Some people love Valentine’s Day, some don’t celebrate, and others are indifferent. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, it’s hard to ignore the displays of love you will see on your timeline on that day. If you are someone who doesn’t have a Valentine or recently went through a breakup, it can be difficult not to get sucked into all of the optics. There may also be pressure to feel connected to someone, anyone, which can result in doubling back to an ex, even if the relationship was less than ideal.
“Nostalgia [sometimes] forces us to believe that things could be what they used to be,” says Shandelynn Hillard, a marriage and family therapist and owner of Tea Time Therapy in Houston. “It tells us that we can rekindle what was once good, but it’s not reminding us of the very reasons for the breakup. We tend to get a burst of those small moments that once brought us happiness.”
Even if you and your ex broke up on good terms, it’s still important to remember why you broke up in the first place. Ending a relationship can be a difficult thing to do, so ask yourself whether it’s really worth it to open that can of worms again.
Loneliness can be another reason people reach out to an ex during Valentine’s Day, says Hillard.
“There is something about comfort or the idea of comfort that becomes alluring,” she says. “I believe we begin to live in a dream world that helps us to ignore the red flags. While the brain tends to hold on to negative emotions, the positive emotions can overflow as well. We begin to fall into this dreamlike world and allow our inhibitions to run wild.”
Feeling lonely isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s common, especially during this time of the year. However, allowing loneliness to push you back into a situation that doesn’t serve you can be harmful.
You should also remember that the outcome you desire or fantasize about in that moment may not actually be what you get. You might experience rejection or you could end up in a sticky situationship. On a deeper level, if your text and advances are ignored, that could trigger feelings of abandonment, says Hillard.
“If someone is already in a state of sadness or has feelings of loneliness, reaching out might amplify these thoughts causing further destruction to self-esteem or the idea of self in general,” she says. Hillard adds that if you’ve been doing healing work in areas of self-worth and abandonment, trying to communicate with an ex could cause a setback.
We’ve explored the cons, but is reaching out to your ex always a terrible idea? It depends on your intention and expectations. Hillard suggests being honest with yourself about why you’re reaching out and giving yourself a few days before actually hitting the send button on your love note. In that time, you might have a change of heart about reaching out, or receive the clarity you’re looking for to move forward with that message.
If you decide not to text your ex, what are healthy ways to manage any loneliness and nostalgia you feel? Consider processing your feelings through journaling or writing what you’d like to say to them in your journal instead of texting them. If you’re in therapy, you may also consider booking a session close to Valentine’s Day. Talking through your feelings can help you gain lucidity and get to the root of what’s driving you to text an ex.
Some lighter yet self-loving things you can do include a spa day, reading your favorite book, going for a walk, or doing something exclusively for you, says George James, therapist and CEO of George Talks in Philadelphia. If you aren’t in the mood to do things solo and would rather have some company, James suggests reaching out to a family member or friends to see if they’re up for some quality time.
This wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary. A 2022 poll of 2,000 singles commissioned by dating app Plenty of Fish and conducted by OnePoll found that 67 percent of respondents would rather spend the day with single friends than be pressured to find a date. Sixty-three percent of millennial and Gen Z respondents feel friendship and self-love should be celebrated as much as romantic love on Valentine’s Day. They might be onto something.
James adds that this season of love could be a good time to re-evaluate your dating life if a romantic relationship is your long-term goal.
“Are you attracting potential partners you like? Are there ways you can adjust what you are doing in your dating life? Do you need to talk to a therapist or matchmaker?” he asks. “These things might not stop feelings of loneliness on Valentine’s Day but it can lead you to decrease loneliness over time.”
No matter what your situation is this Valentine’s Day, remember you don’t need a day to validate how loved, valuable and worthy you are.