Monday, February 10, 2014

Parenting Pointers: Valentine's Day Won't Save Your Marriage

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent about $18.6 billion for Valentine’s Day. Although Valentine’s Day may be the only “date night” printed on an official calendar, according to Linda Nusbaum, LMFT, it WON’T be the time to save a rocky marriage or long term relationship. Linda, a 2-time Emmy Award winning news reporter-turned-therapist, says that Valentine’s Day creates a “palpable pressure and too-high expectations” for both parties in a relationship. The LA-based licensed relationship counselor adds, “Women often feel hopeful and build expectations of what they believe will make them feel loved, and men feel pressure to create an evening, to buy the right gift and make their date happy. But no one really knows the rules, and because expectations are seldom set properly, there are often misunderstandings and devastating disappointments.”

Why Valentine’s Day Won’t Save Your Marriage:
1.  Valentine’s Day is just one day: It’s not enough to heal over old rifts. A marriage on the rocks will still be there tomorrow no matter how large the bouquet of roses is or no matter how much money is spent on dinner.
2.  The bottom line is: new experiences, like a great Valentine's Day, do not erase the troubles that came before.
3. It starts when we’re young: our very first memories of this love holiday were probably made when we were very little, receiving cards from people who loved us.  We may have grown up feeling loved on this holiday.
4.  Comparison is unfair: All Valentine's Days from the past are compared to the one that's coming. It’s very easy to be disappointed when the feeling of newness and adulation decreases over time.
5. Valentine’s Day best practices: Stop relying on what the media tells us we should buy, wear, eat and drink. Instead, make a big day of recognizing your partner in life by celebrating the small moments you cherish. Talk about what you want from each other and surprise your loved one with an original creation – something really from the heart.

I had a chance to interview Linda to learn more.

1) How can Valentine's Day actually put a strain on marriages?

Sometimes Valentine’s Day can feel like just one more thing a partner has to do for their mate.  Just the thought of the holiday could add all kinds of pressure to people.  Couples may ask questions like: “Am I getting her the right gift?” or “Does he want to go out to dinner?”  This uncertainty can lead to discomfort, and most couples don’t really have sufficient conversations about what they actually want. Many of us remember a time when Valentine’s Day was simple and fun. Secretly, we may want to feel those memories again. Couples who have been married for several years always deal with the normal stresses of life. When children come, life becomes so much busier. As a result, married couples can feel that setting up a proper Valentine’s Day is just one stress too many – and that can be a drag.

2) Even if the day goes well, why isn't it enough to save a marriage?

Although Valentine’s Day is a time for love and romance, most couples live with unresolved issues.  People who have lived together for a while often just sweep their difficulties under a rug and move forward in life, hoping things just get better.  A holiday based on loving each other is a way to get close to your mate, but one day a year is not enough to resolve the past hurts that most couples carry around with them.

3) What long-term strategies do you have to keep the romance alive?

Many couples want to know what to do to stay romantically interested in their partner.  As a relationship expert and the founder of Couple Mapping, I know that having a solid connection with your partner is even more important than a romantic interlude. What humans long for is to feel valued, safe and loved.  These core desires are the basis for a lifetime of good will with your mate.  When you share these traits with your beloved, your romance could blossom organically.

 4) Can you offer specific tips for those who are short on time or money, like many parents are?

Love can be expressed in many different forms.  Remember when you were a child and you may have drawn a Valentine for your crush?  You can recapture that feeling with your children by helping them draw their own Valentines. All it takes is some construction paper and some crayons. Otherwise, why not use your creativity to make something special for the one you love?  You could create an exercise with special words or a scavenger hunt to let your mate know how special they are to you.  Just by trying to be thoughtful, we can hurdle over the creative boundaries we set in our own mind. All it takes is making a conscious decision not to conform to the marketing hype. Make Valentine’s Day something you want to experience.  Open the doors to your creative side to make this day something your whole family can enjoy, too. Hallmark and Hershey don’t need your money: together with your loved ones, you can claim this holiday as your own.

Bio of Linda Nusbaum, LMFT:

Two-Time Emmy Winner Linda Nusbaum, LMFT is the founder of COUPLE MAPPING™, a made-for-you service that instantly connects the dots to help solve your relationship problems. For 23 years, Linda excelled as an award-winning television journalist, reporting on thousands of news events. Naturally compassionate and analytical, Linda then turned her focus to the study and practice of psychotherapy. For almost a decade and a half, Linda has successfully helped thousands of couples in Southern California as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Linda has offices in Beverly Hills and Long Beach, California.

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