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.