As Valentine's Day approaches this year, will you be crammed in a sweaty shop with the masses trying to find a decent card for your other half and hoping they don't get you a present (because you haven't got them one) or will you be attending an anti-Valentine's Day bash and trying not to dwell on the fact that you are single, or reminiscing about someone from past? Everyone thinks that for singles, Valentine's Day is a reminder that they don't have that special someone in their life, so they fare the worst but is that really the case? How healthy is Valentine's Day for couples?
If you are in a relationship, you obviously can't hope Valentine's Day will just go away - and many argue that the romance has been taken out of the day by commercial companies peddling gifts, flowers, chocolates and all things heart-shaped. Who hasn't debated over a box of chocolates or other gift, wondering whether it is cheesy or completely expected and appropriate? Obviously being in love is a great thing and expressing that is even more important but why should Valentine's Day be the day that everyone starts professing their love, rather than 13th or 15th. Shouldn't this process be an organic one, rather than a forced one?
Besides, love is surely more complex than flowers and chocolates? Social psychologists have been studying interpersonal attraction for almost 50 years and while they haven't cracked it completely, relationships are multi-dimensional. Chemistry, commitment and intimacy all form part of relationships in different proportions and no two romances are alike. One study at the Arizona State University even showed that dating couples are five times as likely to break up in the two-week period either side of Valentine's Day, in comparison to dates in September, November or April, with the authors describing the day as a "catalyst". Don't fall into the trap of feeling your relationship isn't magic enough or special as the perceived ideal and then end up arguing with their partners about it. Maintain realistic expectations and face the day with a light-hearted approach.
Single people, of course, can happily avoid February 14th if they wish, powering on through to the 15th. In fact 42 per cent of our members said they would not be actively searching for a date on Valentine's Day this year, while 39 per cent said they saw it as a "commercial day" rather than a romantic one.
Singletons, if you're struggling with the idea of being alone, like the 32 per cent of our members who are "dreading" the day, try to remember the grass isn't always greener. In one 'affective forecasting' study, published by the National Centre for Biotechnology, participants made predictions one month prior about how they would feel on Valentine's Day and then how they actually felt on the day itself. Those who had dates overestimated how good the day would be, while the date-less predicted the day would be worse than it actually was.
If you're on your own, you're not expected to make bold romantic gestures or go for an overpriced meal because it is what everyone else is doing, so reframe the situation in your mind. Do something fun, like hang out with your friends, have a night out or cook your favourite meal, or even send someone an anti-Valentine's card to show them you care. Whatever you do, leave the thought of finding love until well after the day. Don't head out to the nearest bar or dating site hoping to meet another lonely person hoping for their happily-ever-after. 24 per cent of our members think its unlikely you'll meet your partner on Valentine's Day, while 19 per cent thought that someone searching for love on this day was a bit "desperate".
Whether you're in a couple or on your own, buy some chocolates or a red teddy if you like and give someone a hug. Whatever you do, don't take it too seriously.
Brett Harding is the director of Lovestruck, a website dedicated to online dating and bringing people together. If you want to buy him chocolates this year, Brett is a big fan of Ferrero Rocher.