Whether you’re looking for romantic gift ideas or ways to make yourself feel loved, “Your Trusted Cupid” brings you top-notch advice from relationship experts. This collection of new ideas when you are single on Valentine’s Day is from Martha McCully, a noted writer, and lifestyle expert who covers beauty, science, wellness, and the practice of creating a happy life, single or not.

Valentine's Day flower arrangements

Way back when, Valentine’s Day was a public test of your partner’s love. (And way, way back when, it was an elementary school popularity contest when construction paper Valentines were passed out in class, a visible tally of secret admirers.)

Then, for most adults, “public” became largely about the workplace. Delivery messengers (remember them?) would parade arrangements of flowers past receptionists (remember them?) and secretaries (remember them?) to land the floral trophies on the desks of hopeful wives, girlfriends, and on the rare occasion, friends. Guys never got the goods, despite the fact that they were boyfriends, husbands, and lovers who also like flowers.

Usually, I wasn’t lucky enough to receive a showy outpouring of affection on Valentine’s Day. Though one year, my hunky trainer boyfriend took the whole display thing to another level by personally delivering a couple of dozen roses to me when I worked at Allure magazine.

Boyfriends of Valentine’s past

I’ve racked up a few other “good” Valentine’s Days over my five decades of singledom. There was a beautiful dinner at La Tulipe in New York City; a couple of years ago my boyfriend flew across the country to visit, which included Valentine’s dinner in Venice, California.

Back in the 80s, the hunky trainer once cleared all the furniture out of his bedroom, set up a table for two, and served me dinner there, with the lights of New Jersey twinkling beneath his 18th-floor window. (I know, I too wish he had stuck around.)

I’ve also had some disasters, of course. I have spent many V-Days alone before “alone” was as common as it is now. One especially soul-crushing 14th I went to an exercise class before skipping dinner to watch Ozark.

Single on Valentine's Day roses

Tips for a Valentine’s Day makeover if you’re single

So as the often baggage-laden occasion approaches this year, I’ve realized it’s time to drop the suitcases.

Few of us go to the office as often as we once did; some no longer go at all. And relationships are more complex and inclusive. Who, when, and why we love has largely escaped the ancient social constraints; that in itself is cause for celebration.

As we’ve revamped our lives and loves, perhaps we can and should revamp this holiday. So let’s aim to:

1. Find love in unexpected places

Realizing this day is not just about romantic love, but about love itself in all of its glorious, irrepressible manifestations, is the first key to fulfillment.

My mother used to make paper-thin sugar cookies cut into hearts, sprinkled with pink crystals, and ship them to me individually wrapped in wax paper inside a tin. That’s love as true, or truer, than any other. We used to hold our annual Naked Angels Theatre Group benefit on Valentine’s Day in New York just for the purpose of being together with a couple of hundred friends.

I once had a special dinner with three girlfriends in LA where we cooked and drank wine and ate chocolate. That was heaven.

2. Practice self-care and give self-love presents

Take responsibility for your own happiness and love on that day. Ensure pleasure, not disappointment. Why wait for someone else to send us flowers? Now I keep my bungalow stocked with fresh farmers’ market petals year-round. At the holidays, we gave our team leader a monthly subscription to flower delivery. Why not do that for ourselves?

Self-love is anything that makes you feel content, appreciated, and loved, originated by you; whether it’s reaching out to a dear friend, getting a massage (yes, by a professional you don’t know), or taking a gratitude walk by the ocean or lake. After all, healthy, loving relationships start with the one with ourselves, right? So, why not show some love and gift our precious selves with what we desire? Send yourself decadent chocolates or delicious pears or decorated cookies or ruby red roses or even the Valentines you never received growing up.

3. Be the giver

A final strategy: Always be the giver. Make someone else’s Valentine’s Day by inviting them to dinner, mailing a card (remember that?), or sending them a special delivery. Last year a couple of friends who are a couple dropped off flowers early to their single pal, me. I felt amazing and so did they. (I later had a blind brunch date, which was completely uninspired, but that’s not the point here.) The act of giving can make you feel loving, loved, and valued, and isn’t that what we all wish for on this sometimes thorny day?

Valentine's day ad for her

Martha McCully is a writer and brand consultant who’s into wellness, design, health, wine, and science. She was formerly Executive Editor of In Style, founding Beauty Director of Allure, and judge on HGTV Design Star.

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