How to ruin Valentine’s Day…and potentially a perfectly good relationship!
Having been a certified Gottman Marriage counsellor for years and being married for 22 years you would think love, romance and passion should be second nature. Well, it doesn’t and every year during Valentine’s Day I am reminded to reflect on how to keep the romance alive in a long term relationship. One way to ruin this awesome reminder is to excuse it away by saying, “It’s all about the commercialism… I will show love when I want too, not when some saint says I should.” This could be a grave mistake. Trust me, I have made it too many times!!!
Create rituals of connection.
It is true that commercialism and insane mark-ups are everywhere whenever a special holiday comes around and it can really ruin the intention of the holiday in the first place. (I am so cheap that I make sure I buy flowers one week in advance and never go to a restaurant on the actually day.) So get mad and stomp your feet in rebellion about this insidious practice and then step back and think for a moment.
Why is this tradition important for relationships? It reminds you every year to make sure you are remembering to celebrate the love you have with that someone special. Research is clear that couples that develop rituals of connection that they can count on are healthier than ones that pretend that love, romance and passion just happen by some freak accident. Marriages that end in divorce or those that are stable but miserable often rely on a myth that if we are not fighting and avoid all conflict that fun, friendship and passion will just magically appear in their relationship. This is simply not true, the Best marriages that have been proven to last recognize that the passion stays alive because they create Rituals of connection, to keep it alive.
Rituals of connection are anything that a couple chooses to make more purposeful in order to stay connected and have fun doing it. Happy couples have special ways they start and end their days, they know what makes a great weekend for both of them and they build in activities that are they both enjoy into their lives. They can count on a date or two a month, they know what each of them wants or don’t want when they are sick and they definitely have talked about how they go about initiating and refusing sex. There literally are hundreds of informal and formal rituals that begin to define a couple. Valentine’s day is just a yearly wake up call reminding us all to say “ I love you” and celebrate your union.
Make it your own, talk about what it means to you and ask your partner what it means to them. And to the need to make sure you are aware for what keeps you connected. Most couples that come to therapy say they feel taken for granted and unappreciated. Valentines is not just a day, it is a reminder to build into your daily life rituals you can count on.
One more thing… make sure you tell your partner how awesome they are and that you can’t wait til you can get your hands on them (in a good way). Most of the time these loving thoughts stay in our head and rarely trickle past our lips. When we at Bestmarriages.com counselling ask couples to say positive things about their partner they rarely have a problem coming up with three or four things to say from the previous week or two. When asked if they verbalized this to their partner the answer is no but they did think about it. What good is that!!! If you don’t say it your partner cannot read your mind. Make it a practice to catch your partner doing something right and tell them. The results will speak for themselves.
Darren Wilk, MA, Certified Gottman Couples therapist