Not in a Romantic Relationship? Shift Valentine's Day Focus to Self-Love, Giving & Joy for All

Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark-inspired “Day of Love (with a big ‘L’),” is when many of us in a relationship spend it looking googly-eyed at our romantic partner over dinner and a bottle of bubbly. There are also the de rigueur gifts exchanged: candy, flowers, lingerie, jewelry, good wine, perfume or a romantic night in a hotel.

But why not aim your bow and arrow in a different direction this year and make the target more inclusive?

Those who aren’t in a romantic relationship may only see red on Feb. 14, and not in a good way. They may feel left out. We posed the question of the holiday’s effect on singles to Jennifer Kelman, a therapist and mental health expert on JustAnswer,

“Valentine's day is often fraught with anxiety and sadness as one may feel the pressure to have a day filled with romance like we see in dramatic rom-coms, even for those in relationships. Valentine's day may strike fear and panic and a swearing off of love. But we can change that…if we change the focus from romance to love, fun and joy, for everyone- regardless of relationship status,” says Kelman. 

We thought, let’s put a different spin on this day of love. Why not look at Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to treat yourself to something special or to make a difference in someone else’s life in the name of love (with a small “l”).

Kelman concurs. “No longer do you need to feel lonely and depressed. Leave the need for romance behind, plan something fun with other like-minded individuals and see how much joy you can bring to yourself or others,” she says. “Maybe even spread this love and joy by doing something different. Grab some friends and volunteer somewhere and create a love, fun and joyous special event for a homeless shelter or a school.” The same feel-good brain chemicals released when you’re in love flood your brain when you do something kind for someone else. It’s the gift that gives back.

We have suggestions how you can “show the love” selflessly and in new ways. Caveat:  Some suggestions are based on the premise that it will be safe to be around others, including strangers, as the omicron variant continues swirling. And, in the name of every kind of love, please wear your masks in a red hue or any color. Also, get boosted and be careful.

Love the environment. Start a project such as recycling. Plant a tree in your yard, in a forest or park through one of the many nonprofits that do so. Trees give back by releasing oxygen in the air and taking in carbon dioxide.

Love the elderly. Knit scarves and gloves for the elderly and on the 14th,  hand them out at an assisted living place or nursing home. Visit a nursing home and chat with the residents, some of whom are lonely and alone. Ask them about their past. Listening to their stories is a gift. Read to someone who has impaired vision. Bring treats. Celebrate life and love and getting older with grace, compassion and wisdom. If you still have older relatives in another city, call them up and chat. Let them do most of the talking.

Love the homebound. Volunteer to distribute meals on wheels. You knock on the door, chat for a minute, make sure the resident is doing okay and hand over a basket of food. It’s a lifeline for some.

Love the technically challenged. If you’re handy with a computer, go into a school or senior center and offer to help teach new skills. If you want to bring along a box of chocolates to hand out do so. It’s another layer of saying, “I love you and you matter,” both personally and digitally.

Love an underserved child. If you work with underserved kids in any way, take a child to lunch, to a museum, the zoo, ballet or concert on Valentine’s Day. Maybe take the child shopping. Set a price limit and let them pick something special. It means so much to show that you care about other children in addition to your own.

Love literature. Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year. Find a wonderful Valentine’s Day children’s book and read it to a class of elementary school kids or to a group at your community library as you spread the love of reading and storytelling. Buy and donate a book to a homeless shelter where there are children.

Love thy neighbor. On Valentine’s Day, pay for someone’s groceries in front of you in line or do the same at a restaurant. Give a server or a store clerk a big tip and draw a heart on the check. Or hand the pharmacy technician who helps you year in and year out with your meds, a thank you card.

Love snail mail. Send a card to a struggling family or a kid you tutor or mentor through the mail. And if you’re in a generous mood, include a gift certificate to buy groceries or school supplies. So many of us love to receive snail mail.

Love your family with a trip or experience. Maybe instead of spending money on yourself to travel to Paris, which is your annual Valentine’s Day ritual, send your parents or kids on a trip of their dreams. Not good timing now? Wait until it’s safe to travel again with an IOU Valentine’s Day card. And tuck some real dollar bills into cards for kids for their piggy banks.

Love sharing. Give your tickets to a sporting event or concert to someone else, perhaps a particularly good shopkeeper or salesperson, server or hair stylist, who cannot afford these tickets and help to make their Valentine’s Day special.

Love yourself.  Indulge. Buy that necklace you’ve been eying. Send yourself flowers or your favorite chocolates. Have a good dinner delivered to your door. Invite your nearest and dearest over, serve good wine and nibbles and stream a favorite rom-com. If alone, take a hot bath with wonderful oils and lotion. Take a long walk or run. Crack open a good book, get into bed and relax. Or, check yourself into a hotel or day spa for one perfect day by enjoying all the amenities.

Love downsizing and donating. Pare down your closets and donate what you no longer wear to a charity or to a “Dress for Success” organization that dresses women looking for work who may be down on their luck or just out of prison and cannot afford business attire.

Love sharing your art. If you paint or play a musical instrument, offer to go to your grandchild’s school on Valentine’s Day and do a mini masterclass incorporating the theme of love in your music or art.

Love a local small business. If you do buy a gift or a card or a bottle of bubbly or nice assortment of cheeses, grapes and nuts, purchase any of them from a small neighborhood business to support it.

Love your community. In lieu of a gift, donate to a charity of your choice. Then stay home and watch a movie such as “Maid” about how difficult life can be. It will make you realize how fortunate you are.

We hope our blogs inspire new ideas and if you have some suggestions, please share.

And from us to you, have a happy, loving, fun-filled Valentine’s Day.

Who is Jennifer Kelman - JustAnswer Mental Health Expert

Kelman has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for more than 30 years and maintains a private practice specializing in relationships, parenting, and children’s mental health issues. She is also a children’s book author having written three books that delicately weave in themes of trust, vulnerability, and hope in her stories. Kelman has lectured extensively around the country and appeared on news and television programs covering a range of issues including relationships, parenting, body-image, eating disorders and children’s mental health. For more information about Kelman, visit

To purchase our book, Not Dead Yet: Rebooting Your Life after 50, click on the link and purchase from Left Bank Books in St. Louis. We will be doing a Left Bank Books signing in St. Louis at the Schlafly Library on Thursday, April 21. Details to come. 

1 comment

  • Mary Lou

    Great reminder of a poignant and important message! Thank you!

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