Dr. Jess offers an alternative Valentine’s Day plan

Dr. Jess explains why she’s not so hot about Cupid’s annual day of romance

I’m not a romantic. I don’t believe in love at first sight, soulmates or unconditional commitment. I’m wildly in love with my husband, and I look forward to growing old together, but I don’t presume that we were meant to be together. I’m convinced that lasting love exists in abundance, but its cultivation is rooted in the practical (i.e., compromise, flexibility, emotional openness) as opposed to being a matter of fate.

It follows that, despite my belief in happily ever after and my love of wine, chocolate and intimate dinners, I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day.

Although the notion of a holiday intended to emphasize romance, intimacy and all things sexual has obvious appeal, its intention is often obscured by commercialism and overshadowed by pressure, unrealistic expectations and, inevitably, let-down. In many cases, it reinforces the relegation of romantic gestures to special occasions and suggests that thoughtfulness, intimacy and eroticism are special, as opposed to essential, components of a happy relationship. Performing thoughtful gestures and flirting with your partner on a regular basis will do more to deepen your love connection and strengthen your bond than executing a grand gesture once or twice a year.

Small favours that will remind them of your love might include warming up their towel in the dryer, fixing them a tea or coffee in the morning, taking over their regular chores once in a while, packing a lunch, stocking a favourite snack or putting gas or windshield washer fluid in their car.

I want to make it clear that I’m not anti–Valentine’s Day, and I have nothing against grand, romantic gestures, but I believe they should be practised more than once a year to have a lasting and meaningful impact in your relationship. If you enjoy Valentine’s Day and find that it inspires you to reconnect with your lover or serves as a good excuse to make your love life a priority, then keep the celebrations coming!

You’re the ultimate expert in your relationship, so don’t let my personal preferences ruin your good time.

If, however, the holiday is a source of stress or pressure, consider ditching the crowded restaurants with their set Valentine’s menus and celebrate in an alternative way this year.

Take a single friend out for dinner, visit a neighbour who lives alone, take a “me” day, play bingo, cook dinner together or spend time with your parents, if you’re lucky enough to have them in your lives — they were, after all, your first valentines.