Monday, February 13, 2012

What we long for.... Valentine's every day

Well here we are, St. Valentine's Eve.... and all over the airwaves people are talking about what to do, how to do it, how to deal with this day - that ostensibly is there to honour love. I was interviewed on the radio over the weekend, asked what I thought about the holiday - and I couldn't get away from the idea about how it accentuates our loneliness, how tough it must be to live up to the pressure this holiday proposes. As I think further I'm astounded at the psychological pressure we are all put under - by the media. Think about it. Todd van der Hayden told me Valentine's is an 18 BILLION dollar industry - what?

All that being said - what happens on this day? We become hopeful, wishful, begin to develop expectations - that we don't articulate, and so it seems a recipe for disaster already. As the day or evening draws near, tensions rise because we start to notice little signs that what we are pining for as a testament to our partner's love for us - isn't manifesting. Now we're in trouble. At the same time is the story of the person who has done something and worries it isn't good enough, not grand enough of a display. The pressure is mounting on both sides. We begin to brood, feel unloved, begin to alienate ourselves and our loved one until things crumple into a heap and we all go to bed hurt and angry. That's not celebrating our love is it?

I would like to propose that the kinds of things we are wishing for are things we can give each other and ourselves - everyday! In order for a couple to remain healthy, connected, loving - its the small things that count. The daily acts of love. The daily expression of gratitude and appreciation for your loved one. We need to build on that. This is the work of couplehood. People often think all you need to do is be there when it comes to sustaining a good relationship. But it's so much more than that. Being in a couple requires you to be sensitive to your partner's needs; requires that you step out of your own experience from time to time and really get a sense of what they are feeling. It's so important to learn how to really hear what someone is going through and let them know you understand - because it is just as important to YOU to be understood and validated.

It's also important to share your appreciation of your partner. So many times in my practice I see the same reaction:

Husband (or wife): "I'm so thankful for you, I so appreciate the things you do. I realize I don't always tell you, or I'm not good at showing it but I really am grateful for all you do."
Wife (or husband) responds, literally in shock): "I never knew you felt that way! I thought you didn't care at all! I thought you didn't notice anything I do!"

Imagine - walking around in your life thinking your partner doesn't notice anything you do. Even sadder is imagining the partner that walks around with so much gratitude but keeps it to themselves. And again, the consequence of that - is an experience of alienating and being alienated that results in a horrible stalemate between two people. Most of the work couples do when they come to couple therapy is to repair that bond that has broken due to the alienating process. They come to find the connection that they lost.

This Valentine's Eve... and tomorrow and the day after that - let your partner know you appreciate them, that you need them, that you are grateful for your relationship. Do one small act of kindness just for them. Listen to them and allow yourself to receive the same in kind. Our hearts were meant to be connected.