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Monday, February 11, 2013

Motivational Mondays: How to Avoid Valentine's Day Blues

Thought for the Day: Whether you have a Valentine or not, many people struggle with Valentine's Day blues. Jon Stewart used this fact to poke fun when he said, "Happy Valentine's Day! And if this is news to you, my guess is you're probably alone." Today's post will offer some ways to avoid the depressive symptoms that may arise when things are not going the way you hoped for on Valentine's Day. As a psychologist, I have helped clients deal with all the challenges of relationships. Personally, after going through a divorce many years ago, I gave a lot of thought to the challenges of being single & meeting partners in a world filled with couples. Today, I am sharing some of the insights I learned over the years to keep from letting Valentine's Day get you down. As always, I'd like to hear your reactions, stories & comments. I'd especially love to hear about your worst & best Valentine's Day experiences.

     Sixteen years ago, I could have had a bad case of Valentine's Blues. I had been single for about a year and a half. In addition to my psychology practice, single parenting, writing songs, & dancing as exercise & social networking, I ran a small business helping single dancers find partners. The dance business was a pre-internet based resource for dancers. Although I did not run dances, I decided to try to co-sponsor a dance in NYC on Valentine's Day. In 1977, it fell on the Friday before President's Day. When plans to meet a friend from Texas fell through due to a winter storm warning, I had no other plans for my Big Apple escape. Therefore, I had a long weekend ahead with just the Friday night event. I was staying at my brother & sister-in-law's in Soho, but they were leaving the city Saturday morning.
      The dance Friday night was disappointing & I was beginning to feel a bit down on Saturday morning. However,  I vowed to take advantage of a weekend in the city that never sleeps & not to slip into the Valentine blues. I searched the Village Voice & the New York Times for activities. I chose a number of things that I knew would make it an enjoyable weekend. I had a massage in Chinatown, lunch in Soho, & a matinee of the movie Shine (see video clip from the Oscar winning performance by Geoffrey Rush), at the Angelica Film Center. I picked up dinner at one of the grocers near Greene Street & ate at my brother's loft. For the evening, I chose a Beau Soleil concert at Tramps (which closed in 2001). Since the band plays Cajun dance music, (in 1986 they were featured in the movie, The Big Easy) I hoped I would be able to dance. Just in case, I did not get to dance, I chose a late ballroom dance event for after the concert.

My daytime activities were great. When the evening started, I was not sure I had picked well. I was seated at a small table with an unhappily married woman who confided that she was on a blind date. Her date's muscular tattooed body was a bit intimidating. However, I like Cajun music & even had a tape of a song I co-wrote called, The Zydeco Swing, in my purse. I was hoping I would find a way to get the tape to Michael Doucet, the leader of the band (They played backup for Mary Chapin Carpenter on the crossover country hit, Down at the Twist & Shout). My table mate asked me to join her on the dance floor since she was a bit uncomfortable with her escort! On the floor, we stood near a small group of friends, 2 men in wheel chairs with their girl friends & their friend, Jerry, who was there without a date. Jerry & I began talking & dancing. He was a NYC special education teacher & a good dancer (I later learned that he had never done Cajun dancing & simply picked up the 2-step naturally that night.).  One of Jerry's friends, Mark, was a DJ for a small Long Island folk & blues radio program. Mark was lined up to interview Michael Doucet, during the band's break! Jerry asked him & Mark agreed to give my tape to the band leader! Jerry & I stayed for the 2nd set after his friends left. After the concert, Jerry walked me back to Soho where we had a 3 AM breakfast at Lucky Strike. Little did we know it was our lucky strike & we have been together ever since.

So, what are the lessons you can learn from my Valentine's Day experience. I was lucky, but the lessons apply whether you meet someone or not. If you are single, often you will meet someone when you least expect it. Here are some tips: 1) Make plans to do things you enjoy. Whatever happens, if you choose well, you will have a great time. You are also more likely to meet people with similar interests.
2) Speak with both men & women. Meeting new friends is always helpful. Having friends to go out to events with when you do not have a date, can be a huge asset. They may have, siblings, cousins or friends for you to meet. If you like them, you may like their friends as well.
3) Don't be afraid to go by yourself to events. Celebrate your freedom to do whatever you feel like doing without having to consider anyone else. You can meet someone anywhere & when you are alone, you are more likely to speak with & be open to meeting new people. Choose events where people might interact, museum talks, dances, or a class.
4) This year it's easy to find a dance. All week you can sign up for One Billion Rising to raise awareness & stop violence against women. Events are happening all over the world (see my #FF Friday's Fabulous Finds post for details). Women & men, who care about women, will be dancing all week!
5) Starbucks has offered a buy one get one free coupon till 2/14/2013. Get a coupon & offer to share it with someone at Starbucks. You never know who you might meet over a free cup of coffee!

Use this as an opportunity to repair things
If you are in a relationship, Valentine's Day holds different challenges. If you are getting along, the biggest danger lies in disappointments due to unspoken expectations. Take some time to talk about & plan your Valentine's Day. Do you hope for gifts or cards as part of your holiday? Do you want to be surprised or will you be disappointed if your partner's plans are less than you expect. No matter how long you have been together, your partner cannot read your mind. Take some time to discuss what you want your plans to include.

If your relationship has been rocky over the last few months, Valentine's Day can be even more challenging. However, it can also be an opportunity for a peace offering. Write a heartfelt letter expressing your wish to improve your relationship starting with Valentine's Day. Plan a getaway & surprise your partner. Visit the place you met or frequented when you were dating.

Now it's your turn please share your best &/or worst Valentine's Day stories.  Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

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