The Psychology of Women once again welcomes Lauren Bittner to the Giveaway Girl project. Lauren is an award-winning freelance writer who focuses on women’s issues. She is a self-titled Giveaway Girl. Today, Lauren gets to the heart of Valentine’s Day.
Wow, do I know what it’s like to be the Giveaway Girl on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately for my significant other, Valentine’s Day only fell two months after we started dating two years ago. What will he get me, I thought, no … ruminated. And whatever that is, what will that mean? The anxiety-ridden tailspin of thoughts didn’t stop there. “What if he forgets?” I said to myself in terror. In response to my crazy-talk, came an even crazier response: “He. Will. Rue. The. Day.”
I’ve given it away during my singlehood too, whining about not having a boyfriend.
Sigh. Does the grass always have to be greener on the other side?
Why does it have to be this way in the first place?
Well, first, we’ve been trained to set unrealistic expectations for Valentine’s Day.
“We groom people for this at a really early age in school when kids start exchanging valentines to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” says Dr. Nicki Nance, a licensed mental health counselor who teaches human services and counseling at Beacon College in Leesburg, FL.
“Somehow all the good things of relationship are supposed to culminate around the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Women put a lot of effort into Valentine’s Day, and they may not get matched in that as far as what their partner comes up with.”
What you can do: Be gentle with yourself.
Of course, most media doesn’t help us stay grounded in reality. “My patients let the advertising take them hostage,” Dr. Nance says. “They aren’t getting flowers. They’re not getting candy. They let these thoughts take them in a direction beyond what’s reasonable. They forget that if they were in relationships Valentine’s Day might still not be perfect. Chances are they would still miss something.”
Remember The Big Picture, too.
A single day cannot accurately measure the relationship. As the great crooner Frank Sinatra once sang, “The fundamental things apply as time goes by.” Dr. Nance agrees. “You can have a great Valentine’s Day, and a lousy relationship. People love you for how you make them feel,” Nance says. “They don’t love you for what you do for them.”
You don’t have to go without on Valentine’s Day.
Got It Girls don’t sit around hoping someone else will create Valentine’s Day memories for them. They take action to make plans that will bring them joy. “Take charge of the day,” Nance says. “Don’t give the day away. If you want flowers or candy, go get some. Give your kids and nieces and nephews cards.”
If you are single, consider making plans with your friends. “It’s all about spending time with the people you love and celebrating them,” says Sameera Sullivan, CEO and Chief Matchmaker of Lasting Connections, a national matchmaking service. “Have a dessert party. Watch girlie movies or have a theme-based party. Have hors d’oeuvres. Have some champagne or dress up if you like how you feel when you dress up. At this time next year you maybe in a relationship, and you may not have that time with your friends.”
If you’re in a relationship, ask for what you want.
Consider simply asking them how they’d like to spend the day. “It’s so victim-like to wait for the other person and see what they’re going to do,” Dr. Nance says. She notes that leaving it all to your partner disempowers you and may not take into account the relationship models of their past. “Some people come into my office and say, ‘He should know what to do.’ I say, ‘How?’ A lot of people were raised in single parent homes, so they don’t know.”
Be patient. Be direct. You have may have the same objectives as your Valentine, but the differences in your thinking may lengthen the path to reaching them.
Men and women may seem at odds when their goals are exactly the same, Dr. Nance says. “Men are very goal directed. They have a very different kind of brain. The shortest difference between two points is generally the best way for men.”
This is why she predicts your significant other will be relieved if you tell them what you want in plain English. “Simply put, the integration of the left and right brain is different in men and women,” Nance says. “Men want to solve the problem. Women express their feelings while they are having them and move on.”
Focus on the best of what you have together.
Think we versus me. Sullivan says expecting the other person to do all the planning fits into a “me” way of thinking. A better train of thought sounds more like this: “It’s a great day. We have an amazing connection. What are we going to do?”
“Focus on your output instead of what’s going to come to you,” Dr. Nance says.
The heart of the matter: Happy, sad, mad or indifferent? Where are you? Valentine’s Day can be a time of joy—if your focus is the right place. Question is, how do we get to a good place? Relationship experts, single women and married women (and men) weigh in at Stop Giving It Away.