Valentine’s Day is a day that some people celebrate and a day that others tend to dread. For everyone, it can be an important reminder to lift our relationships up and to think about the blessings our loved ones provide. As a marriage therapist, and a spouse of 43 years, I remind myself that it is often the little things that matter most in a relationship. The memories you share, the experiences you create, and the love you nurture on a daily basis provide the foundation for a lifetime of marriage.
There are some very simple guidelines to follow when you are in a relationship that, if you follow, will support the relationship through difficult times:
1. Agree on How to Disagree
One of the first ground rules is to agree on how to resolve conflicts so that they are managed with respect and result in some form of agreement. There are several ways couples can chose to do this, but the common thread involves active listening and empathizing with your partner’s intentions, concerns and needs. While disagreements can often turn animated, it is crucial that the respect for the other person’s thinking and feelings remain paramount. According to research, about 75% of our marital conflicts are not solvable, yet that should not be the focus of the marriage. You may have to let go of some expectations. Your partner may not become the household chef, or share your standards of organization, but in letting go you gain something much richer than a good meal or an orderly home.
2. Give Technology a Break
Turn off technology at an agreed upon time in the evening when you are both home. This includes everyone in the home, especially pre-teens and teens who want to text and play computer games.
3. Everyone Needs Their Rest
Go to bed at the same time so there is time to cuddle and relax several nights a week. Ideally, there should be no technology in the bedroom – no TV, no phones, no computer and no paperwork from your job spread across the bed. If you have children, make sure they are in bed and getting the sleep they need. They also should have no TV or computer games for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
4. Schedule Time to Relax
As a couple you need to have relaxing time together for 90 minutes or more at least 3 nights a week. Have evenings that you both agree are “low expectation nights.” No “we have to talk” discussions should be held after the set relaxation time. Instead, set a time for those discussions when you both have had time to think about how you can discuss the problem when you are both refreshed with sleep. If you are sure you are right in a conflict and feel like the victim, you are probably wrong. You are, in fact, 50% of the answer.
5. Plan a Date Night
Plan a date night every 2 weeks where you have time to relax and talk to each other. This is a time for play, humor, sharing dreams and goals, and relaxing. It is not the time to discuss parenting or marital issues.
6. Show a Little Tenderness
Bring kindness into your relationship. Show that you are thinking about the other person when you are not together by what you do when you are together. This is not about gifting, but about showing thoughtfulness to the other person.
These are just a few ideas for couples to consider in a relationship. It is important to remember that all relationships require time, resources and energy in order to grow. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or dread it, use the day as a reminder to reflect on your commitment and to enrich the love in your marriage.
If you are struggling with your relationship, the counseling staff at LSS can help. Call 1-855-334-2953 or visit www.counseling.lsssd.org to schedule an appointment.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist