Valentine’s Day can be challenging for those without a partner to shower them with tokens of affection. The holiday also sets up expectations for those in romantic relationships—expectations that may backfire. Kristin Neff, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, studies the impact of self-compassion on people’s emotional and psychological health. She says that Valentine’s Day can present a terrific opportunity for people to show themselves self-compassion, which can lead to greater emotional satisfaction and actually improve intimate relationships.
According to Neff, people who are not partnered can “ask themselves what they need and want from a partner. They may come up with answers like love, being heard, being seen for who they are. They can make a list of those things, and they can give those things to themselves.”
She recommends that people also give themselves validation and appreciation verbally. A person can say to themselves, aloud, “I’m here for you. I care about you,” and meet that need for themselves.
Research also shows that self-touch impacts the body and mind positively. “The warmth of human touch has a positive impact, even if that touch is from your own hand,” says Neff. She recommends placing your hand over your heart while speaking words of kindness to yourself. “Doing so can help ease the sadness a person may feel about not having a partner.”
People often have high expectations of days like Valentine’s Day. Neff recommends letting go of those expectations. “A supportive and open-hearted attitude for the particular situation can be especially helpful,” she says. “And if a person is not in a relationship and wants one, it’s important for the person to accept that desire, have compassion for the struggle, and also remember that relationships can bring both joy and pain.”
In the end, says Neff, “Meeting your own needs and showing yourself compassion, acceptance, and kindness are important activities that also lead a person to be more kind and supportive to their sweetheart too.”
Self-compassion, she says, “is not only good for individuals, it’s also good for relationships too.”