How to avoid the “ache-y, break-y heart” of disappointment  By Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker


Dateline:  Any town.  Five-thirty p.m., Valentine’s Day, and he’s read every card in the pharmacy.  In his hand are a box of chocolates and a balloon with the words “MARRY ME” written in little hearts.  She exchanged the tie for a wallet and matching cell phone case and then ordered a gift card online to his favorite store—the wallet and case just didn’t seem enough, but she had to have something to give him that night.  After all, he made reservations at The Restaurant.

It’s February, Valentine’s Day month where Cupid obligates us to find the right card, gift or romantic experience—without getting stressed.  He ditches the chocolates.  She thinks she needs to lose ten pounds.  What was he thinking?

We tell ourselves that Valentine’s Day is a “fake” holiday, and the real beneficiaries are the candy, lingerie, jewelry and greeting card companies. But Cupid is stronger.  Our stress levels increase, sweat breaks out across our brow, our heart races as cortisol levels in the blood rise and our thinking gets fuzzier.

If you’re unhappy, serotonin levels dip and you feel lonely and disappointed.  Your tummy churns, your chest feels as though an elephant is sitting on it, and you want to pull up the covers and watch a tear-jerker while scraping the last streak of ice cream from the container. If you’re expecting your partner to fall in love, have sex or say yes to your proposal, then you’re hormones become a rollercoaster ride of elation and anxiety.

Valentine’s Day can be wonderful. Here are some stress-buster tips to make the holiday work for you.

1. Mind-reading and surprises are not signs of love.  Many partners expect the hottest sex yet or the best gifts of all times as proof of how much they are valued.  A woman is disappointed because the necklace her boyfriend bought her has pink stones.  She hates pink, didn’t he know that? Surprises can disappoint, too. When a man returns home from work and opens his front door to “Surprise!” from his friends and family, he wants to walk out because he made plans to go to the restaurant where he and his wife had their first date.  Better solutions are not to use surprises at all or give each other a list of things that you would like.

2. Expensive gifts, hard-to-find tickets and reservations at The Restaurant are also not signs of love.  It’s often easier to give things rather than gifts of the self.  Write hand-written notes about why you love each other.  Give him a home-made coupon for your oh-so special massage or his favorite meal from your secret recipe. The goal of Valentine’s Day is to feel appreciated and desired—and to make your partner feel that way.
3. You don’t owe a person sex just because money was spent on you. Being disingenuous doesn’t help a relationship.
4. Get realistic about what to expect if you are in the early stages of your relationship.  Valentine’s Day is rarely a good idea for a first date. Candlelight dinner at the corner table cannot create romance.  Happy couples say they often feel romantic just hanging out together.
5. Don’t spend too much money, especially if your finances are limited.  Watch a movie, get some take out, give each other back rubs or foot massages.
6. Do fun, healthy activities together.  Go sled-riding or ice-skating.  Walk on the beach, go for a brisk walk, bike ride or bake oatmeal raisin cookies.  Because these activities require physical energy and teamwork, they can raise dopamine levels, provide a feeling of well-being and strengthen the immune system. Have a party of your best friends and ask each person to bring a healthy dish.
7. Laugh together.  Watch funny movies. Laughter truly is the best medicine. It arouses the brain, increases the hormone oxytocin and makes you feel closer, cuddlier and more vital.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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