Valentine's Day Suggestions From two Marriage Experts:
The two experts are"
1. Dr. Philip Lee, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program.
2. His wife, Dr. Diane Rudolph, also a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program.
Drs. Lee and Randolf should know something about this subject. They have been married to one another for twenty years.
Here are some of their suggestions:
1. Couples should spend more time acknowledging the positive aspects of their relationship and put aside their complaints. Constant arguing makes everyone feel terrible about the marriage.
2. When shopping for a Valentine's gift, refrain from being practical. Do not buy a vacuum cleaner. Instead, buy something charming and personal. In fact, this is a good idea to follow for birthdays, anniversaries and any day when one wants to give a gift to their spouse. How about some red roses?
3. It is just too easy for everyone to argue about petty things. It is also easy to forget to show appreciation to one another for the things each does. If you like her the way that blouse looks, say so. If you appreciate his making the bed, tell him.
4. Everyone needs to unwind when the day ends. Do not demand that things get done after returning home from work. Take time to relax and shed the tensions of the day. Transitions are difficult for most people and this includes the shift from working to home body and spouse.
5. It can be wonderful to reminisce about the early days of your relationship and romance. Many people wonder what ever happened to those days? The problem is that petty arguments over driving or getting to the restaurant on time dims can make the present day seem awful.
6. For some reason, marriage seems to bring to an end the daily practice of being polite. We forget to thank one another for little favors we do for each other. Those favors are taken for granted and that is why they can disappear. There is nothing wrong with using terms like, "thank you," "what a nice dinner," "picking up the kids really helped," and, "thanks for doing the dishes tonight." These among other such positive expressions really help.
7. Stop blaming your spouse for everything from forgetting to close the door to the condition of world politics. All us need to become more tolerant of each others foibles. None of us are perfect and, much of the time, the things we quarrel about could be the source of lots of laughter.
8. I always advise the couples I work with to stop using all or nothing words. For example, "you never do this," or, "you always do that." It is not true that we "always," or "never." These all encompassing words help create a false catastrophic atmosphere.
9. How many times have I pointed out to couples in therapy that they are not listening to one another. They are not listening because they are talking over one another. Each person is so busy attempting to state their own version of things that they do not hear what is being said. I ask couples to practice paraphrasing what was just said before making a comment just to make certain they really heard and understand what was just said. So often, what we believe we heard is different from what was said.
10. Couples need time away from the kids, house and work, so that they can be together and feel private and romantic. There is nothing like the occasional dinner out at a romantic restaurant or a weekend away at a hotel.
It is important to stress the fact that these nine suggestions be practiced every day and not just on Valentine's Day.
From time to time I have heard patients in psychotherapy or have read reader questions state that they feel lonely even though they are married. Usually, those feelings of lonely are symptomatic of two people feeling out of touch with one another. Marriage means more than just living together or supervising children. Marriage is an active interaction between people. Loneliness occurs when communication between spouses had broken down or never occurred. There is marriage therapy.
Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged. What are your suggestions for a successful relationship?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.