I'm a single virgin. How am I supposed to be around my happy, mated friends on Valentine's Day?

Question

I am a single furry and I'm a virgin, and I can't help but feel sad whenever I think about the fact that I'm not going to have anyone to call my mate or to share a romantic meal with on Valentine's Day yet again this year. How can I cope with my feelings of inferiority and shame so that I'm not absolutely dreadful to be around as my friends are all trying to celebrate the love in their lives?

Received via Telegram (name withheld)

Answer

When you're single on Valentine's Day, it can be extremely difficult not to succumb to bitterness and what amounts to emotional self-mutilation as you enumerate to yourself all of the mediocre qualities you think you possess that make you unfit to be anyone's romantic partner. However, what's important is to take charge of how you are feeling, acknowledging that the only things you can truly change are the choices that you make.

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It's tempting to tell yourself that Valentine's Day is what is making you feel bad, whether that's sad, lonely, depressed, unlovable, damaged, or any other negative emotion, but if we take the stoic point of view, we can see that isn't really the case — beyond your initial response, what controls how you feel about Valentine's Day is how you choose to process the stimuli the holiday presents you with, and not the stimuli themselves.

On a holiday like Valentine's Day, you don't have much control over what stimuli you are exposed to. Even if you stay off of social media, you will still be exposed to holiday stimuli such as commercials and advertisements. Indeed, as in most situations, the only thing you truly have control over in this situation is yourself and how you choose to react to the stimuli you're presented with.

Let's look at an example; say your best friend sends a holiday social media status update that includes a Valentine's Day art commission he got with his mate. You might feel a wave of envy when you first notice the status update (this is your initial response, which you have little direct control over), but once you begin to process your feelings, you have some choices.

You might choose to dwell on how envious you feel, and become angry and sad as you contemplate the fact that you've never had anyone to get romantic art with. However, I'd argue choosing to proceed like this is not constructive; it makes you feel worse than you did before and doesn't produce any benefit.

As a more constructive alternative, you might choose to focus on how happy your best friend and his mate are, and be happy for them. You might even feel happy yourself when you think about your friend being happy; this is an emotion called compersion, often defined as the opposite of jealousy, or as happiness derived entirely from the pleasure of others. You might then allow yourself to really appreciate the art that your friend posted and note things you'd do differently if you were to commission a similar piece. Overall, you might be left with a feeling of hope and anticipation as you look forward to the possibility of commissioning a similar piece when you meet someone and fall in love.

Obviously, these two cognitive reactions to the same stimulus produce vastly different effects on your emotional state and overall mood — and which reaction you choose to have is largely up to you.

In other words, you can choose to dwell on your negative emotions and feel sorry for yourself, but I'd argue self-pity in this context will just make you even more upset than you were before. Instead, I recommend choosing to reframe how you think about the holiday entirely.

No matter what you do on Valentine's Day, try to empower yourself to choose how to respond to the stimuli you encounter, and try not to remain a slave to your initial emotional response.

You might choose not to focus on yourself and instead try to appreciate how happy the holiday makes other people who are important to you, as I described in the example above. You could also choose to make your Valentine's Day about other types of love beyond the romantic kind, using the holiday to celebrate other loved ones in your life. You could even decide to take Valentine's Day as a day to reflect on the types and kinds of romantic connections you'd welcome into your life and then set yourself some achievable goals that could move you towards being more attractive to the types of people you would want to be with.

Having read through all of my advice, you might feel a little overwhelmed and unsure how to get started with taking responsibility for your own emotional state. The most important thing you can do to start is to let yourself feel whatever it is you feel initially, without judging yourself or shaming yourself for feeling something you "shouldn't" feel. Then try to put that initial feeling into words and think about why you feel the way you do. Once you've done so, think about other ways you could choose to respond and how those responses might make you feel. Once you've come up with a few possible reactions, choose one that adds positivity to your life and that leaves your integrity intact. If you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings, try to catch yourself and think of happier interpretations. You'd be surprised at how often you can talk yourself out of a bad mood when you practice this kind of compassionate cognitive behavioral therapy on yourself.

Hope that helps! If you have any questions or comments or you'd like to share how you make it through Valentine's Day, please write us a message using the comment system below or get in touch with us via our contact page.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.