photo of a couple in bed on valentines day with construction paper hearts
Photo: Carlos Barquero / Getty Images

Valentine’s Day Is Way Worse For Couples

Trust me, I’m in a relationship.

When I was single, I’d feel what can only be described as straight-up, all-consuming, let-me-just-walk-into-the-sea dread when Valentine’s Day approached. It feels like suddenly everyone amps up the PDA; couples are snogging on public transport, practically dry humping in the cinema and holding hands in even the most mundane places (you really don’t need to get intimate in the corner shop, guys). It makes you want to cry, throw up and punch everyone at the same time.


These days it’s not just February to worry about either. Pretty much the second Christmas ends the supermarkets turn pink, sparkly, and confetti-bombed. Annoyingly, love actually does seem to be all around, and you get fed up at the distinct lack of your own. 

These feelings make total sense, because this “special” day embodies capitalism and unrealistic ideas of love designed to make us all feel like shit, says Meg Arroll, psychologist and author of Tiny Traumas – they’re just wrapped up in a pink bow. “We’ve tried to soften the edges of old ideas about how love should look, and we do this well throughout the rest of the year,” she explains. “But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, they really just come back and slap you in the face.” 

With the self-love revolution, we’ve worked hard to move past the idea that a partner “completes” us or we need someone else to be truly happy, but on V-Day “we fall back into the view that there’s ‘the one’ for everyone”, Arroll explains. “We re-focus on relationship perfectionism which is harmful.” Even if you’re happy about being single during the rest of the year, Valentine’s Day has a special way of making you feel like a total failure.


Now, hear me out, but it sucks for people in a relationship too – it can even be worse. 

There’s an expectation that Valentine’s Day specifically serves couples, that it’s the most romantic day of the year for us – but in reality, all that pressure only makes for a day of disappointment. Sure, your smug friend Ella might go on about the designer handbag her fella got her, but I bet she doesn’t tell you he only got it because she cried when he forgot about Valentine’s Day entirely. Eating a whole tub of ice cream in your PJs without anyone pestering you, à la Bridget Jones? I’d genuinely pay good money for this.

I’ve been in a relationship for just over five years, and I’m struggling to remember any of our Valentine’s Days. There’s a real chance that this is because we haven’t actually spent one together, as my partner works in hospitality: Trying to get time off for the evening of love together is like an extreme sport. If we have any chance of a real V-Day, he’d have to book it off a year in advance and fight off all the other boyfriends in the workplace along the way. In fairness, that’s basically the same lead time you need to book a nice restaurant on the 14th of February anyway – another curse of every couple celebrating their love on the same day.


Jem Morgan, a 26-year-old HR assistant who’s been in a relationship for six years, tells VICE she dreads Valentine’s Day every year. “Something about being told I should be loved up on this day makes me feel the opposite,” she says. “For some reason, my boyfriend loves Valentine’s Day, so I go along with it and, obviously, it's nice to be treated, but I end up hating it every year.”

Morgan despises how scheduled and forced it all is. “We should go to dinner, buy each other presents and have sex throughout the year, not just because it’s Valentine’s and we ‘should’,” she continues. “It’s an ick to be honest, I literally don’t think I’ve ever been in the mood to date or have sex on Valentine’s Day.” 

Arroll agrees the forced nature of the day can be a mood-killer for a lot of couples. “Often the most romantic moments are the ones that aren’t planned, and you can’t recreate that feeling in a vacuum,” says Arroll. “From the outside looking in, relationships can seem incredible on Valentine’s Day, but really it can feel overly scheduled, like organising fun with your family.” Um, sexy. 

Estate agent Ellen Jones, 35, says that Valentine’s Day in a relationship is “another grim reminder of how lazy men can be”. She’s been with her partner for nine years and while they love each other, seeing how other couples treat their partners for Valentine’s Day makes her literally “hate him”. 


“I love him all year round and then Valentine’s happens, and I’m just like, ‘Fuck you!’” laughs Jones, noting that it’s mainly the Facebook posts of other couples getting engaged or giving each other fancy gifts that sends her spiralling. “He has the same speech every year about how it’s a capitalist bullshit holiday, and we should save money instead of engaging with it, and even though I totally agree with him on the inside, I’m still annoyed because why can’t he just be fun?”

Social media comparison is a big romance killer for couples, says Arroll. “Seeing other people’s presents and experiences is another example of that unrealistic, capitalistic idea of love,” she says. “It can be really challenging to see that, especially in a cost of living crisis. If you love someone, you want to show that you care about them, but Valentine's culture tells us we need to book our partners a helicopter and do all this crazy stuff to prove it.” 

It might not seem like a big deal if other people are having a better Valentine’s Day than you, but Arroll notes that the emotional parts of our brain act much faster than the rational. “Even if you know not everything you see on social media is the full picture,” says Aroll, “you’ll often already become upset and have an emotional reaction before you’ve had the chance to unravel it.” 


The pressure and comparison that propels Valentine’s Day has big consequences, too. Arroll sees a significant increase in patients seeking couples therapy right after the Big Day – and she doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. 

“Valentine’s Day forces us to really look at our relationships under a microscope,” says Arroll. “Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing, and genuine issues can be brought to light, but most of the time it’s blown out of proportion.”

The pressure and the blockers that stop you from having the “perfect” Valentine’s Day can lead people to believe they don’t fancy each other anymore, says Arrol. (The blockers being everything from scheduling conflicts; to not being able to afford presents and experiences; to not being able to “switch on” your libido in the hotel room, because that’s not how desire works.)  “In reality, maybe that’s not true and Valentine’s Day just isn’t serving you, so why bother with it?” 

I hope we can now all agree that Valentine’s Day isn’t fun for anyone – relationship or not – unless you’re the CEO of a card company. But at least if you’re single, you don’t have to deal with any of this mindfuckery. So my single folk, go forth and let loose at your speed dating events, laugh till your stomach hurts at Galentine’s drinks, and get shitfaced at your singles-only dinner parties – they’re a lot more fun, trust us.