Valentine’s Day for most of us is that time of year where we pull out all the stops to impress our partners with a special evening or rekindle a dimming spark in our relationships. There can be a lot of pressure on making this day really special, and when this expectation is not met we tend to feel unappreciated, unloved, or less of a priority to the one we love. Messages from these unmet expectations on Valentine’s Day tend to contaminate our feelings about where we are in our relationships. If it goes really well we feel those sparks again and all is right with the world. If the day/evening is a disaster then we automatically feel that the relationship is in trouble and needs a tune up. In our busy and urgent everyday lives we tend to put romance and loving attachments with our partners aside and rely on Valentine’s Day and other special occasions to revive that spark that is losing its intensity. What about the rest of the year?
Maybe the solution isn’t putting so much pressure on Valentine’s Day but instead nurturing the relationship all year round. This may sound exhausting, and I can hear the complaints already. “Work is hectic and there just isn’t enough time”, “The children have school and sports and they come first”, “We don’t have enough money to engage in date nights or vacations as often as we would like”. These are all valid concerns and common barriers to nurturing a loving attachment. At Healthy Synergy we strongly encourage balance, which is just learning to make room for the things that are important to you. Easier said than done, of course, and may require getting creative. Nurturing a loving attachment simply means…It does not have to be major plans, expensive gifts, or vacations. Dr. John Gottman, who is mostly known for his research on marriages, shares his highly researched idea that the happiest couples are the ones that nurture their friendship, keep their negative thoughts about the relationship from overwhelming the positive ones, and learn to value and respect their differences. On Valentine’s Day there is so much pressure to perform. Take the pressure off of creating a perfect night and be present with your loved one. Whether you stay in or go out, reflect on all the things you admire about your relationship. Sometimes just hearing how you are special to another person can be a powerful way to connect.
Using this frame of mind here are a few suggestions on how to keep the spark going throughout the year:
1. Be polite, give compliments, be supportive and validate each other. We all want to feel appreciated and liked in our relationships. Feeling connected in this way will help you feel connected.
2. Maintain good eye contact when talking to each other. Eye contact is a crucial way to connect to another person. It says, “I am present” and “I am listening”, which is the best compliment you can give.
3. Admit your mistakes and forgive! Every couple has differences and challenges in their relationship. This will help you recover.
4. Keep romance alive! Engage in date nights or purposeful quality time. This can be anything you want it to be. Be realistic about what works for you. Time, money, or space an issue? Get creative!
- Cook dinner together and have a carpet picnic at home.
- Go out just for drinks or dessert.
- Have a movie night and prepare snacks.
- Refer to living social, groupon, or other sites there are always good ideas for dates and they are affordable.
- Spend time together and write down all the things you admire about your relationship. Take note of all the ways you work well together and place these notes in a jar or box that you can add to all year round. Review these notes whenever you feel your relationship needs a boost.
- Recreate your first date! (Hopefully you remember when and where that was, otherwise you could get into trouble!)
5. Share your vision for the future with each other. Discussing the future is a great way to connect. We all evolve in our relationships and it is never a bad idea to check in with each other around your desires and goals. It’s another way of knowing your partner and nurturing an emotional connection.