How To Love Valentine’s Day When You’re Divorced

February 5, 2022

Dear Divorce Coach: 

Valentine’s day has never been my jam when I was dating or even when I got married. But now, I’m currently going through a divorce and for some reason (maybe it’s the seasonal section at Target), I can’t stop thinking about it this year. I’m sad and lonely and even though it’s just one day, I’d love some advice for how to get through February without eating all the chocolate.

– A Valentine’s Grinch 

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Dear Valentine’s Grinch, 

Is it really already time for Valentine’s Day? I’m with you…it’s never really been my thing either, but every year as the store aisles transition from Christmas decorations to red hearts and stuffed animals (so cliche!), I do feel a twinge of nostalgia. So after my divorce, I chose a shift in perspective that I carry through to this day (even though I’m remarried); I make it about me.

Although it may seem unlikely there is anything you can do but hide under a rock until it passes, there is another way. Instead of dreading it, rolling my eyes, or even ignoring it, I take it for what it is, a fun made-up day to celebrate love. How often do we actively and purposely carve out a day to take care of ourselves (whether as couple or individually)? Yes, we should do it far more, but this day is actually on the calendar, so why not use it? Here are five tips to get you started.

Tip 1: First, recognize that Valentine’s Day will be different and, likely, include sadness.

Over the next week or so, acknowledge that pockets of the day may include some sadness and may even have you looking back on your past with rose-colored glasses. Even if they didn’t actively celebrate Valentine’s Day with their former partner, some of my clients suddenly have this wave of emotion for the holiday when they’re facing it alone. When I encourage them to take a step back, often they realize those past Valentine’s weren’t as bright and shiny (or even celebrated) as they initially thought.

Now, of course, it’s different, and you perhaps feel more isolated or even a loss of identity while going through divorce. And to your note, suddenly you see Valentine’s day popping up everywhere like a neon billboard sign. Here’s where I want you to make that perspective shift.  Different can be good if you make the decision to create a mindset to take care of yourself.  The advantage, this year, may be that you have some time to yourself to decide what you want and need, whether it’s time to be alone or surrounded by people you love. The key to making this work those is setting an intention to make the day (or why not the week) about you and finding activities that spark your joy. Let’s explore some options…

Tip 2: Pamper yourself – without breaking the bank.

If your budget is tight, you can still create some quality experiences for yourself without extravagance. Set the mood to really relax:

  • Find a relaxing tea (chamomile is fantastic) or pour a glass of wine
  • Draw a hot bath: do you love bubble baths but never have time for them when the kids are home? You can even try making your own bubble bath if you’re feeling adventurous.
  • Round up several candles
  • Grab a book or magazine that you’ve meaning to peruse
  • Open a streaming service and find a good coffeehouse playlist or enjoy the silence
  • Pull out your favorite pair of pajamas or a soft t-shirt and shorts (it’s your night – you do you!)

Most things I just suggested you likely have at the ready in your home. It’s just a matter of pulling it all together and creating a peaceful spa-like environment where you can feel truly relaxed.

Tip 3:  You can also opt to splurge a little – Valentine’s is after all only one day.

If your finances allow, why not take the day that you’re making about you and treat yourself. Turn Valentine’s Day into a total spa day with an appointment for a mani-pedi, a massage or whatever it is that makes you feel good and restored. You deserve this time. Be intentional and in the moment about it too; silence the phone, ignore the notifications, close your email. This time is truly meant to be about you so focus on you!

If the spa isn’t your thing and you’ve had your eye on a piece of clothing or some new accessories or even been dying to try a meal at a chic new restaurant instead. Do it. Give yourself the gift of something you’ve been wanting to purchase but haven’t had the time or focus or energy to buy it. Too often we are trying to get all the things for everyone else in our lives and we go without. And yes, being a parent and partner involves compromise and a some level of fiscal restraint or responsibility, but on this next Valentine’s Day, take the plunge (within reason of course).

Tip 4:  Make time and space for fun, either alone or with close friends.

Some of us are not spa or pamper people, and instead find pleasure through other outlets. What do you enjoy that you may have forgotten in your years with a partner?

  • Love the outdoors? Call up a friend, maybe one you haven’t spoken to in awhile, and invite them to take a hike or walk with you. If you like sports, see if they’ll play a round of tennis or even throw a frisbee in a park. Depending on where you are and the weather permitting, pack a picnic.
  • Prefer the indoors (or it’s winter where you are)? Opt to see a movie, go bowling, or check out a new bar. See if there are any fun DIY event classes near you like painting, pottery, woodworking.
  • Want to release some energy (and maybe a little anger too)? Try axe-throwing, a “rage room,”  or escape room.

Sometimes carving out time for just you can be as restorative (or more) as time spent with friends. Find a local nature trail or park, and take a long walk to contemplate your next steps as you soak in any nature you can find. Let your mind wander or simply breathe in what you see.

I recommend any form of movement as I truly believe that movement is medicine and it can heal and calm you. Consider adding a gentle yoga or meditation class right now to make you feel more centered and relaxed.

It may also be comforting to just stay at home and watch a favorite movie from your past that reminds you your life is more than just this moment and that choices, and surprises, await.

When it’s time to eat, think of what you most enjoy rather than your children or former partner’s preferences. You may want to bake or buy a few of indulgences for yourself; contact a local baker to see if they can make you a personal cake, macarons, cookie, or even a chocolate-covered strawberry order.

Tip 5: Try some acts of kindness to focus on the world around you.

Making the holiday about you doesn’t mean what you do has to be for you. In other words, today would be a great day to do something for someone you care about. Offer to babysit so a friend or close relative can go on a date night with their partner. As you’re running your own errands, offer to take on a family member’s so they don’t have to. These are all simple ways to alleviate the stress on others’ plates and show someone that you have their back.

You can also volunteer to do something in your local community. Consider spending part of your day helping at a local shelter or food bank. There are tons of service projects that happen each week around your community and this can serve as a fantastic way to take your mind off the holiday, give back to your neighbors, and potentially meet new people. Perhaps, spend the morning going through your closets and donate clothes and other accessories.

A shift in perspective can serve as a building block to the future you want to achieve post-divorce

Once you’ve assessed how you feel and where your mind is as Valentine’s Day approaches, make your plans and hold yourself to them: whether you want to be with company and spend time alone. With a renewed sense of what matters to you, make those plans accordingly!

The point is to be good to yourself during this time, not just on Valentine’s Day, and remember that what you need, during or after divorce, matters more than ever right now. If you have children, recognizing what you enjoy, who you are, and want to be now while showing up for them as that person will be powerful role modeling. Your children (and you) will learn that you can cope with change. Becoming a bit stronger and more resilient in the process will set a terrific example for them well into the future. You matter, and remembering that during a time of adversity will serve you as you approach this next chapter.

Use this time to also remember that you are lovable and need to take good care of yourself. Sometimes, the focus needs to be on self-care so that you remember your value. Starting right now on a day all about love can help you carry this practice forward every day. There are many ways to do this that include relaxation and remembering activities that you enjoy. Treat yourself as well as you treat your loved ones, and remind yourself that what you care about does matter. This will help create a mindset to move forward in a way that allows you to begin to happily anticipate the rest of your life. Set this day to discover again what excites you, how you thrive and move beyond just surviving. You deserve it!

–  Cherie Morris