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5 Ways to Beat Valentineís Day Stress
Donít let this Hallmark holiday get you down. Use these tips to have a day both you and your spouse will enjoy.

It's a big day on the calendar, but Valentine's is nothing to fear.

Seeing those bright red cards and shiny hearts when I just finished celebrating New Yearís causes me stress, which can lead to anxiety, and then fearÖyes, fear! After all, Christmas and New Yearís have barely ended, and Iím already pressured into thinking about creating yet another perfect day, which I may not do right (causing stress), which may cause hurt feelings (causing anxiety) and which could possibly lead to a fight about our relationship (causing fear that our day will be ruined by dredging up old, unresolved issues)!

Our society has sold us a lot of expectations around Valentineís Day. Youíre supposed to be and feel loving. Youíre supposed to get the ideal card and gift for your Valentine. Youíre supposed to have a special dinner and a "perfect" day, or else. Moreover, certain common stressors like, "Will my spouse be hurt if I donít buy an extravagant gift or plan a special Valentineís event?" or, "Will my spouse be really happy with just a card?" or, "My Valentine and I are not doing very well, so should we still celebrate?" make us dread Valentineís Day, rather than look forward to it.

So, how do you not stress on Valentineís Day, but instead use it as the beautiful holiday that it truly isóto bring out the love and affection for your Valentine? How do you use it as a day to remember whatís good in your marriage in and of itself, and not because itís Valentineís Day?

In preparation, set aside some special alone time with your spouse, before the holiday, to consider the following ways to simply enjoy Valentineís Day without unnecessary stress:

1. Discuss how you want the day to unfold rather than how itís "supposed" to be or how it "should" be. This will clarify each individual's wishes and help you let go of the huge expectations surrounding the day, the gift, the dinner, the card or the perfect sentiment.

2. Once your Valentineís Day parameters are established, express your feelings to your Valentine in your own unique way, not what Hallmark dictates. Do one special thing, rather than three or four.

3. Forget the dinner reservations at a crowded, pricey restaurant where you canít even hear each other talk! Instead, either cook an intimate dinner together or order in for a romantic meal at home.

4. Use this day as an opportunity to remember whatís good in your marriage by telling your spouse two things you appreciate about them. This will acknowledge how special you both are to each other.

5. Even after youíve done all of the above, if you still feel stressed, breathe and try to put it into perspective. When you feel anxiety, youíre usually over-thinking something and making it bigger than it is. Remember, itís only one day in the life of your marriage, not your entire relationship.

Anytime too much pressure is placed on an event, it sets the stage for disappointment when the outcome isnít as you envisioned. Leave the stress behind this Valentineís Day by talking about the day in advance and using it as an opportunity to express your love and appreciation to your spouse in your own special way.

"Whatís the big deal? All I said was . . ." Sound familiar? Argument/Affairs Expert and Therapist Sharon M. Rivkin helps couples fix their relationships by understanding why they fight. Sharon says, "If you donít get rid of the ghosts that haunt your arguments, youíll never stop fighting!" Read her new book, "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy," to learn the tools of therapy to break the cycle of destructive fighting. Sharon has been featured in "O: The Oprah Magazine," "Readerís Digest," and DrLaura.com, and appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio. http://www.sharonrivkin.com

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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