I don’t know why you feel like your relationship sucks this Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if this is just a really hard season you need to push through to get to wonderful, connected intimacy on the other side or if this is a relationship where you need to cut your losses and move on. I don’t know, but I trust your best friend and your mom probably have an opinion and maybe it’s worth listening to. But for whatever reason you find yourself in a frustrating situation, just know I get it and I’m not here to judge. Sometimes leaving isn’t as easy as it seems and the problems that need fixing just haven’t been fixed yet. It’s okay. I’m not here to tell you how to work through all those things, I’m just here to pep talk you through what just might be the hardest day of the year.

1) Don’t let comparisons get you down. Remember that scene in “The Office” where Phyllis kept getting bouquet after bouquet from her new love and Pam was infuriated because her fiancé didn’t seem to be doing anything for her? We are all Pams this Valentine’s Day. Could it be our Jim is just around the corner? Or is it that Roy is capable of SO MUCH MORE but we’ve settled into an unhealthy rut? Either way, my advice is to limit your exposure to Phyllises if at all possible. This may not be the day to read and reread all the loving status updates on social media or linger on the pictures of candlelit dinners on Instagram. Just remind yourself that lots of people post carefully curated images that have little to do with the reality of their relationship. You can’t make assumptions based on that little snapshot. Or just go buy yourself a dozen roses, post it everywhere #blessed and #lovehim and move on.

2) Today is a great day to practice your self-care skills. Invest some extra time in looking beautiful just because it makes you feel better. Get that manicure. Buy yourself the candy YOU like, not those garbage chocolate flavored chocolates the drugstore sells. Take a nap, take a bath, do a Netflix binge– opt out of the hyper romanticized craziness of today and show a little love to yourself instead.

3) Maybe this is the year to organize a Galentine’s celebration for you and your favorite ladies. What’s Galentine’s Day, you ask? In the immortal words of Leslie Knope, “Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” If your relationship is feeling like a downer, go spend some time with the ladies who help you feel joyful. Build each other up. Eat the foods you like. Talk about the stuff you’re interested in. Enjoy some time where you aren’t worrying about your relationship.

4) Work to keep your expectations low this Valentine’s Day. Can it be enough if he makes you the coffee, kisses you and says, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” and that’s it? Let’s not buy into the commercialism of this day that says it only counts if it cost a bunch of money. So many times our men want to make us happy and avoid major drama, but we put up these relational obstacle courses to determine how much they care about us. Let’s quit doing that. We either need to clearly communicate what we want and expect or we need to stop wanting and expecting so much.

5) Take a risk. Maybe his idea of romance and your idea of romance are two separate things and there’s already so much tension between you that neither of you wants to put themselves out there by communicating what you want. These are scary times. These are the nights you go to sleep crying because this is just too hard and you feel unappreciated and unloved. Maybe today is the day to take the first step. Could you send him a sweet text during the day? Could you acknowledge how hard things are, but how badly you want them to be better? Could you buy him the giant teddy bear or singing telegram and risk making a fool out of yourself in the hope that he sees the heart underneath? Is it your own stubbornness standing between you and a happy Valentine’s Day? If you don’t take the risk, you might not know.

6) Here’s an idea of how to invest some money into something this Valentine’s Day that could actually help your relationship:  Get some counseling. Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey! We’re going to see a therapist and talk about our problems. Counseling is hard. It’s painful and frustrating and it can be like ripping the scab off an old wound and then the infection starts draining and it’s like one of those Dr. Pimple Popper videos you can’t look away from but also makes you want to vomit. Excited to go yet? But it might also be the only way to get to the heart of your stuff so you can get the healing you need. It’s like having a referee to help you fight more fairly. Or having a scientist run the tests and identify the disease and help you figure out how to cure it. If you’re in this crappy relationship for the long haul, counseling is definitely worth it and might be a really good step towards making it less of a crappy relationship.

7) Leave a little room for grief on Valentine’s Day. Your relationship isn’t what you hoped it would be. It’s okay to be sad about that. Shoving those feelings down just makes them come out sideways as anger at other people. Or it makes you eat a full pizza on your own. . . not that I’m saying this from experience or anything. . . Allowing yourself to express hard emotions to a good friend, your mom, your therapist or maybe even to your spouse isn’t a bad thing. Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be a day you pretend your relationship is something it isn’t. If it’s hard, then let’s work to make peace with the hard.

I’m hopeful that we can all get through this Valentine’s Day with a minimum of wine glasses thrown at the wall or Alanis Morissette on repeat. If we can just get through this year and take some of these lessons into the next year, maybe next Valentine’s Day will be exactly what we hoped it would be. And even more than that, maybe next year our relationships won’t be as sucky as they are today. That would be better than all the chocolates, flowers and jewelry the world has ever made. 

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