Love is in the air and as usual, it is hard to avoid the abundance of hearts and flowers on display at this time of year. For many people, Valentine’s Day is a moment to celebrate their relationship by exchanging gifts, planning a romantic dinner or a surprise. For others, it brings into sharp focus what’s lacking in their relationship. Those who aren’t in a relationship can resent the pressure Valentine’s Day puts on them to have a romantic partner while it can be a lonely day for those mourning the loss of a relationship after bereavement or divorce.
The pressure can place a lot of stress on even the happiest of couples: read on to find out how you can avoid the usual pitfalls and have a Valentine’s Day to remember.
Why Valentine’s Day can be fraught with tension
Valentine’s Day can feel like performance review time. How romantic is my relationship? How well are we doing as a couple? How much effort have I put in this year, and do I really deserve a bonus? With your relationship under scrutiny, it is worrying to notice that you’re missing those relationship KPIs.
Common complaints include feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner compared to the intensity of the early days of a relationship. Resentments build when you replay the same unresolved arguments. Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated that your sex life has dwindled: the unavoidable demands of a young family and work often leave little time or energy for romance.
The day itself can trigger intrusive, negative thoughts. Feelings of unworthiness can surface when a disappointing gift is interpreted as evidence that your partner doesn’t really love you. Performance anxiety is never far away if you’re feeling pressure to ensure a night of mind-blowing passion when you’ve not touched each other in months. The constant barrage of social media posts can fuel negative comparisons that everyone else is having a more romantic and fun time than you.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder many of us are keen to get to the third week in February as quickly as possible! If you’re a romantic soul or a hardened cynic, here are some ways you can make this Valentine’s Day one to remember.
1. Manage expectations
Knowing how to mark the day can be fraught with stress and anxiety. Disappointments occur when expectations are not met but chances are, they haven’t been communicated. Our partners are not mind readers so it’s unrealistic to expect them to magically know how you’d like to celebrate this year. Having a conversation in advance of Valentine’s Day about what you want to do will set it up for success.
2. Make it personal
Having had the conversation, you might be surprised to learn that your wife doesn’t want the same generic bunch of flowers you buy every year but would prefer to spend quality time with you instead. Making the day memorable and meaningful is preferable to expensive gifts so tune into what your partner does or does not want and prioritise making the day novel and fun. Bonus points if you can go the extra mile and do the one thing they’ve always wanted to do but you’ve always said “no way” to, such as singing your heart out at karaoke or taking a yoga class together.
3. Express appreciation for each other
Valentine’s Day can feel empty if it’s the only day of the year you feel appreciated. On the day that’s dedicated to showing and telling your partner how much you love them, make sure they hear it loud and clear from you! Go out of your way to notice all the ways your partner takes care and supports you and express some appreciation. Be specific and share what that meant to you, for example, ‘Thanks for coming to the doctors with me this morning. I was worried it could be bad news and I didn’t want to have to face it on my own’.
4. Switch off and tune in
Whether you’re dining out or preparing a meal a deux at home, nothing will kill the mood quicker than stopping mid-conversation to look at your phone. Turning our attention away can make the other person feel unimportant and rejected. Show your partner they have your undivided attention and put your phone away. Ask open ended questions to find out what’s going on in their world, what they’re struggling with but also what they’re looking forward to. Pay attention and listen carefully. Show your partner you’re listening by reflecting back what you heard to them and be curious about them. This builds feelings of intimacy, friendship and connectedness that will make your partner feel loved and seen by you.
5. Rekindle your romance
It can be hard to feel romantic if you’ve been feeling distant from your partner and things are awkward between you. A great way to quickly rekindle romantic feelings is to recall happy times in the past, such as how you met, things you did when you were dating, special holidays together, as well as recounting funny stories. Many couples love to talk about their special stories. Find time this Valentines to reminisce, reflect on how far you’ve come, and all the things you’re looking forward to in the future.
6. Turn up the heat
Get in the mood ahead of seeing each other by sending flirty texts to each other throughout the day. Your partner will be thrilled! Be affectionate and playful with each other in private and in public too. Give compliments and take care to make your partner feel special. If romantic dinners are not your thing, take a walk and hold hands. Make a plan ahead of time for sex and intimacy and build anticipation throughout the day with flirty text messages. Sexual excitement thrives on novelty so think about what new or different things you could try this Valentine’s Day.
Taking care of the everyday
While the day itself gets all the attention, as a relationship counsellor, I feel it is the everyday that’s important. What truly matters is how we show up for our relationships each and every day.
To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.