By Mythili Devarakonda
For the Diamondback

For students at the University of Maryland, Valentine’s Day is full of expectations. This year is no different.

Abby Callas said the romantic holiday can exacerbate common stress surrounding being single.

“It can affect someone’s mental health or just be a reminder of insecurity,” the senior information science major said.

Callas said those around her who usually worry about their relationship status seem to have their stress culminate around Valentine’s day. Though she doesn’t mind being single, Callas does think that other people’s worries can add to the societal pressure to always seek a relationship.

“You’re not going to necessarily avoid that pressure,” said Dr. Alexander Chan, a mental and behavioral health specialist at the University of Maryland Extension. “It’s like pollution, you can’t help but breathe it in.”

While he doesn’t think you can avoid the stress brought up by the holiday each year, Dr. Chan does think there’s a healthy response to the pressure. He recommends redirecting energy that would be spent worrying into self-care activities such as exercising, eating and focusing on your own needs.

“The foundation of a healthy relationship, one of them at least, is taking good care of yourself,” he said.

Callas’ own view on Valentine’s Day mirrored this.

“It’s a lovely reminder to take a step back, appreciate people in life and prioritize love,” she said.

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But the stress of Valentine’s Day isn’t just felt by those who are single.
Ellie Van Hattem and her partner try to avoid the idea that Valentine’s Day is supposed to be particularly special.

“Valentine’s Day is only a day associated with expectations,” the ethnomusicology graduate student said. “I wouldn’t even call it a day of showing love.”

Van Hattem and her partner currently don’t have any Valentine’s Day plans.

Dr. Chan said that managing expectations is key to healthy relationships. Asking your partner what they think about Valentine’s Day in advance is important to clarify expectations and avoid conflict between one another.

“It gives you a chance to acknowledge that there is social pressure around it,” Dr. Chan said.

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Sophomore Apoorva Ajith and her partner of more than two years have discussed their Valentine’s expectations.

“Personally, we both have an agreement with each other where we try not to buy each other things, just to save money and not spend money on things we don’t exactly need,” the community health and environmental science major said.

She said the holiday can make those in a relationship feel pressured to spend money for their significant other.

“It’s very consumerist,” she said.

Senior Emmanuel Papastefanou feels differently.

“I really love the holiday. I love love. I’m a hopeless romantic,” the senior environmental science and policy major said.

And Papastefanou feels this way despite being broken up with on Wednesday, less than a week before Valentine’s Day.

Papastefanou said he loved the holiday even if he didn’t have a partner to celebrate with, seeing the holiday as about more than just romantic love.

“I think a lot of people put a lot of weight on whether or not they are in a relationship. And so for a holiday to seem to be so centric around being in one, I’m sure it’s hard on them,” he said.

Papastefanou’s Valentine’s Day plans are hosting the Student Entertainment Events’ Feeling Myself talk on sexual education on the basis of consent as the Special Events Director.

“The most rewarding relationship — and it sounds cliche — but it is with yourself,”
Papastefanou said.