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UF/IFAS researcher says some people are single on Valentine’s Day and just fine with it

A woman paddleboards in Biscayne Bay.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the most hyped romantic day of the year fast approaching, some people who are single are perfectly happy that way – and not buying into the all the ads, stuffed animals, candies or cards.

Assistant Professor Victor Harris, an Extension specialist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, said there are ways to short-circuit the “mind traps” that often accompany a day set aside for couples.

“Many people feel like Valentine’s Day is manufactured and that the need to ‘have to be involved in a romantic relationship’ is imposed upon them by the media and the holiday’s specific expectations,” Harris said. “Exposing the hype associated with these expectations and reframing the expectations into expectations that are more realistic are two ways to make it okay to simply ignore the holiday or enjoy it with friends, or choose do something you enjoy, such as working out or reading a good book, without the associated potential for anxiety or guilt.”

Harris said people can avoid the mind traps that can keep them from enjoying Valentine’s Day.  Recognizing these traps is the first step to short-circuiting them. They include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-or-white. If a situation is anything less than perfect, you see it as a total failure;
  • Overgeneralization: You see a single event as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using the words always or never when you think about it;
  • Jumping to conclusions: You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusions;
  • Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are: “I feel guilty [because I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day]. I must be a rotten person.”;
  • “Should” statements: You tell yourself that things ‘should’ be the way you hoped or expected them to be.

Harris cites the popular line, “you complete me,” from the Tom Cruise movie “Jerry Maguire.”

“This expectation is unrealistic because the key to healthy relationships is to first learn how to meet your own needs so you can then help someone else learn how to meet their needs,” Harris said.  “Two people getting together in a relationship, who don’t know how to meet their own needs, is a sure-fire recipe for failure.”

Harris said research in the work, “Developing a healthy self-image,” identified eight categories of needs that we can work on to enjoy and value ourselves before we get involved with someone else in a relationship, including:

  • Feel safe and secure;
  • Develop a positive self-concept;
  • Feel worthwhile (i.e., good self-esteem);
  • Receive the respect of self and others;
  • Develop close real-love relationships;
  • Feel like we belong;
  • Feel competent;
  • And experience growth.

“Once you learn to take care of and nurture yourself, only then can you be in a healthy, positive relationship,” he said. “And it is perfectly fine to be by yourself on Valentine’s Day – or any day of the year.”

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Sources: Victor Harris, 352-273-3523, victorharris@ufl.edu

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