How do I make the best of Valentine’s Day now I’m single again?
This week our resident sexpert, Olivia Petter, unpacks the anxiety around the romantic day after a break-up
Friday 10 February 2023 By Olivia Petter Illustration by Darren Shaddick
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at 'The Independent' and author of 'Millennial Love', which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate
A friend of mine recently asked what my plans were for Valentine’s Day. I stared back at her, silently. ‘Oh, I mean, I know you’re single,’ she quipped. ‘But do you have any dates lined up?‘ I did not. ‘Don’t worry, I’m sure someone will snap you up. You’re a catch.’
What my friend said was kind and well-intentioned – I know that. But it also said a lot about the pressures we place around Valentine’s Day and the expectations we have of certain demographics, namely single women. Like you, this is the first time I’ll experience Valentine’s Day since my break-up – and it will be five years since I was last single on this fateful day.
To be clear, I’ve never been a major Valentine’s Day person. By this, I mean that even when I’ve been in a relationship, I haven’t subscribed to the idea that 14 February is the epitome of romance. A day where you’re supposed to go out for a candlelit dinner, share a full-bodied bottle of red, and post a photograph of your partner on Instagram with a love-heart emoji.
That’s all lovely, sure. But to me, Valentine’s Day is just another day, one where achieving authentic romance has been rendered virtually impossible given how much it’s shoved down our throats each year. Not to sound all Eeyore about it, but it’s a simple fact that the more anticipation you have for something, the greater the capacity you give it to disappoint you.
My point is that I never enjoyed Valentine’s Day when I was in a relationship. Not because of anything my ex did or didn’t do, but because it just felt like, every year, I was being bombarded by stock ideas of romance that didn’t align with my own, and somehow still managed to make me feel like I was missing out on something or someone.
This is just one of the reasons why I want to assure you that you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to being single on Valentine’s Day. To be completely honest with you, I’m actually really looking forward to it.
Because this year, I will not be frantically Googling ‘most romantic restaurants in London’ and trying to weasel my way into getting a reservation at the last minute, or spending hours thinking of something witty to write when I post a photo of my partner on my Instagram Story so it doesn’t look cringe or smug.
Instead, I will most likely be at home, drinking a glass of red wine and reading my book. I know that being single is the right choice for me at the moment, as I’m sure you do too, and that’s still the case regardless of the date on my phone.
I don’t feel the need to fill my life with men I’m only vaguely interested in purely because society views single women as a problem that needs fixing – frankly, that wouldn’t be fair on them, either.
Choosing to be alone, particularly at this time of year, is not something people should pity or try to talk you out of. It’s an act of self-love and an opportunity for reflection and growth.
To prove this point to myself, I’ve even picked up some lingerie. Not just a new bra or a pair of pants, but full three-piece sets – Fleur du Mal, Coco de Mer and Agent Provocateur do some incredible options for all body shapes.
Something about slipping into coordinating velvet embroidery makes me feel immensely powerful, serving as a reminder that I don’t need to be with someone in order to feel sexy in my own skin. Trust me, neither do you.
Got a question for Olivia? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will remain anonymous.