Each year, more and more people hijack Valentine's Day from the strictly-for-romance crowd to celebrate with the real loves of their lives — their best friends.
Some, like roommates KeriLynn Engel and Andréa Marseglia, celebrate Cupid’s holiday with a group of besties.
Engel, a freelance writer, and Marseglia, a teacher’s assistant, hosted a pizza party in their New Britain, Connecticut, apartment for themselves and their single pals — a mix of men and women in their 20s and 30s.
It’s a big switch for Engel, who usually ignores Valentine's Day.
“I feel like our culture places way too much emphasis on romantic love,” says Engel. “I've been single for years, and I believe you can live a fulfilled life without a romantic partner. Radical, I know!”
Engel says she's happy to redefine what the holiday is about. “I think it'll be nice to celebrate friendship instead. Friends and family are just as important as romantic love."
Be mine, BFF
It's a healthy mindset, says Suzanne Degges-White, a licensed mental health counselor, professor at Northern Illinois University and author of “Friends Forever: How Girls and Women Forge Lasting Relationships.”
And it's one she sees often in young people. Studies show millennials — those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s — are less interested in marriage than previous generations. They're also more likely to socialize — and date! — communally.
Many millennials don't want to take on the pressures of a big relationship before they're ready.
"They're having a blast," says Degges-White. “And, they seem to know that love is about so much more than finding a romantic partner for life."
Whether in duos or groups, friends who reserve Valentine’s Day for each other are onto something.
“BFFs rock," says Degges-White. “You’re honoring the person who’s always going to be around whether things are good or bad.”
Love yourself first
Another person worth honoring? Yourself, says Christine Arylo, author of "Madly In Love With Me: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend."
Arylo, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, is the founder of the international self-love movement and advocates the idea that women should be their own best friends. "The more women love themselves, the happier this whole world will be," says Arylo.
She defines self-love as the "unconditional, unwavering respect and love" a woman should have for herself.
One thing self-love is not is narcissistic — despite how the dictionary defines it. Nor is it selfish.
"Love isn’t like a pie where there’s only so many pieces to go around," says Arylo. When you love yourself and treat yourself with care, you're not denying anyone else that love and care.
In fact, the whole idea is to build a foundation of love within yourself so you can then give love to the world, says Arylo, who's happily married.
The self-love movement's annual holiday is Feb 13th —the day before Valentine's Day. Devotees around the world participate in "love circles" and take to social media with the hashtag #ChooseSelfLove.
And on Valentine's Day? Spread your love around, says Arylo. She's been known to hand out flowers to strangers just to see them smile.
Our furry Valentines
For others, their Valentine BFF comes in furry form. That's the case for Rhonda Kitchens, a librarian and artist who lives in the beach town of Nokomis, Florida.
On Sunday, Kitchens plans to spend time painting in a live art show, then head home to feed her four rabbits fresh veggies before she and her 10-year-old pug Sadie stroll to a neighborhood tiki bar for a special dinner.
After the death of an on-again/off-again boyfriend several years ago, Kitchens turned her focus to art and animals.
"They've both brought a lot into my life that being coupled-up would not have."
For now, romantic love doesn't interest her. "Love is a bigger concept," says Kitchens.
"Or sometimes just a pug-sized one."