Like it or loathe it, Valentine's Day is on its way. So, how can we make Valentine's Day mean something more to us than the gauche red gifts and love hearts we see on sale in the run up to this heavily commercialised day? Being prescribed a particular day to express our 'love' is hardly romantic, nor does it engender the generous spirit we'd like to associate with love and matters of the heart, so what can we do to reclaim the day and make it feel like something worth celebrating again?
Here are a few ideas that might help:
Don't concentrate on romance
Broaden the type of love you express beyond the 'romantic love' shared with a lover or partner - which also may not be applicable to all of us. Instead express your love and appreciation for family and friends.
Take it as an opportunity to get a group of close friends together for a meal or party. This could be at home or out, which also encourages venues to break with the convention of laying out rows and rows of private tables for two on the night! Make it into a night for 'fr-omance'!
Reconnect with friends that you haven't see for a long time
Ignore the 'romance' associated with the day completely. Use it as an opportunity to catch-up with old friends that may also be disillusioned by the day, or who are simply not in a position to want to celebrate it traditionally.
If you see the day as firmly being about 'romantic love' and are single, you may dread the night, therefore throw a gathering for all your single friends, and friends of friends. You'll soon realise that there are many people in the same boat. So even if you're not with someone at this moment in time, it's simply about finding a good match - and being single is exciting as there's always the 'possibility' of meeting that special person, so celebrate that!
'You can't love someone else until you truly love yourself'
Remember this old cliché and treat yourself! Spend the day or evening doing all of your favourite things. It's all a good investment for the times when you do have someone else to think of, so will have less time for yourself!
If you do have a partner you wish to spoil, break with convention. Avoid the 'red rose' syndrome. Find a gift, specific to your partner that you know they'll love. Perhaps something that reminds you of when you first met, or your favourite thing about them.
If your 'special person' is tired or working too hard, book them a massage or pamper treatment. Even if it's not on the day you can create a voucher for them to book at a later date.
There's nothing worse than having your partner feel very differently about Valentine's Day, only to have them massively disappointed when they don't see it as you do! We all show and receive love in very different ways, so it's important to able to identify and acknowledge this without feeling our particular way is compromised. Discuss it beforehand and find a way to honour how you both feel about it. Some people need a gift to feel loved, others may find being told it in words or spending time together more important. We tend to give others what works for us, so if it's a new partner look for the signs and make choices accordingly.
Rename it "Valen-time's Day"
Mark the date as one that you will simply spend some quality time together. It could be taking the time to do something your partner enjoys such as walking to a cosy pub for the evening. Alternatively, avoid the over priced set menus available in many restaurants on the night, by cooking a romantic meal at home or stay in with a take away and exchange favourite music or films.
Start new habits together
Set 14th February as a date that you consciously commit to doing something that positively affects your relationship. It could be starting a weekly date night you've always promised yourselves. If you have children, agree not to discuss them on that particular night! You could also commit to trying something new to benefit your wellbeing - perhaps start meditating regularly together.
It's also a good time to establish a secret pact to identify, acknowledge and pledge ways you can be there for each other that will positively impact your time together.
Valentine's Day card
Resist buying a pre-made greetings card from a card shop as these lack true sentiment. Instead, design your own, or attempt to write a poem, personalising it for the one you love. You could also create a photographic card or book for the special person in your life, with favourite moments you've shared together.
"How do I love thee?" Count the ways
Write a list of all the things you love about those closest to you. If you get stuck, perhaps pick an attribute for each letter that makes up their name. If you're feeling very generous, or they are really gorgeous, try selecting a quality for each letter of the alphabet! Positively expressing how we feel about people can sometimes be daunting, but it is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other.
In a world where we know love really is the most valuable commodity we have, surely having a day to focus it on, or remind us of it's importance, can't be a bad thing? Perhaps we just need to be more creative with how we use the day, and take more responsibility for guiding retailers and restaurants as to how we wish to use it, in order to make it work better for us! Let's redefine Valentine's Day, and put the love back into it.