Handling Valentine's Day around newly single friends

Feb 7, 2013 at 6:25 a.m. ET

Your boyfriend is such a sweetheart! It's tempting to brag, but if you have a friend who's just ended a relationship (especially a long, committed one), a little sensitivity is in order.

Young couple with jealous friend

We're just going to say it. Being alone on Valentine's Day sucks. And while you may be one of the lucky few who have someone, you're sure to have friends who aren't as lucky. There's nothing wrong with being alone on Valentine's Day, but those who've experienced a recent breakup or are recently widowed may still be in mourning — over the loss of the partnership, if not the man himself. Be careful to keep your behavior in check.

Don't make assumptions

Just because you've spent every Valentine's Day you were alone sulking with a glass of wine and praying your friend's special steakhouse dinner was going terribly doesn't mean everyone minds being alone. Some people don't feel the need to have another person in their lives on Valentine's Day. That's not to say they don't want a boyfriend, it just means they know they're fine without one. There's no reason to act any different around this friend than you would around someone who isn't single.

By the same token, don't assume that because you never cared about being alone, none of your friends do, either. Even if they haven't experienced a recent breakup, Valentine's Day can be a harsh reminder to some that they haven't met certain life goals, like marriage and a family.

When Valentine's Day comes up and your friend says she has no plans, avoid phrases like "you poor thing" or "that's awful" or "that happened to me last year — it was so terrible!" If she truly doesn't mind, she might be offended. If she hadn't thought about it, you might create a bit of depression where there wasn't any. And if she was already a little sensitive, you might send her into an eating-ice-cream-directly-from-the-tub-with-a-whole-bottle-of-wine tailspin.

Show sensitivity

Depending on how close you are to a certain friend, she may not share her feelings about being alone. Even a close friend may avoid the subject if they're worried they'll dampen your excitement. Try not to bring it up until she does. That doesn't mean you can't mention your boyfriend, but even if she asks, don't brag about the fancy dress you just bought for your night out at the swank, overpriced restaurant he got reservations for three months ago.

If one of your other friends brings it up, though, don't try to suddenly end the conversation. That may make her feel self-conscious. Just redirect the conversation when you can if it looks like she's not entirely comfortable with it.

Love is in bloom

People who are newly single don't always relish seeing other women fawn over the beautiful flower arrangement (or chocolates or cute toys) they've just gotten. We're not suggesting you hide the flowers in your closet when a single friend comes over. But don't make a big deal about them.

If the friend is someone you work with, you also might consider asking your boyfriend or husband not to send you any flowers. Just explain that you have a single friend at work who's upset about a failed relationship and you don't want to make her uncomfortable. If he wasn't planning to get you flowers, he gets to pretend he was. If he was, he can have them sent to your house. (And as an added bonus, it also reminds him Valentine's Day is coming up… just in case he forgot).

Change the paradigm

Depending on your friend's state of mind, you might want to consider changing how Valentine's Day works this year. When we were kids, we didn't expect our little boyfriends (or crushes) to whisk us away on a romantic weekend. We went to the store and bought cheesy valentines for everyone in our class and sat at the table carefully writing each person's name on the card, then handing one out to everyone the next day.

Maybe you and your man can do something romantic a few days before or after Valentine's Day. Then you can spend the evening hanging out with your best gals, single or not, having a few glasses of wine and swapping first date and worst sexual experience horror stories.

More Valentine's Day ideas for your single friends

Throw the perfect girlfriend get-together
How to throw a Valentine's Day party for singles
Single gal's guide to a sweet Valentine's Day