New Valentine’s Day Tradition: Strengthen Your Love Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to follow the protocol of what retailers or media suggest. Instead, treat Valentine’s Day like a New Year's resolution for love. BY SHARON M. RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Use the opportunity of this loving holiday to strengthen your marriage.
“ Are you ready to truly make a difference in your marriage?... Use this Valentine’s Day to start a new relationship habit for the year.”
Our society has sold us a lot of expectations around Valentine’s Day, but is that such a bad thing? After all, the holiday is about love, relationships, and connection. But what if we took the Valentine’s Day hype and reshaped it into an event that could really deepen our relationships all year long… not just on February 14th. What if we took the day as an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and our marriages to see what’s working and what’s not? Then, instead of centering the holiday on cards, flowers, candy, and expensive gifts, it could be an important day that could have a positive long-term effect on our intimate relationships.
Are you ready to truly make a difference in your marriage? With some preparation and an open mind, and a willingness to take a risk and do something different, use this Valentine’s Day to start a new relationship habit for the year. Here’s how:
1. It’s all about the approach. The way you approach your new idea for Valentine’s Day with your spouse is important so that he doesn’t feel threatened or scared, but views it as a positive opportunity that will be beneficial to both of you. This isn’t about dredging up the past to use against each other, but a simple review of the year, expressing what you love and appreciate about each other, and what each of you wants to do to make the relationship even better.
2. Suggest the new idea to your spouse. Because you have an idea of doing something different this year, you need to let your spouse know about the change of plans—ahead of time. For example, you could say, "I read a great article about switching things up on Valentine’s Day, and I thought we should give it a try. What do you think? All we have to do is start thinking about what we love and appreciate about each other and any ideas that we each have about ourselves to make our marriage even better. Let’s think of this as a fun and different thing to do over dinner this year."
3. Open your heart and write it down. You don’t have to, but it will make it easier in the long run to just jot down some notes to help you remember what you want to say. For instance, you might write "I appreciate the way we work together on the chores;" or "I love the way you grab my hand when we’re walking down the street;" or "When we go out, thank you for opening the car door for me." Then write down some ideas about ways to make the marriage even better, such as "I’ll work on being a better listener because I know that’s important to you," or "I’ll try to give you private time to unwind when you come home from work."
4. Set ground rules for a successful conversation. Now that both of you have jotted down some notes about what you’d like to contribute to the conversation on Valentine’s Day, it’s important that you both agree on some ground rules so it goes well. Remember to listen and not interrupt when your spouse is speaking. Don’t blame, shame, or bring up old, unresolved issues. Keep to the plan of being appreciative and offering what you can bring to the relationship. If, however, your conversation turns into an argument, remember that your goal is to make your marriage even better and to appreciate each other, so whoever is the first one to realize that you’re off track, take responsibility to get it back on track.
5. Solidify the new relationship habit. After the conversation on Valentine's Day, and as time goes by, periodically look at your notes as a reminder to make sure you’re working on the items that you talked about with your husband or wife. Ask your spouse if they've noticed any changes in your actions and behavior, and let them know if you’ve noticed differences in their behavior. Hopefully you both have! Remember, a new habit only forms when you keep at it, so give yourself a big pat on the back when you’re honoring the changes that you presented to your spouse. On the other hand, if nothing has changed in your relationship, go back and recommit to your list. At the very least, simply remember to appreciate each other regularly. You’d be surprised what a difference that will make.
It’s the small steps both of you make that can make a big difference in the health and happiness of your marriage. Let Valentine’s Day be the start of something bigger and better for you and your spouse.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and is the "Resident Shrink" on Coach Ron Tunick's radio show, The Business of Life, on KKZZ 1400AM. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.