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Our mental health expert, Dr. George Tsimploulis shares insights on celebrating (and surviving) Valentine's day.
Valentine’s day, 1991: the iconic thriller 'Silence of the Lambs' is released in cinemas in the United States to a huge opening night at the box office, by far the biggest draw in theatres that day. Ironic? Not necessarily, if one goes past the surface of things.
While celebrated worldwide in different ways across different cultures and religions, the common characteristic of Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love. That, and the fact that nowhere is it a public holiday.
In the west, Valentine’s Day is highly commercialised leading some to suggest that it’s nothing more than a “Hallmark holiday”, serving only to boost sales of heart-shaped chocolates, pink cards, and rom-coms. Others will appreciate the time out to celebrate that special person in their lives. Some love the excuse for romance, others loathe the reminder of its absence. It all begs the question: do we really need a day dedicated to romantic love?
For those newly in love, each day is Valentine’s Day. So, apologies to the honeymooners, but we’ll leave you and your bountiful happiness out to savour each other, for now. Let’s focus on all the others: long-time lovers, life partners, and those still searching or waiting to find or build love. For you, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity.
Anyone, who’s been a couple for a while, knows that eventually those first months or years of hypomanic romantic bliss eventually gives way to something else.
Love evolves with time and often becomes more… comfortable. But this doesn’t mean that long-lasting couples should not celebrate Valentine’s day. The complacency of routine rules 99% of the year, so, long-lasting relationships definitely benefit from reference points: symbolic dates that highlight the longevity of the couple while nurturing the feeling that their emotional bond is special.
Dedicated days in the year like anniversaries and Valentine’s Day are in fact very important reminders to feel and express gratitude for all that is positive about having your partner in your life.
The 'reluctant' singles
Then there is everyone who is single. Or more precisely, those who have not chosen to be single. For many in this category, lovers’ day can be a tough reminder of unwanted solitude. In fact, Valentine’s day has been linked to para-suicidal behavior (although not to suicide). Interestingly though, it has been shown that people tend to overestimate the negative emotional impact of this day, underestimating the capacity of their own coping strategies.
Here the key for effective coping is a change in mindset. Instead of perceiving Valentine’s Day as a reminder of one’s loneliness, it can be taken as a general celebration of love, both platonic and romantic.
In the end, perhaps Valentine’s Day is best taken not only for what it is - a reminder of romantic love for those who have it - but what it can be: an opportunity to find love for those in search, or a great excuse to spend quality time with those near and dear to you. So, find some company, share a meal, then maybe head to the cinema for a cheesy romantic comedy… or a violent thriller!