By Phyllis Picklesimer
Media/Communications Specialist, University of Illinois College of ACES News and Public Affairs
URBANA, Ill. — As Feb. 14 approaches, singles may dread the thought of a day geared toward couples celebrating their love and relationships. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be disheartening for those who are single by choice or by chance, said Chelsey Byers, a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.
“First of all, you’re not alone,” Byers said. “Single-person households are the fastest-growing living situation in the United States, with 44 percent of today’s American adults unmarried compared to 36 percent in 1970.”
Byers said there are many reasons people are single. Some people choose to be single; others are single because of the death of a partner or divorce; and some people would like to be in a partnership but are not currently in one. Valentine’s Day could be tougher if you’ve lost your partner or would like to find a partner, she said.
“Two healthy ways to cope with the day are to lessen the likelihood that you’ll feel lonely and increase your social support,” she said. “Loneliness is one of the biggest difficulties that single persons report, but being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely.”
Loneliness can be defined as feeling unattached or isolated when you don’t want to feel that way. When you feel lonely, it often involves feeling that you don’t belong or missing intimacy with others, she noted.
“People who feel lonely sometimes seek ways to fill the void they are feeling,” Byers said. “Often, these outlets involve unhealthy choices; single people may sleep too much, overwork, overuse alcohol or drugs, or make other poor choices, such as entering into an intimate relationship too quickly.”
According to Byers, these choices may bring temporary relief or feelings of fulfillment, but those feelings are fleeting. Holidays can make loneliness even harder, and Valentine’s Day could pack an extra punch, especially if your friends or co-workers are receiving gifts from their loved ones.
“As Valentine’s Day approaches, get into a positive frame of mind and make plans to do something enjoyable, an activity you can look forward to,” she said.
First of all, don’t look back to an old relationship, Byers said. “What you long for no longer exists. Look forward and think of how you have grown since that relationship. Focus on your positive attributes,” she said.
Second, let go of any self-generated ideas of what it means to be single. Embrace your life and learn how to feel complete on your own. “Self-confidence and self-respect are attractive qualities in a person,” Byers said. “Let go of the notion that your happiness depends on someone else. You can make your life wonderful.”
Finally, Valentine’s Day can be a day to celebrate a range of relationships, including the ones you have with yourself, your children, other family members, and friends, she said.
“Or, you could make the day special by pampering yourself or taking the time to do something that you’ve been wanting to do,” she said.
Increasing your social support system is very important, said the educator. “Celebrate your friendships, or if you’re a single parent, the bond you have with your children,” Byers said. “Plan to have a dinner party or order in pizza and watch a movie. Instead of spending Valentine’s Day alone, surround yourself with the people you love and those who love you.”
Just remember that attitude is everything, she said. “Don’t forget to count your haves instead of your have-nots,” she concluded.
From the Feb. 8-14, 2012, issue