For many, February means one thing: Valentine’s Day. At The Family Institute, we’re taking this opportunity to explore one of our favorite and most widely-discussed topics: couples. Today’s post comes from Shiahna Chavis, PhD.
Valentine’s Day is known to be a day in which we celebrate love. Particularly for couples, it is a day to surprise your significant other with gifts, spend the evening together engaging in a special activity, and/or profess your love and affection to one another. Accordingly, many believe that by going “all out” on this day, they will rekindle the spark in their relationship. They hope to make up for all the times they were working late, too tired to spend time together, focused on other tasks such as housework or the children’s schedules, or when they just did not make their relationship a priority. Consequently, the benefits of this one day are short lived.
Think about it this way: Do you think it is possible to lose and maintain your desired weight working out for 3 hours one day a year? Do you think it is possible to become rich by making one $300 deposit into your bank account? If the answer to these questions is no, then it is also unlikely that you can maintain a satisfying, healthy relationship by spending 3 hours and up to $300 on one day during the year. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then neither can your relationship be reinvigorated in just one day. Therefore, the solution is to be consistent in contributing to your relationship on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Here are some tips for how you can make this Valentine’s Day a true Valentine’s Year:
- Be thoughtful. It is so meaningful to know that your partner is thinking about you throughout their day and is excited to see you. You can let them know this by writing them a message on the bathroom mirror, leaving them a note in their car or in their lunch, sending them a text message or leaving them a message on their social media page. Some great examples include: just thinking about you; just daydreaming about you; can’t wait to see you later tonight; miss you right now; thinking about you and it made me J; just remembering when we (insert pleasant memory) and it made me J; it was so great when you did (insert behavior).
- Be a good listener. In your conversations with your partner, pay attention to things they may mention that they want or need and then do it for them. Examples include going to a restaurant they said they wanted to try, getting his or her favorite cologne or perfume they just ran out of, or recording an episode of their favorite show when you know they have to work late.
- Be intentional. While it is nice to just hang out, it can be even more impactful when you know your partner took the time to plan an activity for the two of you to enjoy. The internet is full of all types of fun, interesting, frugal, (insert any other adjective) date ideas. Shake things up!
- Be an overachiever. Go the extra mile and do more than is expected of you. This means doing nice things for your partner, not because you have to but because you know it will make them happy and feel special. This requires attention and thoughtfulness, but when we love someone we should show it. Your relationship should be worth it!
- Be appreciative. Express your gratitude for the value that your partner adds to your life. A recent study found that appreciation is an important part of healthy relationships. It described that often we take our partner’s special qualities for granted and instead focus more on what annoys us about them, forgetting why we chose to be with them. However, couples who were mutually appreciative of one another were less likely to break up and were more committed to one another. A thank you a day can keep the divorce lawyer away!
- Be selfless. It can be very meaningful for your partner to join you in an activity that they don’t like or have no interest in but will do it because you like it. Take the time to learn more about it and impress them with your knowledge. Also, when you are doing this activity, it is important that you have a good spirit about it, meaning no whining, complaining, or acting as though you are bored.
- Be accepting. It has been said that acceptance is the power to love someone and receive them in the very moment that we realize how far they fall short of our hopes. There will always be characteristics of our partners that we wish were different, but as we have heard over and over, you cannot change another person. Therefore, make the choice to accept and love them, flaws and all. When you accept your partner, you give them the freedom to be who they truly and create an environment of honest connection, compassion, safety, and commitment. In turn, it reduces the amount of negativity, anger, blame, and judgment in your relationship.
I challenge you to put these tips (and even some of your own) into action on a daily or even weekly basis and take note of how much more connected you feel to your partner. Remember, it’s like heaping coals on a smoldering fire so that it does not die out!
Dr. Chavis received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She specializes in working with couples and utilizing interventions that promote intimacy and increase marital satisfaction, and is receiving advanced training in couples therapy through her fellowship at The Family Institute. To learn more about the Institute’s couples therapy services or to make an appointment, visit our website.