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ASK A TFI CLINICIAN: A Valentine’s Day Survival Guide From Dr. Lisa Gordon

Valentine’s Day can be a make-or-break situation for couples. We’ve asked our expert couples and relationship therapists to provide some insights for partners as they navigate these complicated holiday waters.

Lisa Gordon, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute, provides today’s tips.


Valentine’s Day’s significance within a relationship depends on the couple’s individual expectations. In relationships where both partners view Valentine’s Day as a contrived holiday for forced affection, then expectations are low and Valentine’s Day is not very important. If, on the other hand, one or both partners have waited a lifetime to be on the receiving end of romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day, then the holiday has the power to fulfill or disappoint enormous expectations.”


“When expectations for Valentine’s Day align, either as ho-hum or hubba-hubba, risks diminish. When one partner discounts the holiday as needless pressure while the other partner desires a unique, once-per-year confirmation of specialness, then disappointment and resentment arise. As a result, it’s important for couples to discuss their expectations early — start the discussion in January instead of waiting for February 14th.”


The time leading up to Valentine’s Day provides the opportunity for partners to explore what the holiday, and holidays in general, have meant to one another in the past. How did each partner feel loved, cherished and special? What rituals created feelings of unity and family? What parts of these traditions would the couple like to preserve, discard, and/or tweak for their own unique bond and brood? Sharing these memories and hopes for the future enhances intimacy and trust.”


  1. Differentiate a partner’s lack of exuberance about Valentine’s Day from a lack of caring or love in general — it may just be a reflection of how he/she feels about the holiday.
  2. Remember that 364 days of loving kindness trounce one day of ordinary.
  3. Determine what loving kindness means to your partner and display that — one partner’s two dozen roses equals another partner’s half an hour long-distance phone call to her best friend.
  4. Discuss expectations for Valentine’s Day in January — and be prepared.

Dr. Gordon earned her PhD from Ohio State with extensive research and training in marital relations. She has taught Abnormal Psychology and Developmental Psychology and is a frequent presenter on parenting topics, including protecting one’s marriage while parenting. In addition, she has published articles on relationship issues such as infertility and divorce.

Dr. Gordon works treats individual adults, couples and families.

Read Dr. Gordon’s full bio here.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones. Find out more at our website.

Search for a therapist with our Find a Therapist function.

We’re nearby! See our four Chicagoland locations.

Got questions? Visit our FAQ page for more information.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: February Is Relationship Month on TFI Talks | TFI TALKS

  2. Pingback: Love Is A Verb: A Valentine’s Day Survival Guide with Alexandra Solomon, PhD | TFI TALKS

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