If you aren’t currently in a relationship—and especially if you’ve recently ended one—you might not be looking forward to Valentine’s Day. The lovey-dovey cards, heart-shaped candy boxes, sappy commercials, and made-for-TV movies can all feel like too much. (And let’s not forget about the unofficial my-partner-is-better-than- your-partner competition that takes over social media this time of year.)
Avalon Brandt, who is happily divorced, understands how difficult it can be to spend Valentine’s Day without the one you love—and she has some advice to help you survive the next few weeks without strangling Cupid.
“Our culture has made Valentine’s Day couples-centric, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Avalon, author of Still I Love: Loving After Three Divorce (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com). “I use this time to consciously reset how I feel about love in general, and myself in particular. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that if we don’t know, respect, and appreciate ourselves, it’s unlikely that anyone else will, and we’ll continue to attract unfulfilling, dysfunctional relationships.”
In Still I Love, Avalon tells the compelling story of her three marriages and divorces, which she navigated on the long road to earning her degree as an attorney. While Avalon’s story reads like a movie script, it’s interwoven with heartfelt observations and advice that will speak to anyone who has dealt with a broken heart and divorce. And most importantly, Avalon’s continuing belief in love—romantic and otherwise—will provide hope and healing.
Here, she shares 12 ways to show love to yourself—which is the first step toward attracting the relationships you need.
Identify all the things you love about yourself. Maybe you can’t stop replaying insults from your ex. Perhaps you constantly hear your mother’s critical voice in your head. It’s possible you dislike certain things you see when you look in the mirror. Wherever they come from, it’s so easy to listen only to these negative voices.
“This Valentine’s Day, focus your attention on more positive messages,” Avalon advises. “Figure out exactly what you love about yourself. Is it your smile, your hair, your laugh, your shape, your intellect, or your talents? Allow yourself to not only acknowledge these things, but to bask in them.”
Strengthen your existing relationships by celebrating other people you love. Make a mental list of the people who enhance your life: family, friends, mentors, colleagues, etc. Consider reaching out and making plans with some of them, or writing a “thank you for being in my life” email.
“When you have been disappointed in love, it’s easy to focus only on what you lack: a partner,” Avalon acknowledges. “But one thing my divorces taught me was the true value of all the other relationships in my life. I don’t share romance with my friends and family, but those relationships are still full of love. As February 14th approaches, put your energy into valuing and nurturing the people for whom you’re thankful.”
“De-friend” and distance yourself from people who are bringing you down. It’s amazing how far others can drag us down without our consciously realizing it. Especially at a time of year when you’re already feeling vulnerable, take a fresh look at your friend list and back away from people who act in a way that makes you feel worse about yourself.
“Maybe you need to block your ex from your newsfeed—even though you split ‘amicably,'” Avalon suggests. “Perhaps you should stop spending so much time with the ‘friend’ who constantly talks about how wonderful her life is (while implying yours isn’t), or with the coworker who has perfected the art of the backhanded compliment. You don’t have to sever all ties—but don’t sacrifice your self-esteem, either.”
Forgive your ex—and yourself. Even though your relationship is over, you may still be angry at your ex—and chances are, it feels good! Perhaps you’re savoring the fact that you have the moral high ground. Or, you might think, it’s better to be angry than to be depressed. Certainly, says Avalon, allow yourself to process your anger and resentment—but eventually, try to let go of those negative emotions. You may find it helpful to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re condoning your ex’s bad behavior. Rather, it means that you’re choosing to let go of resentment, blame, and anger.
“You can’t fully love or be loved if you can’t forgive,” Avalon says. “As long as you’re living your life with bitterness and anger eating away at you, you’ll be a prisoner of the past. Learn the lessons you can, stop playing the blame game, and move forward.”
Re-evaluate your daily life. Try to look at your daily routine through fresh eyes. What do you like about it? What don’t you like? What energizes you and what drags you down? What can you change to make yourself happier and feel better?
“The changes I’m talking about may be big, like researching a career path that would be more fulfilling,” Avalon says. “But they might be much smaller, too—like deciding to stop going to the grocery store that always reminds you of shopping with your ex, or quitting the spinning class you dread and signing up for tai chi instead.”
Plan a fun evening out (no chocolate and roses necessary). Odds are, you know other people who might also be sad or resentful that they’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day. Reach out to them and make arrangements to meet for drinks, go ice skating, or enjoy a potluck meal, for instance.
“One caveat: Consciously choose to stay positive, not to wallow in bitterness,” Avalon stipulates. “Look at this gathering not as an excuse to air your dirty laundry and rehash the past, but as an opportunity to support and encourage one another while enjoying the holiday.”
Give yourself a break. Be a rebel. Take a look at your to-do list and cross something off of it even though you haven’t actually completed that task. (Gasp!) Then do something nourishing instead.
“Get a massage, read a book, take a nap, go for a run, see a movie—whatever!” Avalon instructs. “Just make sure you’re nurturing yourself. The point is to see yourself as a human being who is worthy of being celebrated and indulged—because you are!”
Challenge yourself to be the voice of dissent. Anytime we go along with the crowd or keep our mouths shut instead of saying what’s really on our minds, we feel disingenuous, and our self-esteem takes a hit. Saying what we really feel and being true to our opinions is a courageous act of self-love.
“This could be as simple as speaking up in a colleague’s defense at the water cooler, or telling your friends you don’t like the restaurant they’ve picked for dinner,” says Avalon. “So many of us fall into the trap of living our lives to please others while not making waves, and in the process, we become disconnected from our true selves.”
Take yourself out on a date. Of course you would like to be going on a date with a romantic partner who likes, respects, and values you. Avalon freely admits that even though she has found happiness after divorce, she still hopes to find love again. But, she says, your desires for the future shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your life now.
“After my second marriage ended, I made a special effort to discover life beyond being a wife,” recalls Avalon. “For me, a big part of that was exploring and enjoying the spectacular dining scene in Washington, D.C. At first, it was strange learning how to enjoy a meal alone. I got curious looks from maître d’s, waiters, and other diners. But over time, I began to dwell less on what other people were thinking and more on savoring each satisfying bite of my meals. Sounds simple, I know, but learning to enjoy a meal alone became a crucial survival tool that enabled me to reconnect with myself after a disappointing marriage.”
Affirm a bright future. To help yourself stay focused on loving yourself, find a personal mantra and remind yourself of it frequently. Your mantra might have to do with moving on, finding someone new, or personal development. Don’t discount the power of the words you tell yourself. Positive or negative, they are powerful tools in focusing your intentions and shaping your attitude.
“As my first marriage was ending, I remember buying a calligraphy set and writing on construction paper some words and themes to encourage myself,” Avalon recalls. “I wrote on one sign the words ‘I’m on my way to the top one step at a time.’ I drew a ladder beside the words and I taped the sign on my bedroom wall. Every day I read it, several times a day, and slowly I started to feel myself changing, just a little at a time.”
Clarify your vision of Mr. or Ms. Right. Is it possible that your past romances have failed because you’re looking for the wrong type of person? Are you hoping to find someone who mirrors your favorite movie character or someone who will solve all your problems? Do you tend to overlook flaws and incompatibilities when the other person is funny or flattering?
“This year, stop daydreaming about what you want in a relationship and get real about what you need,” Avalon advises. “I learned valuable lessons from each of my divorces. And while I have had opportunities to enter additional relationships in the more recent past, my experiences taught me that committing to any of these men would be a mistake. Saying ‘no’ to individuals I liked and even respected was difficult, but it was also one of the most powerful acts of self-love I have ever shown myself.”
Remind yourself that February 15th will be here soon. No matter how much you focus on showing yourself love and boosting your mood, you may still feel the “Singles’ Awareness Day” blues—and that’s okay! It’s normal and natural for a holiday focused on romance to bring up feelings of sadness. When this happens, Avalon advises you to remember that February 15th will come.
“This is some advice I had to give myself recently,” she shares. “I was listening to a love song, started to think too much about my past relationships, and the next thing you know tears were streaming down my face. I had to get myself together quickly before I ruined my makeup! My point is, nobody is immune to negative feelings, so when they hit, allow yourself to experience them for a few minutes. Then remind yourself that this too shall pass—and maybe turn the radio to a song that will make you smile and dance!”
“Even after experiencing infidelity and divorce, love is still the center of my existence on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year,” Avalon concludes. “My number-one goal and priority is to value, honor, and love myself. I affirm this intention by looking into the mirror each morning and saying with a smile, ‘I love you.’ Then, I show myself love through actions big and small, such as the ones I’ve shared here. I encourage you to do the same!”
About the Author:
Avalon Sequoia Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She is a successful attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, who for 13 years has practiced complex civil litigation. From 1994 through 2001 she worked as a family law attorney in her firm, Wilson & Brandt, P.A.
Over the years, Avalon has appeared as a guest speaker for career day programs at various public schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Since 2008 she has served on the Board of Directors for L.I.F.E. (Living in a Free Environment), Inc., a successful non-profit that provides housing, daily activities, and job training for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Avalon is a member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church where she has worked in numerous capacities for over 35 years.
After unexpectedly experiencing divorce, Avalon decided to share her story with others. She still believes in love and has a strong desire to be married in the future. In the spring of 2015, Avalon will launch her workshop, “Still I Love: Healing for Victory.” In this workshop, Avalon will explore with others what it means to love and how to overcome the pain of being hurt by love.
About the Book:
Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com) is available at www.stillilove.com or Amazon.