Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day can be fun for some people and painful for others. If you’re in the midst of a budding romance or deeply in love with your soulmate of 30 years, it can be a sweet time of celebration. But if your Valentine has never shown up, your marriage is strained, or you have lost your spouse to divorce or death, the day is a vivid reminder of what you’re missing.
If you’re in the latter category, here are a few pointers for surviving Valentine’s Day. (You folks who are love-struck, don’t tune out, because some “sensitivity” tips for you will follow.)
Survival Tips for Singles:
1. Don’t base your lovability on romance. Remember that you are loved – and loveable, whether or not you have a “significant other.” Your lovability is not measured by whether you receive a valentine’s card, a bouquet, or an invitation to a candlelight dinner. It’s based first and foremost on the fact that God loves you. His love is proven, boundless and never-failing. As the early Christian theologian Augustine described, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
2. Celebrate multiple dimensions of love. Love is much more than romance. The Bible uses at least four different Greek terms for love. “Eros” is usually associated with romantic attraction. But there is also Agape (selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love), Storge (familial love, steady and sure), and Phileo (a deep sense of connection between friends). Take time to reflect on for the Agape, Storge and Phileo forms of love in your life.
3. Demonstrate love. Love is a verb! Rather than waiting to “receive” love, give it! Reach out to others who might be feeling lonely. Send a note of encouragement, give them a call, or initiate a get-together. Help someone in need. When we show love through our actions, our hearts become fuller and we live out John 13:34, “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
4. Avoid social media and Hallmark movies. Let’s face it, it doesn’t help to subject yourself to a barrage of idealized images of romance on Facebook and television – especially during a sensitive time like Valentine’s Day. Why make yourself feel worse? Turn your focus instead to other activities or hobbies, and spend some time giving thanks for what you do have.
5. Be happy for others. (This is a tough one.) You can’t avoid all reminders of Valentine’s Day, so when the red roses pass your office and end up on someone else’s desk, do your best to celebrate with your co-worker. Scripture reminds us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” Romans 12:15 (NIV). When we choose to be happy for the blessings of others, we ultimately increase our own joy.
Okay, those blessed to be in a healthy romantic relationship, it’s your turn.
Sensitivity Tips for Love Birds
1. Increase your awareness. Be mindful that Valentine’s Day is a tough holiday for many people. Some just want to “get through it” and move on. While you’re picking out the perfect card or planning a romantic night out for your honey, keep in mind that not everyone gets that privilege.
2. Don’t flaunt your love life. Before you gush about your loved one on social media or elsewhere, think about how it might make others feel. For some, seeing photos and hearing you tell why your mate is so wonderful is painful. For the sake of others, consider keeping your romantic proclamations more private. Romans 15:1 (while not specifically referring to this topic) reminds us that “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive . . . We must not just please ourselves.”
3. Embrace a broader view of Valentine’s Day. Think of the holiday as more than a “couples” celebration. Take time to tell others in your life how much you care about them, especially friends and family who don’t have a romantic partner. One of my dearest married friends mails me a Valentine’s Card every year, reminding me how much she values our relationship. Her thoughtfulness always touches my heart.
4. Be inclusive. While couples should definitely carve out exclusive time for one another, some Valentine’s Day activities should cast a broader net. In particular, churches should consider making their Valentine events inclusive. Years ago I went to a party that was advertised as open to everyone, but the main activity turned out to be a “Match game” for couples only! In contrast, another church Valentines Dinner treated each guest like royalty and made everyone feel included.
5. Think before you speak. A few days ago, someone wished me a “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and then followed with, “Oh wait, you don’t have anyone to celebrate it with.” While I don’t think the person intended to hurt me, the careless remark cut deeply. Be mindful of people’s feelings when bringing up Valentine’s Day. As a general rule, avoid pointing out someone’s single status, especially during a holiday that is couples-focused.
Whether you are in a state of romantic euphoria, unequivocally single, or somewhere in-between this Valentine’s Day, I hope these tips will help you graciously navigate the holiday. Above all, let’s keep our focus on the True Source of love and endeavor to live out John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
A selection of Bible verses on God’s love
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:45 (NLT)
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” 1 John 4:9-11 (NLT)
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39 (NLT)