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Being Someone’s Valentine (Even if it’s Your Own)

by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

Each of us has certain expectations and obligations we must fulfill in our lives. As a person who claims to be an expert in human relationships, one of the expectations that I must meet is that every February I am obligated to write something about Valentine’s Day.

I find this task rather challenging. When I write articles, I always try to include everyone. Valentine’s Day, however, is not an inclusive event. How we feel about (and experience) Valentine’s Day depends entirely on whether or not we happen to be in a romantic relationship at the time.

When couples read articles about Valentine’s Day, they expect to learn about how to spice up their love life or where to find unique and memorable gift. I can only guess about what singles expect when they read articles about Valentine’s Day, because I can’t think of a single article about Valentine’s Day that even acknowledges the possibility that everyone in the world isn’t happily partnered.

If you’re single, please keep reading: This may be the first article ever written on Valentine’s Day that actually speaks to you. If you’re in a romantic relationship, keep reading, as well: You’re covered here, too.

I’m personally of two minds about Valentine’s Day. It is not my favorite holiday by any stretch of the imagination.

Let me start with the good. I’m a very big fan of romance. I think romance is one of the things that makes life worth living, and therefore I completely support anything that encourages us to set aside some time to be romantic with our partners. Of course, I think we’d all be a lot happier if we spent more than one day a year thinking about how to keep romance alive, but one day a year is at least a start.

That about wraps up the good. Now, I’ll sum up the bad. Valentine’s Day is the hardest day of the year to be single. On Valentine’s Day, instead of the world merely implying that there’s something wrong with being single (which it does the rest of the year), it shouts it from the rooftops. Everywhere you turn on Valentine’s Day, you’ll find some reminder that if you’re not paired up in a romantic relationship, there’s no place for you in the world.

The fear of being single on Valentine’s Day can be overpowering. I know of many people who stayed in a bad romantic relationship and put off breaking up with their partner, just so that they wouldn’t be alone on Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t happen to be in a romantic relationship, the build-up to Valentine’s Day is even more stressful. For many singles, the annual relationship panic begins right around Christmas. New Years Eve is only a week away, and there’s no time to waste if they’re going to find someone to kiss at midnight. While a kiss to start off the New Year is always nice, it’s not an institution. Being single on New Year’s Eve isn’t a catastrophe, but it does start the clock ticking—they only have six short weeks to find a romantic partner so that they won’t be alone on Valentine’s Day.

More of us can relate to this scenario than we’d like to admit.

The fact that Valentine’s Day is also implicitly heterosexist is a minor consideration. Same sex couples can still view Valentine’s Day as a call to romance, even if they don’t see themselves pictured in any of the advertising.

But I didn’t write this article to bash Valentine’s Day. However we happen to feel about Valentine’s Day, it’s a fact or life, at least in the Western culture. The purpose of this article is to learn how to make the most of Valentine’s Day, whether you have a romantic partner or not.


We’re told that Valentine’s Day is all about romance. However, true romance is an endangered species. Valentine’s Day is so commercial it’s practically sponsored by florists, chocolatiers, jewelers, and greeting card manufacturers.

Romance is a tricky thing. Some people find the traditional flowers, candy, champagne, candle-lit dinner for two to be the epitome of romance—and these are certainly tried and true options. But true romance comes from the heart and not from the wallet.

If you’re in a romantic relationship (or would like to start one with someone in particular), let your partner know how you feel about him or her. (And remember that you don’t have to wait until February 14th to share your feelings or create a little romance.)

True romance requires intimacy, vulnerability, honesty—and a tremendous amount of courage. This is why it’s such a rare commodity. True romance requires writing one’s feelings out (longhand—no typing or e-mails are permissible) and declaring one’s true feelings for the object of one’s affection. It’s no wonder that Hallmark does such a booming business around Valentine’s Day. True romance takes a lot of effort.

However you choose to make your romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day, it’s essential that you thoroughly understand your partner’s Validation Language. You must do things that will make your partner feel loved and appreciated—even if those things don’t mean the same thing to you.

I had a young couple attend one of my weekend relationship workshops. At the time, they had been married less than a year. For the first few months of their marriage, the husband would bring home flowers to his wife three or four times a week, in what he thought was a romantic gesture. She, however, would get frustrated and even angry with him for buying her flowers.

The issue was that they had very different Validation Languages. He had a Fire Validation Checklist, and enjoyed making grand gestures, such as buying flowers on impulse to show how much he loved and appreciated his wife. She, on the other hand, had an Earth Validation Checklist, and felt that the flowers were simply a waste of money—they weren’t practical and they would die in a few days. What she would have appreciated as a thoughtful and romantic gesture was a power tool—something they could use to make improvements to their home.

This new understanding completely transformed their relationship. They each understood why the other had reacted in the way that they did. She understood that he meant the flowers to be an expression of affection. He understood that she valued things that endured, and that she would much prefer that he express his love with practical, sensible gifts that would be lasting reminders of his affection.

Speaking a foreign language still takes practice, however! I ran into the husband a few weeks ago, and he was sharing that his wife was feeling very stressed and frustrated at work, and had a series of big meetings coming up. He wanted to do something nice for her, and of course, his first instinct was to have two dozen roses delivered to her office. I gently reminded him that he and his wife spoke different validation languages by asking, “Do you enjoy sleeping on the sofa?”

He wanted to make a romantic gesture and show his love and support. Flowers would definitely not have conveyed that message to her. I suggested that what she would truly appreciate would be a gift certificate to Home Depot, but I also recognized that saying “I love you” with lumber would be too much to ask of him. We compromised on a gift certificate to a high-end department store. He could always pretend that he was giving her a nice piece of jewelry, and she would be thrilled at the chance to buy a new business suit or some expensive (yet practical) shoes.

Even if your partner appreciates the more traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, find some way to make those gifts personal and unique—something that shows that you put thought and consideration into the gift. Gifts from the heart are always more romantic.

And remember to speak your partner’s Validation Language! Fire Validation Checklists appreciate the impulsive, grand gestures—a surprise romantic getaway, for example. Earth Validation Checklists like things that will endure (jewelry is always a nice choice—and it doesn’t have to be expensive). Air Validation Checklists need to hear the words—tell your partner how you feel about them. And Water Validation Checklists care about the emotional and spiritual connections—whatever gift of gesture you make, it must absolutely come from your heart.


Let me say it again: Valentine’s Day is the hardest day of the year to be single.

Being single in our society is no picnic the rest of the year, of course. Practically from the day we were born, we were exposed to the constant barrage of marketing designed to sell us on the idea that the sole purpose of our lives is to meet our heterosexual, monogamous life partner and get married.

Even if the partner that we want doesn’t fit this mold—if we’re attracted to a same-sex partner, if we prefer fidelity to monogamy, or if we have no interest in the institution of marriage—we still carry the fundamental belief that life is about finding a romantic partner.

Whether we haven’t found the right partner yet, or we simply choose to be single, we still have to be aware of our underlying beliefs and the subtle, subliminal messages we receive every day. We must learn to embrace the truth that there is nothing wrong with us—and more importantly, that there is nothing wrong with being single.

If you’re single, don’t let Valentine’s Day pass you by. Take some time to be your own Valentine. Do something nice for yourself. Take a few moments to acknowledge and validate yourself for the amazing and perfect being that you are.

If you deserve chocolate on Valentine’s Day (and who doesn’t?) then treat yourself to some (and remember that the heart-shaped boxes are strictly for amateurs—chocolate that’s worth breaking a diet for never comes in a big red box).

Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that while romantic relationships can certainly be wonderful, that there is nothing wrong with being single.


Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


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