I once dated a guy who referred to Valentine’s Day as a conspiracy between a certain greeting card company and the floral industry. Perhaps he was forewarning me to not expect an October surprise for the sweetest day, but what he said also made sense.

According to the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, 54.8 percent of consumers will celebrate Valentine’s Day, spending an average of  $146.84 on flowers, jewelry, candy, apparel and more, up from $142.31 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $19.7 billion.

My husband left in October, the beginning of the kiss, cuddle and cocooning season… a time when even the most diehard bachelors and bachelorettes were settling down for a long winter’s romantic hug.  After he left, I had to purge my playlist of any songs sounding even the slightest bit romantic or sultry and resign myself to an endless loop of news and talk radio.  Anything to escape my brain’s preoccupation with Cupid and all his “doings.”

My first post-breakup Valentine’s Day came four months after my husband left and far too soon for me to establish a survival strategy.  By the time my second Valentine’s Day rolled around, I had a plan.  My suggestions for the VDay survivor in all of us:

  1. Remind yourself that Valentine’s Day will be here and gone with the blink of an eye and resist the urge to make this 24 hour period a referendum on whether or not you’ll ever find love again.  After all, it’s just a Day.  Twenty-four hours.  One thousand four hundred and forty minutes.   With just a little effort, I found it possible to view the Day as a “blip on the radar screen.”  In fact, the hardest part of Valentine’s Day was where to hide from the sugar cookies and heart-shaped chocolates that were calling my name.  That a leading retailer’s valentine merchandise was on prominent display on Christmas eve is, for me, proof positive of how fleeting the holiday can be.  
  2. Spend some time… replay the tape.  With brutal honesty about your marriage, you may gain a deeper appreciation for that fact that it’s in your past.  I learned to stop romanticizing the relationship I’d lost.  I knew (with the help of a therapist) I had to get honest about what my marriage was – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Doing this involved playing back the tape of our relationship repeatedly… but, this time, without a love song soundtrack playing in the background.  It was like watching television with the volume off.  Only then, was I able to see the discrepancy between what my marriage was and what I wanted to believe.  Without the music, I realized that it really didn’t look anything like the type of marriage I wanted or the one I’d choose again, given the chance.
  3. Hold on to your love songs as a soundtrack to the relationship you want in your future and “throw out” the notion that this marriage was the last time you’ll ever hear them. I refused to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  I learned it was possible to throw out the pain and lack of fulfillment I’d bathed in for the final years of my marriage, yet hold on to my expectations for a loving marriage and supportive spouse. To quote my girlfriend Diedre, There’s nothing wrong with the institution of marriage… it’s the people.  I accepted that marriage had ended, but not my ability to be loved, respected and cared for by someone.
  4. Find and harness the other love and lovers in your life.  I decided to use Valentine’s Day (and, Sweetest Day) as an opportunity to consume the other healthy loving relationships in my life.  I have a BFF in Chicago who has really taught me about lifelong love and enduring friendship.  Tracy never misses an opportunity to send a little card or note through the mail – even when a simple text would be so much more convenient.  Getting a Valentine’s Day card from her was no substitute for the romance missing in my life, but they sure made me feel loved.  They make me feel thought of, cared for.  For those with children, you are but one fistful of wilted dandelions and a sticky chocolate kiss away from what Valentine’s Day should really be about.  Love that is warm, fuzzy, genuinely and unquestionably yours.
  5. Get the hell off PINTEREST, unless you’re planning a party or really, truly hoping to create that one-of-a-kind gift.  For me, Pinterest – the place of candy coated, glitter-glued romantic lighting made from hula-hoops and strings of icicle Christmas lights – only led to sleepless nights and feelings of inadequacy.  I loved Pinterest for inspiring my creative juices, but as the holiday approached I found myself in the wee hours of the morning, wandering aimlessly across the gazillion Valentine’s Day boards created by people who had both time – and, possibly a date, when I had neither.  

Hang in there and know that it all gets better with time.  Give time, time.

Author Denise Banks-Wilson is an experienced divorce educator and family mediator with over ten years experience helping parents to navigate their children across the emotional minefield of divorce. As lead educator with the Parent Place of Springfield, she designed the Positive coParenting curricula for the court mandated parenting class and continues to serve as lead facilitator. Over 4,000 parents have attended her class since 2006. Denise received her certificate in divorce and family mediation from Northwestern University and has conducted over 250 mediations since 2012. She is the owner of Banks Mediation, LLC, a divorce and family mediation firm located in Maryville, Illinois. Denise is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and currently serves as Treasurer for the Mediation Council of Illinois. http://www.banksmediation.com