Valentines Day: Take This Relationship Challenge!

If you're coupled up with a difficult guy, try these 5 things.

Posted Feb 07, 2018

It's true that Valentines Day is saturated with commercialism and false sentimentality. Still, why not use it this year to try out a new you. Every relationship is a laboratory in which you can try out new behaviors. Consider these:

1. Warm His Heart. Celebrate Valentines Day by practicing kindness and generosity, even if your partner is behaving badly. Do the little things that make him or her feel loved, valued, and chosen. Remember that you can communicate interest, generosity and love in nonverbal ways, as well as with words and language. A simple gesture—a hand on a back, a nod, a smile—can make your partner feel seen and cared for.

No matter how distant your marriage has become, and no matter how dense you claim to be about relationships, come up with three specific actions you can take to make your partner feel loved and respected on Valentines Day. No expert in the universe knows what warms your partner’s heart the way you do. It’s deciding in advance what your three things are --and doing them--that’s the hard part.

2.Give Him a Break—Tell him What You Want. Your partner may be about to blow off Valentines Day—and it‘s important to you to celebrate. Don’t wait until he forgets, as if you’re giving him a test that you’re waiting for him to fail. Give the poor guy a break and remind him a week in advance. Tell him what you want, even though you think he should know. (“I want you to make a reservation at our favorite Italian restaurant, and I want a Valentines Day card. And don’t forget—I hate flowers!”) Don’t count on him to have learned from his mistakes from last year.

3.Call off the Chase. If you’re married to a distancer, Valentines Day is a good time to call off the chase. Don’t use this special day to “process” your relationship and talk about how the two of you never talk. Instead, just talk.

4. Don’t pursue him. Valentines Day is not the time to bring up your partner’s lack of warmth, interest, and attentiveness, or to compare him unfavorably with your best friend’s romantic husband. If, say, you go to a movie and you’re upset that he doesn’t hold your hand or seem to acknowledge your presence, let it go. When you leave the theater, just talk about the movie. Surprise him with praise, just when he imagines you’re going to hit him with criticism.

5. Overcome Your L.D.D. (Listening Deficit Disorder).  Listening without defensiveness is the ultimate spiritual act and the most precious Valentine’s gift that we can give our partner. Decide in advance that on this special day you will enter every conversation with the goal of asking questions and listening only to understand. This means that you don’t interrupt, argue, defend yourself, correct his exaggerations or distortions, or bring up grievances of your own. Save your defense for a future conversation on another day.

5. Forget about being right. Try to catch yourself when your focus on being right blocks you from working toward a common purpose—having a great Valentines Day together!

A Postscript: Follow one or more of these five things on February 14th. Grab a copy of Marriage Rules from the library or bookstore.  Each of you can pick three rules that you would like the other to follow as a daily practice.  

You have nothing to lose but the status quo.