Depending on your romantic  situation, Valentine’s Day can mean dramatically different things.  For lovers and happily married folks, it can be a  joyful time to reflect on and express love and affection for one another.However, this media-hyped day can be an excruciating and heartbreaking time for folks who have lost, are without partners or who are in the midst of relational strife or divorce.  Indeed, the plight of those who are lonely can be overlooked and ignored in the wake of the red-hearted deluge of the holiday.

We need to remember  that, for these folks, Valentine’s Day is at best awkward and at worst a painful reminder of loneliness, frustration, disappointment and loss.  Beyond the pain of being without or losing a loving partner is the destructive impact on one’s self-esteem . Unfortunately, partner-less and divorcing folks often blame themselves for their lack of romantic success and see themselves as defective or so damaged that they will always be alone.

While some folks do suffer from emotional issues which make sustaining intimate relationships difficult or problematic, that is not the case for most.  And for those who are bummed out on Valentine’s Day, here are some questions and tips to help you better understand the mystery of romance and improve your odds for finding love.

Are your expectations about romance realistic ?  Whether it’s the impact of the media or traditional romantic myths, many people have vastly unrealistic expectations and false understandings concerning human attraction and successful mating.  It is very complicated and, at times, simply mysterious.  Most of all it is not easy.  As the saying goes, you have to “kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”  Good relationships don’t just happen and are the result of the confluence and successful interlocks of many moving parts, some biological like pheromones,  some cultural like ethnicity and religious and some having to do with personality types and relative histories of trauma and family backgrounds . Having a realistic expectation of how difficult the task of finding a mate is a good place to start . Indeed, realizing that when it comes to relationships, as it is with many things in life, much is outside of one’s control.

Consider the metaphor of a Lock and Key. While many lonely folks get depressed , feeling that there is something irreparably wrong with them,  there is an alternative to blaming yourself for your situation.  A metaphor which more accurately captures the human mystery and dilemma involved in finding a lasting partner is a lock and key .

Rather than explaining one’s lack of having a partner by blaming yourself or  demeaning your own self worth or desirability, a better way to conceptualize  and understand your situation.  Instead of thinking of yourself as simply undesirable  or lacking in some essential relationship element , imagine that finding a mate is a lot like having a key that needs to fit into the right lock.  Just because a given key doesn’t turn the tumbler in a given lock doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with either the lock or the key.  It may mean that the key is not the right one for the lock and vice versa.   In some sense , (and I apologize for the possible lasciviousness of  image here ) finding a partner is like finding a lock that fits your key.

The Importance of Hope  When approached from the “lock and key” point of view, not having romantic success is not seen as failure but simply that the key did not fit the lock. Believing  that the right lock will come a long, what is needed to cope is patience and working on  things that you can control (See item above).   However, fundamental to this approach is having hope .  If you are so discouraged by bad experiences that you have lost hope or have given up, you may be suffering from depression which needs to be professionally addressed. The good news is that, with a little therapy and/or medication, things won’t appear as gloomy as they do now and that hope will reappear.  With a healthier outlook, your odds for finding a match will improve immeasurably.

Ask yourself : What are you doing or not doing that contributes to your single situation ?  The difficulty and mystery of finding someone special not withstanding, there is a lot that a person can do to influence his or her odds of find a special relationship. So if you are lonely and would like to have an intimate  relationship, it is important to take an honest look at your self and assess what you are doing or not doing that is holding you back. For example: Have you isolated yourself from friends and family ?   Do you pass up opportunities and activities where you might meet new people?  Do you attend  to self-care needs like sleep, exercise and having a  good work /personal life balance ?

Finally, are you overly anxious or depressed? If so, seeking professional help can make a huge difference not only in your mood but in your social success.

If your are alone and Valentine’s Day is difficult for you, are not alone. That said, if you are able and willing to put in the effort, there is a lot that you can do to change your situation . Perhaps this day can be the day that you decide to make changes in your life which will lead you to finding love.

Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC                2 14 2021 .

Image attribution and acknowledgement :

How to Know When It’s Time to Break Up With Someone You Love | Time