How To Make Valentine's Day Not Suck

Brittany Priddy participates in a flower arranging camp at Camp Zama, Japan on Jan. 24, 2020. (Winifred Brown/DVIDS)

Even Target is selling roses. Beautiful roses, actually. White ones with the palest pink tips.

If your sailor, airman, Coastie, Marine or soldier is gone this week, go ahead and stick those roses from Target or the grocery or the Exchange in your cart, Spouse Lady or Spouse Man. Because this year hearts and flowers may be up to you alone.

Valentine's Day is one of those holidays where it can just plain suck to be apart when you are in the military. Depending on where you are in the ups and downs of married life, it might also be a year that things kinda suck even when you are together.

You can be OK with this. You can ignore the holiday and pretend it isn’t happening (that works for a lot of people). You can pick a fight (always kind of a bad choice). Or you can do something to make it a little better.

7 Ways to Make Your Valentine's Day a Little Better

1. Try our last-minute valentine. In the Army’s resilience training, they teach you to “hunt the good.” You are supposed to look back at the day and think of the good things that happened. You can do the same thing with your relationship.

Look at it and pick out at least three good things. Today you are allowed to focus just on those things without doing any “yeah, buts.” And if you take pictures of all that good and send them to your service member, all the better.

2. Do Five Solids. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and her team did an experiment in which she asked one group to do five kind things for others during the course of a week. The other group had to do their five kind things in a single day.

The ones who did their kindnesses in one day were measurably happier. The researchers hypothesized that by doing the things in one day they added up to a bigger thing. Post this as a VDay Challenge on Instagram, encourage other deployed spouses and let us know if you felt happier.

3. Fate Stepped In. Think of how you almost didn’t meet. Happiness researchers at the University of Virginia asked one group to write about how they met their spouse, one group to write about how they almost didn’t meet their spouse and a third group to write about other things.

The group that thought about how they almost didn’t meet showed greater boosts in satisfaction with their life and their relationship after writing.

I love this exercise. My husband and I met when we sat next to each other at a football game in Indiana. What if I had blown off my parents that day and stayed home to nurse my hangover? What if my dad sat next to Brad instead of me? What if Brad’s girlfriend of three years hadn’t broken up with him the day after he met me? What if he had forgotten the name of my dorm since he didn’t actually ask me for my number?

Try to make up at least 20 times that fate stepped in to bring the two of you together. Send it to your service member.

4. Opposite Day. Everyone thinks that Valentine's Day is meant to be a day for lovers to be together. Pretend they are all crazy. What if Valentine's Day was a day upon which lovers were meant to be apart pining for one another? Then you and your deployed sweetie would be doing exactly the right thing. Make the most of it.

5. Do your old traditions anyway. On Valentine's Day, we don’t do gifts or go out to dinner. Instead, my husband always makes Beef Wellington -- think steak in puff pastry, asparagus, enough Hollandaise sauce to clog your arteries until Christmas. We serve it up on our wedding china, light some candles, open valentines from each other and the kids.

When he is gone I don’t do the puff pastry, but I definitely buy the steaks and get out the china. A good tradition can carry the whole family through a non-traditional time.

6. Respend your wedding dollars. However you got married, you probably spent as much as (or more than) you could afford at the time. Go down memory lane and pick up your money’s worth. Watch your wedding video again and laugh like crazy.

Browse through your album. Wonder what possessed you to put a bow right there?? Get inspired and scan all those pictures into your computer. Or arrange the ones you do have. Layout a new photo album on Shutterfly or Pinterest called “Love History” with the best pictures of just the two of you.

Looking at pictures of loved ones has been shown to elevate the mood. Forcibly elevate.

7. Buy The Flowers, Dammit. If all else fails, go buy yourself some flowers. A Harvard study found that having flowers around makes people feel more compassionate, more positive, and more energetic. Get a little of that for yourself.

I recommend the white roses for new beginnings, honor, remembrance. The baby daffodils for self-respect. And the iris for hope -- which is always something to cultivate on a Valentine's Day spent apart.

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