger over how I was treated but it’s just not the same and I’m so grateful for that. I’ll need to think about whether I should go back to a white chip or stay at my current count. To me, the chips are about commitment to progress and moving on. I know that some times when NC is broken after a long period of time has lapsed, it turns out to be helpful in showing the person how far they have come and other times breaking NC throws the person back to the start without collecting their $200. I need to think about it and I need to think about what unfinished business I still need to work on but most importantly, I need to be gentle and love me while I answer these questions.

    Thank for reading. Sorry it was so long. I really needed to get that out.

  7. You’re right Susan but sometimes I defend myself when I should just ignore things. I get tired of having to defend my doing what’s responsible and trying hard to keep on a path that leads to the life I want and not one of being miserable, marginalized, where the only persons who would want you are the exceedingly desperate. Plus I am sick to death of dudes putting themselves out there as simple living, sensitive souls when in reality they’re irresponsible deadbeats. I am also sick of being stigmatised and rejected because of where I live. Why is a sterile burb or inner city better? He did bring up my profile this am and I did not respond to his sorry a$$.

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