Too much pressure? Why experts suggest looking within this Valentine's Day

·2 min read
Experts say it's important to have a conversation about expectations ahead of Feb. 14.  (Credit: Getty Images - image credit)
Experts say it's important to have a conversation about expectations ahead of Feb. 14. (Credit: Getty Images - image credit)

Valentine's Day has historically been a special day to celebrate love and romance — but the pressure to deliver fairytale perfection either through candy, flowers or an expensive dinner reservation has left many people with the urge to duck and cover until the day passes.

How did the most romantic of holidays become mired in social pressures and expectations that often leave couples striving for the impossible — and single people feeling left out?

"For some people it's lovely, for some people it's terrible," said Vancouver-based clinical counsellor Kaitlin Harvey.

"The question is, which one are you?"

Have a conversation

Harvey says one way to diffuse the pressure as the days tick closer to Feb. 14 is to simply have a conversation with your partner about expectations.

"Just ask, 'Hey, what do you want to do for Valentine's Day?'" she said.

"Instead of building up some expectation in your head that you want your partner to surprise you with."

Carrie Jenkins, a professor at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in philosophy, says it's important to keep a critical eye on celebrations like Valentine's Day, because it only focuses on one kind of love story: romantic love, not love of friends or family, which she says are of equal value.

"Love, just like gender, is actually much more complicated and comes in a lot more varieties than the fairy tale narrative suggests," she said.

So instead of putting pressure on ourselves to live up to the hype, Jenkins suggests we use Valentine's Day as a chance to ask ourselves what love really means, what we truly want and need from a partner, and whether we want a partner at all.

Having those kinds of conversations, however, can be difficult if they haven't already become routine in the relationship, but Harvey says they are important.

"You're going to have a hard time walking through life with your partner if you don't start asking some of those deeper questions," she said.

Ose Irete/CBC
Ose Irete/CBC

Shan Boodram, a sex and relationship expert with dating app Bumble, says more people during the pandemic have chosen to be 'consciously single', and that this has transformed Valentine's Day into what it should have always been about: simply love.

"People who used to be not coupled during this holiday used to have to go into hiding and pretend they didn't exist because this was a day for lovers and couples," she said.

Even if a person isn't in a romantic relationship, Boodram says love can come from self, friends or family and are all worthy of celebration come Feb. 14.

"If we want to correct what we hate most about Valentine's Day, we have to start being vocal, honest and authentic with what is going to bring us joy," she said.