I’m pretty sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say, I’ve felt disappointed before about how certain holidays were handled. Specifically, the ones that might have celebrated me, just a little. Birthdays are a biggie, and since becoming a mom, so is that special day in May. This time of year, of course, we can’t ignore the big pink and red elephant in the room: Valentine’s Day. If you have never experienced disappointment on one of these days, well then I am truly happy for you! I would love to compare notes on what went well. For those who know what I am talking about though, I hope that whether you are partnered or single, you find something useful in these tips.

Tip #1: Communicate

I know, I know–it’s a no-brainer, right? Just hear me out though. There are some pretty strong cultural messages floating around, and if we’re not careful they can set us up for unrealistic expectations. “My partner should surprise me, otherwise it isn’t as meaningful,” or “My partner should know what I want, or else they’re not really paying attention to me.” Sound familiar? Woof. Talk about pressure to perform! A running theme with these tips is going to be: Consider what I can control. In a nutshell, you can control your own thoughts and actions, and you cannot control your partner’s thoughts and actions (though hopefully by using this tip, you can influence them). My current favorite visual aid for this is available as a poster here; it’s geared towards kids, but let’s be real–it’s a great reminder for adults too!

If you have a vision in mind for that special day, talk to your partner about it. A successful conversation around this will reduce stress for both partners while also leveling up your communication skills. Being clear and explicit about wanting to be surprised with candles and rose petals on a freshly-made bed is not unsexy–if anything, it ensures you’re both on the same page for later.

Tip #2: Do-It-Yourself

This one is for everyone–single, partnered, whatever. It can be enjoyed alone, with a partner, or even with a friend. Treat yourself, and get in on those good feelings. If you want it, why wait for someone else to make it happen, or deny yourself the pleasure if you do not have someone else to “do it for you”? Get those flowers, hand-dip your own strawberries in chocolate, and practice some self-love by penning yourself a love note. Remember, this is within your control. Full disclosure: I recently ordered a whole set of feelings-based posters (here) for my kiddo, and in doing so came across another quote which I feel compelled to share here. It appears to have originated with one Jonatan Mårtensson:
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.”
Feelings are going to come up for you, and just consider this your gentle reminder that you can have some control over how much they influence you, too.

Tip #3: Be Authentic to You

The power of suggestion is real, and it can be hard to ignore the colorful store displays and other messages around these days. Quite possibly the best thing you can do for yourself is step back and look inside–what do you really want? What about this feels most important to you? What is your love language, and what is it really asking for today?

I’ll go first. Here is an idea of what my Valentine’s season looks like this year. My partner and I are coming up on nine years together, and we’ve learned a thing or two during that time. We started talking about Valentine’s day a week in advance. Between my training, school, parenting, and my partner’s responsibilities, we won’t be getting any special time to ourselves this Valentine’s Day. Instead, we took time to let each other know how much we care for one another, and we acknowledged that we really love the idea of celebrating together but neither of us has the energy to do much of anything. Knowing what I love to receive from him most, I requested that he take some time to write me a nice card (and I learned from my last birthday to specifically ask that he take time to do this and not rush it!). Knowing what he likes to receive, I plan to pick up some of his favorite treats, since he’s the one with the sweet tooth, and to be especially physically affectionate. Satisfying my need for words of affirmation and his need for physical touch is what really makes the day authentic to us.

Disclaimer: I refer to “Mother’s Day” (or as I also like to think of it, Mothers’ Day) as what it has become for many (a day in which a certain parent may feel let down by their partner and/or children). The presence of the word “mother” in this case is not intended to exclude parents who may identify with that feeling, but do not identify with the label “mother”.