If you’re in a relationship, Valentine’s Day will inevitably force you to reevaluate it. On one hand, for some happy couples, it can be an opportunity to celebrate your love and reflect on how thankful you are for your partner.
But for unhappy couples, V-Day can force you to reflect on how things might not be working — and it might even lead to a breakup. (Apparently, so many couples break up the day before Valentine’s Day that the occasion has been dubbed Red Tuesday.)
Although it might seem pretty cold to dump someone on Valentine’s Day, it’s not always a bad thing. We talked to therapists and couples who have broken up on V-Day to find out why so many couples break up around this time — and why it might actually be the best thing for you and your relationship.
1.VALENTINE’S DAY ASKS YOU TO REEVALUATE WHAT’S WORKING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP — AND WHAT’S NOT
Let’s be honest: Valentine’s Day can put pressure on even the healthiest of relationships. “Valentine’s Day adds a lot of social pressure to be ideal, when our relationship and us are never ideal,” says sex therapist David Ortmann.
If something goes awry — if the restaurant you picked out ends up being terrible, for instance, or if you get stuck at the office that night — your partner might react to it more intensely than they otherwise would, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed.
If your relationship is already on the verge of collapse, however, the pressure of Valentine’s Day can be the impetus for a much-needed reevaluation. Last Valentine’s Day, for instance, Jonah* spent about $1,000 on sex toys for his then-girlfriend of five years. “I sort of desperately bought a bunch of new and expensive sex toys in an attempt to show I was trying,” Jonah says.
But when they began having sex that night, the mood changed. “I remember being all lubed up and with a butt plug in for the first time ever, and just sensing that she was not into it,” he says.
“I remember feeling very vulnerable and like I was trying so desperately to make this relationship and sex life work. I had done so much preparation to try and make sure everything was right for the night, but ultimately it felt forced.” They broke up shortly thereafter.
2. VALENTINE’S DAY CAN SERVE AS A LITMUS TEST FOR HOW MUCH WORK YOU’RE WILLING TO PUT INTO A RELATIONSHIP
It’s important to understand that Valentine’s Day isn’t about dropping a ton of cash on extravagant gifts. It’s about showing appreciation for your partner.
So unless you’ve discussed not celebrating it beforehand, at the very least, you should make a homemade card or slip some chocolate under their pillow. “It’s a day that is straight-up devoted to acknowledging your partner. So why not do that?” says sex therapist Amanda Luterman.
Anna* says she knew it was time to end her relationship with her boyfriend of two years when he failed to show up with a gift on Valentine’s Day. “He [didn’t] do shit,” she says.
“No card, no chocolate. It wasn’t about him getting an expensive gift. I would have been fine with a homemade valentine. It was the fact I felt I was putting all the work into the relationship, and he was putting in none. The holiday basically was the final straw. It confirmed all my worst fears about where we were going as a couple.”
3.VALENTINE’S DAY MAKES US ASK OURSELVES TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP
As annoying as the commercialism of Valentine’s Day can be, the holiday is ultimately about the true nature of love. If you’re in a relationship that’s on the verge of collapse, it might force you to ask questions you’ve been avoiding.
Tabitha*, for instance, had suspected that her friend was hooking up with her boyfriend of three years, Matt*. On Valentine’s Day, she finally summoned up the courage to ask her about it. When her suspicions were confirmed, she broke it off with him immediately.
“As much as it sucked, it was the affirmation I needed to actually end things with him for good and move on. I think that holiday always heightens your over-analysis of your current relationship. Which is silly, but it’s true,” she says.
4. A BREAKUP ISN’T ALWAYS A BAD THING
It can be difficult to accept that your relationship is over. But ultimately, if something isn’t working and can’t be fixed, it’s better to end the relationship rather than wasting everyone’s time and dragging it out.
“If you’re not in a position to celebrate what you have, you’ve been given the gift of Cupid’s bow that is going to direct you elsewhere. Valentine’s Day is the time to celebrate love, and sometimes that means reminding people that they should have a love that they should celebrate,” Luterman says.