Fall Back in Love: Valentine’s Day Issues and How Couples Therapy Can Help You

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Image credit: Blake Carpenter (via Unsplash)

February  14th is here; did it catch you by surprise? If you find yourself having mixed feelings about this holiday—no sweat. You’re not alone!

Regardless of how strong your relationship may be, Valentine’s Day can test it in a different way. Couples feel anxious that their gifts may under-impress, and the cycle of comparing your romantic partnership to those around you can send you into a tailspin.

Before you get worked up about this impending holiday, let’s run through all your options for keeping V-Day as stress-free as possible.

Common Issues on Valentine's Day According to Therapists

Ever since Valentine’s Day was established—all the way back in the 5th century AD—it’s been an occasion to celebrate. But not everyone in a relationship feels particularly happy leading up to this day.

Two psychology professors, Morse and Neuberg, investigated the strain that Valentine’s Day sometimes puts on couples. They noted: “Valentine's Day may reveal, highlight and even exacerbate ongoing relationship difficulties. Some of the most common issues that can be catalyzed by Valentine's Day are:

  • Sexual and intimacy difficulties 
  • Significant differences in core values and beliefs 
  • Feelings of boredom in the relationship 
  • Communication difficulties

And the list goes on!

But why does this happen? Why does a holiday focused on love and appreciation bring so many problems to light?

Financial Jitters

When you log on to Facebook around the new year, your feed is littered with newly engaged couples, new relationships, and loved-up Christmas captions. Stick around for another month and Facebook reveals a darker side. David McCandless compiled some data regarding breakups by scraping status updates on the platform.  He found that breakups spiked in the two-week period leading up to Valentine’s Day. What’s more, across the year, several spikes took place weeks or days before popular gift-giving holidays. The pressure is real.

Multiple studies have concluded that Valentine’s Day has expectations tied to it that harbor disappointment.  Men are expected to shell out on lavish dinners, roses, and chocolates to woo their significant others, while women invest in colognes, clothing, or electronics. The need to impress others on social media drives prices higher, with millennials spending big bucks on V-Day. The statistics are telling, but there’s good news!

“For those who might feel pressure to spend big on Feb. 14, Bankrate’s survey found: A mere 6 percent report being disappointed by a Valentine’s Day gift because it was too cheap.

More often than not, individuals are impressed by the sentiment behind what their partner did for them, with 62 percent reporting in the survey that they were never disappointed in a gift from a current partner or spouse.”

Hear that? To alleviate stress and avoid unsustainable overspending, communicate with your partner about Valentine’s Day expectations beforehand. They may simply be happy with dinner at their favorite (but not necessarily expensive) restaurant… or they may even prefer to take a romantic hike for free!

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Romantic Reminding

For weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, we see trends of worry and panic. Conflicts stem from unrealistic expectations, lack of communication, and the tendency to  analyze your  relationship more closely at this time. In fact, those in an already weakened relationship state are five times more likely to split before Valentine’s Day. William Chopik, a social psychologist, has explained how Valentine’s Day prompts deeper relationship analysis, thereby opening up a microscope view of relationship functionality.

Now, we won’t go all scientific on you, but the data is intriguing. The lead-up to Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be fraught with negative comparisons and dissatisfaction. As Chopik has found, and as author Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., summarizes: “People who consistently express admiration and affection for their partner, and remind their partners (and themselves) what they appreciate about the relationship, enjoy relationships that are happier and more satisfying.” In short, it’s worth switching the focus from expectation to appreciation. Why not use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell your partner exactly what you appreciate about them? Gratitude pays off in emotional closeness.

Therapists Weigh In

If we scan the laundry list of V-Day stressors, many of them stem from the same key issue: a lack of communication.

Communication is everything. It covers the way you speak to yourself, others, and most importantly, your partner. A stream of open dialogue allows problems to be aired reasonably, considerably, and logically. When holidays approach and worries arise, discussing expectations and relationship hiccups will help smooth things over in a healthy, constructive way.

Some newer couples find that they may not know as much about their new partner as they originally thought, prompting deeper conversations to find a common ground. Those in long-term relationships may wonder if the spark they felt at the start has fizzled out. Did predictability kill the passion? Are we too different to have something long-term?

As these questions arise, meet them head-on. Having honest conversations about your relationship concretes its foundation for the future.

Also, build a “love map”! Dr. Gottman swears by a method known to couples as the “sound relationship house” theory, and building “love maps” is the first step. Essentially, building “love maps” means “asking the right questions to learn more about your partner.” No couple are without their share of conflict, but seeking to better understand your significant other’s thoughts and feelings works wonders for conflict resolution. Plus, you’ll rest easier if you ask your partner about their needs directly—instead of assuming, or staying up at night, wondering.

So don’t lose sleep! Let’s discuss some common Valentine’s Day issues and stressors now, so you can better combat them later. Remember, we’ve got your back!

#1. You Have a Difference of Opinion.

Oh no… You finally had THAT talk and now you’re beginning to question your commitment to your relationship. Can you get through this, or is it the end-all?

“Most of all, differences of opinion are opportunities for learning.” —Terry Tempest Williams

There comes a time in all relationships when couples must discuss issues on which they may differ. Such topics might include: family matters, finances, life goals, parenting styles, or whether they even want to be parents at all.

While these topics aren’t always easy to discuss, bringing them up doesn’t have to end in war. The key to resolving differences lies in empathy and intentional communication. There are countless resources to help you handle such discussions methodically. Check out some examples below:

#2. A Big Change in Life

As time progresses, changes are inevitable in love and in life. It can be frightening to deal with a partner retiring, health complications, new jobs, or the prospect of an empty nest. Once again, you’re not alone. View every big change as a fresh chance to grow stronger as a couple through life’s ups and downs.

To get through the heavier changes, you’ll have to keep lines of communication open, so you can support each other in the healthiest way. Therapy is a constructive way to cope with problems that seem too overwhelming to handle as a couple. Sometimes couples benefit from a professional, neutral, third-party perspective…and that’s okay!

So, if some issues seem scary to tackle head-on, reach out to a professional to make the process easier.

#3. Intimacy Issues

Has your sex drive changed over the years? Are you experiencing less desire for your partner, or missing the romance you felt at the start of your relationship?

Voicing your opinions on your sex life isn’t always easy, no matter how strong of a connection you have. Sex therapists are trained to help with a wide range of intimate issues, and they can do so in a highly sensitive manner.

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How Couples Therapy CAN Help You

To date, there are over 60,850 couples or family therapists in the United States alone. There is a notably high demand for professionals who can need help unpack relationship traumas and problems. So what can you expect from a couples therapy session?

Marriage and relationship psychologists are trained to deal with all manner of communication styles, attachment styles, and love languages. Key topics of discussion for many couples include emotional distancing, infidelity,  intimacy, and trauma, amongst others. Needless to say, your needs will be met with understanding and a means of resolution that feels right for you and your partner.

Now, it’s important to remember that one couples therapy session will not dissolve your issues immediately. A lot of therapists assign “homework,” or ask you to practice what you learn in-session at home. Make sure to keep communicating openly with your therapist to properly air all concerns and allow them to understand the progress you’re making from session to session. Here are some added tips for your first couples’ session so you both know what to expect.

“It's me and you versus the problem, not you versus me.” —Steve Maraboli

Once you and your partner have decided on a therapist that works for both of you, what are some reasonable goals to set in relation to couples therapy?  Here are the top three:

#1. Resolving Conflict

Therapists prompt couples to take a step back and analyze the root of the conflict. When you find it hard to express yourself in a way that accurately communicates your sore spots to your partner, tensions rise. In therapy or counseling, you’ll tackle important questions such as:

  • How do you emotionally react when problems arise?
  • What are common things we disagree on as a couple?
  • What does a win for each person look like?
  • What impact does this have on you?

Being able to convey the root of the problem in a healthy way makes issues easier to resolve.

#2. Improving Communication

We said it once, and we’ll say it again: communication is key!

Your therapist will help you and your partner deepen your understanding of each other  by addressing your fears, differences, and thinking patterns. They will also guide you to  communicate with a respectful tone that emphasizes love and empathic listening.

Finally, through therapy, you will learn to compromise. As hard as it may sometimes be, compromising is essential to a healthy relationship. Your therapist will help you take a win-win approach to conflict resolution to ensure both partners’ needs are met.

#3. Strengthening Your Bond

Now for the exciting part! You’ve unpacked your baggage, left your problems at the door (or in your therapist’s notebook, most likely), and now you and your partner get to focus on re-building the bond that connected you two in the first place.

Figure out your partner’s love language and work on expressing your affection in their dialect. Small acts of kindness, quality time, or physical touch are some different ways people enjoy receiving love.

Fresh out of date ideas? We’ve got you covered.

A New Approach to Couples Therapy

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Image credit: Kaysha (via Unsplash)

If the thought of airing your grievances to a third party makes you uncomfortable, it’s all good. You have options!

Psychologists know that not everyone  has the finances, time, or desire to meet with a therapist and discuss their relationship problems. That’s why Together was born!

Together is a low-cost couples counseling alternative personalized to your specific relationship issues. The app content is designed by psychologists to aid couples using EFT and ACT (also known as emotionally-focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.) Together teaches relationship skills through interactive video sessions and practical, hands-on tools which are all at your fingertips 24/7.

Together functions on-the-go so that you can use it anywhere you please and when you need it most. Even if your partner opts out of this app-based therapy alternative, you can still get great results by trying it alone.

Try it out if in-person therapy seems daunting and you’re looking for an affordable, accessible route to improving your relationship! We’re Together with you on this.

Try Together - the couple coaching app

Resolve your relationship pains with Together - a couple coaching app developed by leading therapists.

Join the Waitlist

Closing Thoughts From Together

We discussed a lot today. How do you feel?

We’re proud of you for being proactive and taking this first step towards relationship growth.

For many, Valentine’s Day brings with it negative comparisons, financial worries, and deeply hard-to-navigate conversations. Couples report that this holiday is hard on the heart when needs aren’t being met and communication is wavering.

Couples therapy is always a solid option in your quest for relationship growth. However, if you find it too heavy to take on right away, there are more choices at your disposal.

Together offers a new, science-based way to work on your relationship and help your love flourish. The in-app content is personalized to your relationship worries, and is grounded in EFT and ACT, both of which are proven, evidence-based approaches. We may not be able to give you physical roses on Valentine’s Day, but we can plant seeds of knowledge to help you and your relationship blossom.

To love and happiness, Together.

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