Valentine’s day can suck. First of all February is the worst month. The weather is usually pretty dreary, your still paying off bills from the holidays, not to mention you are probably your chubbiest. So the idea of focusing on romance, even in a solid relationship, can often feel tedious and obligatory. Most marriages flow through good times and not-so-good times, and there may be years where February 14th rolls around and you just aren’t feeling it. Unfortunately, the holiday becomes some kind of litmus test of how your love life holds up. It becomes an unnecessary expense, and if we are honest, a silly pressure put on men to prove their love to us. Or vice-versa. How can we get a fresh perspective on a holiday that can seem as stale as an old box of mystery chocolates?

What if instead, we focused on love in all its varied forms? The love for a grandparent, the love for our best friend, the love for our dog? We can really get the kids more involved when it becomes a holiday focusing on being open hearted and giving with our love to others.  When we take ourselves out of the mind frame of romantic love, which tends to be much more conditional and short sided, we can open up to the universal flow of love, at a time when the skies are gray, our butts feels big and our bank accounts smaller.

It is possible to switch the energy to unconditional, more inclusive love, rather than simply focusing on romantic love. In focusing on love in a more grateful way, we can share more and expect less. By finding new ways to give love and express love to all around you, it can become a beautiful way of shaking off the frost of winter and readying ourselves for the joy of spring. Concentrate on love in all its forms. An attitude of gratitude can help us appreciate even the crappiest floral bouquet from the grocery store by focusing on all the good things we have all year round.

Focus on giving not getting. It is true, we get what we give, so feel free to lavish those you love with homemade treats, a night out, a mom and kid day spent doing their favorite things or a massage for a stressed out friend. Give yourself the opportunity to share your love in new and creative ways. Sure you can indulge your romantic partner by splurging on lingerie and granting a one time fantasy request for Valentine’s day. But trying too hard to oblige just because the calendar sets an arbitrary date for romance may feel forced and inauthentic. Find a real way to connect and then you may be more apt to want to explore fantasies all year long.

Why not be a rebel and eschew tradition by going out with your partner any other night for a romantic dinner? But whatever you do, do not be a sucker for the ridiculous waits, rapid table turn over and over-priced price-fix menus at most restaurants on February 14th. We can get so formulaic in our thinking that we feel such insane pressure to make that night perfect. How silly! Choose your night and go to your favorite restaurant on a slow Monday where the waiters won’t be hustling you through your molten chocolate cake to fulfill the next pissed off couple.

If you are single on Valentine’s Day and the barrage of hearts, candy and pink doilies are grating on your worn down heart: celebrate yourself. It may sound lame but so is indulging in self pity. Do something that you enjoy. Go out with a friend to a great meal. Schedule a day for pure pleasure: take a hike, go to the beach, get a deep massage. Give yourself care and love. We need to practice loving ourselves in order to eventually,love someone else.

If this year, Valentine’s day just seems like a full-on pain in the ass, you can choose to not celebrate it at all! Go on a Valentine’s day hiatus. Give yourself permission to break from tradition and prescribed timelines and honor what feels authentic. Often times, when we step away from something we may come back to it in a year or two with renewed vigor and optimism. Who knows, by taking a break from a holiday that has lost its meaning, in time, you may find a fresh perspective about ways to celebrate love.

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