3278394587_8be2d57b2dLast night I walked into Wegman's to grab a bag of Smartfood and a Coke Zero to celebrate the beginning of the weekend and Bam! I was assaulted by a sea of red. There were forests of flowers, towers of chocolate and barrage balloons of red and pink hearts. A gauntlet of Madison Avenue love. Yeesh!

"Ouch," I thought. "This has got to hurt for anyone who doesn't have a sweetie-pie. I can hardly stand it and I'm married!"

We often decry the commercialization of the holidays. On Valentine's Day, not only are the commercials ridiculous, you can hardly climb over the mountain of expectations.

And what's with this lovey-dovey nuclear arms race? If my sweety gets flowers in a box, should I dump him because the flowers are a little wilted? If I get flowers and not a diamond pendant, does that mean he doesn't care enough?

And why does it feel like the burden of romantic proof is all on the guys? How do the girls figure into the equation?

Why does everything have to be so over the top? Since when was Valentine's Day is a competition?

A better set up for disappointment is hard to find. Do not fall for it! Enjoy your Valentine's Day by lowering your expectations. Here's how:

> Do not expect him to read your mind. If you are dying to be taken to your favorite restaurant for dinner TELL HIM! Better yet, take that bull by the horns and invite him yourself. Have fun discussing and making plans. 

> If he/she wants to surprise you get ready to be happy no matter what he springs on you. If he takes you for bowling and a pizza, get into the groove. Quickly let go of dreams of being swept off to Paris. Who knows, it might turn out to be the most memorable date ever.

> Be sensitive to budgets, his, yours, ours. These days it's hard to justify a big splashy night on the town. On the other hand spending a little on making new memories is a good investment in the relationship.

> Sit down and write a letter.  Don't just let Hallmark do the talking for you. Remind yourself (and him/her) why you are in this relationship to begin with. Let him know all the little and big things you appreciate about him. As Mastercard would say, that stuff is priceless.

If you're single for Valentine's Day, don't buy into the idea that somehow you are pathetic. That is a pile of bull doo-doo!

> Get your friends together and make plans to have some fun. Collect a ton of favorite DVDs, bags of popcorn and stay in, or get dressed up, step into your killer shoes and step out.

> Have an 'I Love Me' day.  Buy yourself some chocolate and flowers. Take yourself to a day spa for some well deserved pampering. Celebrate the fact that you are a free spirit who doesn't have to answer to anyone.

> Indulge in some happy cocooning. It's cold outside, who wants to go out? Put a log on the fire, cuddle up under your favorite blankie and dive into a nice thick escape book.

And for everyone:

> Indulge in your passion. A wise man told me recently that it is never good to make one person the recipient of all of your passion. Relationships, and the individuals in them, thrive when they enjoy passionate pursuits, interests and activities beyond the other person.

Depend on yourself first. Pursuing our passions feeds our self-esteem, makes us strong and self-reliant. And whether you are single or in a relationship nothing is sexier than a healthy glowing self-esteem.

So enjoy your Valentine's Day for what it is, a nice day, not so different from all the others, set aside to enjoy and appreciate your loved one and your own sweet self.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Greene via Flickr