Valentine’s Day isn’t all hearts and roses for separating couples

08 February 2020

Valentine’s for separating couples

Store with Valentine's DecorationsJust two weeks after Christmas, stores were already beginning to show signs of Cupid’s arrival. Now, as we approach the actual day, we see row upon row of hearts, candies, flowers, chocolates and teddy bears. It is estimated that over 1 billion cards will be exchanged this year. All this outpouring of love in preparation for February 14th – a day known as a celebration of love and affection between intimate companions”. No single day boasts more about romanticism than Valentine’s Day.

But what if someone you know is dealing with a recent breakup, or struggling through their recent separation or divorce? Valentine’s Day in the midst of separation can be incredibly isolating and lonely. Amid all these hearts, candies and flowers, here are some ways you could support that friend, colleague, sister or brother who is going through a separation.

Here are 4 ways you can help:

It's Okay to Send a Valentine’s Day Card

#1. Reach out:

Just because Valentine’s Day is traditionally associated with romantic love, doesn’t mean you can’t send a card to that person you know is hurting. You only have to walk through the card section to see there are cards for sisters, brothers, daughters, teachers, friends; there is even one for your pet! And take it one step further and send it in the mail. In this day and age, we are bombarded with emails, but when was the last time you got a card in the mail? It can make a world of difference to someone.

#2. Give the gift of time:

If your close friend or relative is going through a divorce, spending time together on Valentine’s (whether it’s a lunch, a coffee or dinner) can really mean a lot. Make a pack not to talk too much about the separation. Distractions can be a great way to deal with this challenging time. As a divorce mediator, many of my clients have shared that personal connection time is a great gift of caring.

Red 10 Minute Egg TimerA former client told me that when she got together with her best friend, they set an egg timer for 10 minutes. That was the allotted time to do what she called a dump my bucket of feelings. Ten minutes only to cry, be angry, scared. And then they moved on. She found that strategy so helpful because it wasn’t about denying her feelings about the divorce, but about balance.

Research shows that dwelling on a negative feeling only magnifies it. And if you are going to try this strategy, being a supportive friend doesn’t mean you have to bash the soon-to-be ex. After all, your friend chose this person as a partner, so you might be sending an indirect message to your friend about the choices he/she made. Being supportive can simply mean listening with an empathetic ear.

#3. Don’t take sides:

You’ve been close friends with a couple, and they just told you they are splitting up. Now what do you do? You can be supportive of both of them by not taking sides. Unfortunately, people still look to ‘blame’ one person for the breakup. And while one person is usually initiating the separation, that doesn’t mean you have to try to find blame in either person. Relationships, work stress, financial pressure, raising kids, blended families - life is complicated. Trying to pin the entire relationship on one person is not likely helpful.

Tell your friends you want to support both of them and make a pact with them that you won’t criticize either of them. Showing support to someone doesn’t mean you have to pick sides or bash the other person.

#4. Encourage your friend to practice self-care:

Valentines ChocolatesSo if Valentine’s Day is the day that symbolizes love, what about practising some self-love. The most important person your friends can take care of is themselves. A day of pampering, or buying themselves chocolates or flowers is a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s amazing how little time we spend taking care of ourselves. Give your friend encouragement to do that. And if you really want to go the extra mile, take their kids for a couple of hours to make that ‘me time’ less stressful for them.

Dealing with Valentine’s Day when you are in the throws of the emotional rollercoaster of separation can be difficult. It can just add to the heartache. Reach out to those you know who might be hurting. It can make a world of difference.  

Colette Fortin is the owner of Fairway Divorce Solutions in the Waterloo-Wellington office.