Intimacy Expert Shan Boodram On The Best Ways To Reduce Valentine’s Day Anxiety
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Many of us show love to the special people in our lives year-round, but Valentine’s Day is a time to take it up a notch. Because it’s a day notorious for public displays of love, expectations can be high and it can create unwanted anxiety. Maybe you’re anxious because you still don’t have plans for the day or you’re worried your partner won’t be blown away. On the flip side, perhaps you don’t have a Valentine this year and you’re dreading seeing all the happy couples on your timeline. 

ESSENCE spoke to Shan Boodram, author, intimacy educator and Bumble‘s sex and relationships expert about the mixed feelings concerning February 14th. She shares tips on how to do something different to celebrate, the best way to observe Valentine’s Day for people in the early stages of dating someone new, and ways to reduce any anxiety you may feel around the holiday so you can feel the love instead. 

ESSENCE: What are some of your favorite date ideas?

Shan Boodram: I think it depends. I mean, we are still in a pandemic. So depending on where your numbers are, you might want to go for something classic, like a night in together. It’s beautiful and intimate doing something like cooking for each other. Or if you can’t be together, you can use a grocery app to send that person your favorite meal [or] favorite bottle of wine. The two of you could do a virtual cooking class while staying socially distant or do that together.

What are some tips for single people to reduce anxiety surrounding Valentine’s day?

I think single people should still focus on connections. Just because you don’t have a romantic connection doesn’t mean there isn’t somebody in your life that is deserving of a celebration of love. So don’t look at this like it is not your holiday. I love the concept of Galentine’s [Day]. It can be a friend setting and it can also be a self-love day. 

Bumble has this incredible word: “consciously single.” They find that over 50 percent of their users are consciously single saying it’s not a matter of circumstance, it’s not a matter of poor fortune. I genuinely think that right now being by myself is my best-case scenario.” Think about Valentine’s Day less like this is a day for romance, [and] instead, it’s a day for intimacy. And intimacy boiled down just means close personal relationships. 

What kind of gifts are appropriate for the “getting to know” stage?

I think that “it’s the thought that counts” encompasses what Valentine’s Day is really all about. [Consider] those little small gifts that are more thoughtful than they are expensive and showy. I think a good rule of thumb for Valentine’s Day, especially if you’re just in the beginning, is to think if the gift and the gesture you’re about to make would be reciprocated. And if it wouldn’t, I’d probably scale back in terms of my price range or what I was looking to get. 

Books are never a bad thing in the beginning to show somebody like, hey, you were talking about this and this is a great book that I heard [of]. Little things like, here’s a gift card to a coffee shop I think is great because I know that you love coffee or it could just be a card. There’s [also] nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Are we planning on just exchanging gifts? Are we planning on doing things for each other?” 

What are some of the ways that people can maybe avoid feeling disappointed or navigate those feelings?

The number one way is to remind yourself that nobody is a mind reader and learning to love you is new for many people. Or maybe it’s not, and maybe they’re still getting the hang of it. Nonetheless, nobody can completely know your mind, your dreams, your expectations and your desires. And so, you often have to communicate those things with people in advance. And if the goal of the day is to bring lovers together, not to test to see if somebody loves you, there’s nothing wrong with having a preemptive dialogue.

Even if you’re on a dating app with somebody, and you’re also in that space of are we moving this forward or are we not? Like, where is this going again? There’s nothing wrong with checking in and being like, “Oh, Valentine’s Day is on this [day]. My friend asked me to go out for drinks. What are your plans that day? I want to see if there’s space for us or did you want to join us?” You can casually drop it in such a way that doesn’t come across like, oh my God, I’m giving so much. 

How can people who are dealing with recent heartbreaks navigate the day?

If it’s extremely recent to the point that you’re just not ready to open yourself up for intimacy, having a self-love Valentine’s day, having a Galentine’s day, [or] refocusing the intimacy to other successful relationships in your life can be really beautiful. I think a really fun thing to do would be a get-together with a few friends who are also single and do each other’s dating profiles.

Download Bumble, pull that bad boy up. Pick your favorite photos of each other. Write down what you think the funniest things about your friends are. Go through this process of seeing yourself reflected through other people’s eyes and allow your friends to give you that juice to get back out there, even if you don’t publish your profile, because Bumble gives you options in terms of who sees you and when you’re ready to be seen. You could snooze your profile, you can be incognito. So you don’t have to start February 15th, but even just the act of putting yourself in the mind frame of what would it look like to start to look for love again?

However you feel about the holiday or choose to observe it, we hope you all have a love-filled Valentine’s Day and remember that you’re deserving of all things good!

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