How To Navigate Valentine’s Day If You’ve Recently Been Dumped

Between partner Instagram dumps, flower deliveries to the office and love song dedications on the radio, it can feel impossible to escape Valentine's Day. But while some have a vehement opposition to the romantic celebration on principle and others choose not to participate out of ease, some unlucky ducks are forced to grapple with the international event when they've been recently dumped.
We know the beginning of the year isn't a great time for love. In fact, January is the most common month for spouses to file for divorce and anecdotally speaking, breakups are everywhere. There are a few possible reasons, starting with it being a time of year when holidays can put your relationship to the test and when tension builds after the financial strain of Christmas — sometimes lingering into the new year. Then there are the lazy partners who just don't want to deal with planning a date or finding a present on Valentine's Day, and find it easier to pull the plug to avoid lifting a finger.
As dating coach from 30 Everafter Iona Yeung explains to Refinery29 Australia, people will sometimes hold off breaking up to avoid the awkwardness of showing up solo to summer's never-ending social gatherings. But February marks a return back to normalcy after the holiday period, and come Valentine's Day, it's no longer convenient to delay the inevitable. "Valentine's Day is a celebration of love and if one person really isn't in love anymore, they'd much rather break it off than celebrate another Valentine's Day," she says.
But no matter the reason, it sucks to find yourself newly single when you didn't expect to spend Valentine's Day alone. Sex and relationship expert at WeVibe, Christine Rafe, says the day can be especially hard in the thick of a breakup because of what it means and what it stands for.
"Traditionally, Valentine's Day is one of romance and for love," she tells Refinery29 Australia. "It emphasises this social narrative that we should meet a partner, we should fall in love, get married and have children. So for a lot of people, being recently single on Valentine's Day can signify these constructions of not doing, having or achieving this prescriptive narrative of our lives."
So, if you're dealing with Valentine's Day off the back of a breakup, here are six ways to handle what has suddenly turned into 24 hours of hell.

Sit with your feelings

Rafe says that if you've recently been broken up with, you're probably not going to feel okay — and that's all right. "When we're going through a breakup, in some ways, it's like we're having a crisis," she explains, adding that it can feel very rattling. "Acknowledge that you're in the depth of it right now, but you will come out the other side."
Yeung seconds this, explaining that it's extremely normal to go through a process of grieving after a breakup. "My best advice to people going through it is to ride out all your emotions," she says, adding that feelings of loneliness, resentment and isolation are also normal, and that while you're at the height of grieving, you may also feel like you'll never find your person.
But is it really fair on yourself to expect anything different, especially when Valentine's Day accentuates the emotional turmoil? "Don’t suppress your feelings, process them instead. And don’t feel guilty for your feelings. Like grief, everyone deals with it differently," says Yeung.

Put your phone down

If all you're seeing on your phone are happy couples, it's easy to compare your situations and dwell on the negatives. Rafe says your feeds are likely going to be full of couple appreciation posts, dinners and exchanged gifts, so anticipating this, it's probably easier to avoid social media full stop if you think you'll find it upsetting.
But it's important to remind yourself that what you see online isn't always the full picture — everyone is on their own journey. "People show their highlight reels online and it’s easy to feel you’re missing out or that you’re the only one who’s solo," says Yeung. So if you feel like you're going to spend the day doomscrolling other people's happiness, it's totally okay to temporarily mute people — including (or, especially) your ex.

Embrace alternative plans

Your friends are your best asset during this time, so lean on them! If you have other single pals in your life, they'll probably appreciate the company as well, so why not wine and dine your gang to make the most of the day? "Get together with other single friends — Galentine's has really picked up momentum in recent years," says Yeung.
And remember, Valentine's Day can look however you want it to, she adds, saying that if you change your mindset around the day, it could be a celebration of love for your family, BFF, colleagues, pet, or anyone who adds value to your life. You can even just view it as an ordinary day if that helps.

Let it all out

Rafe says that movement is really important for ramping up happy hormones and releasing pent-up energy. But if running isn't your schtick, then even dancing around your room will get the job done somatically.
"It's very timely that Miley Cyrus has just had Flowers come out, I feel like it's a great song to listen to during a difficult time," says Rafe. "Feel free to scream, breathe, jump around, because they all support in regulating our nervous system by helping us get endorphins and oxytocin to make us feel a little better."

Practice self-love

Yeung insists that you date yourself both on Valentine's Day and beyond. "You don’t have to go out by yourself, but you can do something for you," she says. "Get a massage, spend an indulgent night in with a bath and your favourite chocolates." Part of practising self-love is also embracing gentleness and healing, too. Yeung says you can use the day to reflect on what you want in your future relationships by setting some goals for your future connections. That way, she says, you know what you want and will only aspire for what's best for you.
The best bit is, you can show yourself love from the comfort of home too, adds Rafe. "I know it sounds a bit naff, but writing yourself a love letter will help remind you that if someone doesn't want to be with you for you, you'll be better off [without them] in the long run." She also recommends spicing it up solo by treating yourself to a sensual night. "Have a shower, give yourself a massage, appreciate yourself in the mirror and masturbate. Do all the things you would with a partner because self-love really is the most important thing in the world."

Seek extra support

It can be hard to reach out to the people around you when you need help, but remember that you'd be displeased if they neglected to ask you for help, love and support if they needed it. "Your support networks are a really great place to reach out to," says Rafe. "Acknowledge that you do have people around you, whether or not you're in a relationship."
While speaking to your friends and family can prevent isolation and help you process what's going on in your mind, you may feel like it's time to reach out to a professional for a bit of extra mental health and wellbeing support.
"If you're really struggling, reach out to Lifeline or Headspace. If you can, book an appointment with a therapist," adds Rafe. "You will be okay. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll see that right now, but it does get better."
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