Valentine’s Day can be both a blessing and a curse. Some couples cherish the opportunity for romance — flowers, chocolates, candle-lit dinner — while others brace themselves for disappointment and date-night disaster.
Part of the problem is expectations. Maybe your standards are unrealistically high, or maybe they’re kept secret (leaving your partner with absolutely no hope of meeting them). A bigger problem is that most couples don’t know what they have a right to expect from their spouse.
What I really wish for you this Valentine’s Day is love — the love you want. Here’s what that might look like and how to get it.
Too often we focus on what isn’t rather than what is, what’s wrong versus what’s right. There’s a highly useful therapeutic paradigm called "Positive Psychology": It builds optimism and health by focusing on strengths. We could all take a page from that book. Dwell on what’s wonderful about your partner. (Psst, bonus, you’ll see more of it.)
If there’s a magic bullet for marriages this is it: hugs. Why? Physical closeness is the first casualty in busy couples. Bridge that gap by embracing three times a day. A hug accomplishes in five seconds what it can take hours to create without the benefit of touch — closeness. Our need for attachment is well studied and documented. And we don’t grow out of that primal necessity.
The greatest gift you can give your spouse is to fulfill the basic human requirement for physical closeness.
A 2004 survey found that one of the most common reasons couples seek therapy is problematic communication. Learning to put down our dukes and have real discussions is critical. Also essential is scheduling regular catch-up sessions with your spouse. That means 30 minutes of talking every day, and date night every week!
John Gray, author of that seminal book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, famously wrote, “When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom." You didn’t marry your clone. Respecting — even appreciating — each other’s differences is the basis for a partnership that is full of grace and good humour.
We all fight. Even the best marriages have conflict. But harmonious marriages have a secret weapon — a pause button. Harmonious couples have mastered the art of cease and desist. In her book Hold Me Tight, marriage therapist Sue Johnson offers the following insights on defusing “demon dialogues” (you know, those explosive arguments that seem to cycle through your relationship as if on a loop):
Declare a cease-fire: Just stop, at least for now.
De-escalate: Move from “you” statements to “we” statements — “we keep doing this don’t we?”
Own it: Own your feelings and encourage your partner to own his. What’s really bugging you?
Unite: Come together as a team — as allies not adversaries, as Johnson puts it.
Not feeling it lately? These expert tips will help you and your partner achieve the relationship you both want and deserve.
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