Valentine Tips

Guest blog by Dr. Jane Drew

Start practicing these tips now and create your best Valentine's Day ever!  And if you're
not in an intimate relationship right now, these tips will be priceless when you are. 

1. Little Things Are Big
Everyday kindnesses build good will in a relationship. Here are examples of thoughtful acts: pouring a cup of coffee, opening a door, clearing the table, saying "thank you," noticing small changes, smiling, looking directly at your partner, etc. Do these things often. You will feel wonderful because you're being generous to your loved one and he or she will feel cared for. These "little" things increase the size of your emotional bank account! 

2. The Magic of Touch
The largest organ of our body is our skin. Something magical and primal happens when we are touched with care -- we feel loved and connected. Remember to put your hand on top of her hand, put your arm around his waist. Just as passionate kisses convey your attraction, gentle kisses on the cheek convey tenderness. Holding hands, foot and back massages, a pat on the leg are demonstrations of your caring. S*e*x is a way to feel both deeply bonded and restored from the stresses of life. 

3. Look for the Best in Your Mate or Date
Studies show that in good marriages a person tends to have an overall, very positive concept of their partner. For example, when a man is rated on various strengths and qualities by his friends and by his wife, the happy wife rates the husband higher than the friends rate him. Look for and focus on the things you love and value in your mate. It makes everything better!

4. Keep the Foundation Strong
There is no doubt about it; we all live very busy lives these days. It's easy to let work, children, the house, the Internet and social engagements fill up every waking moment. However, if you want your relationship to stay strong, you must carve out time for one-on-one time together. How can you do this? You could take fifteen minutes to talk and connect when you both get home from work. You could have a weekly date night, go for a walk, play a game, or sit and talk by the fireplace. But you must keep the foundation strong or, without noticing, the house could weaken and crumble. 

5. Make It Safe
Both partners need to feel safe when they speak. When people are upset, this isn't easy... but here's a plan for how to listen and be heard. Agree to have one person be the listener and the other the speaker. The speaker shares his frustration a few sentences at a time. The listener repeats back only what the speaker has said. The listener keeps asking, "Is there anything more?" until the speaker is completely finished. Then trade places where the listener becomes the speaker. This helps both people slow down and feel understood. Both of you can then see
the other person has a different, but valid point of view.

6. Don't Assume - Check It Out
It is easy for all of us to see a behavior, hear certain words and assume what our partner meant by it (and usually it's not good!) I suggest that you check out with your partner what he meant rather than assuming he didn't call because he didn't care. Try saying something like this (in a calm tone): "I noticed you didn't call last night when you said you would. I felt
disappointed because I wanted to talk and connect. Would you tell me what happened?" 

7. Really Know Your Partner
Everyone wants to be known and loved for who they are -especially by their loved ones. To learn about your mate, pay attention to the details! Know his joys, likes, dislikes, fears and stresses. Find out about and remember the major events in her life. Know how he likes his coffee; know her favorite TV show. Pay attention to how he feels about his boss. One excellent way to get to know your partner is by playing a game called Let's Connect! (See information below.) Each of the eighty cards in this game has two or more questions or mini games... you'll have fun and know your partner much better.

8. No Criticism - No Blame
I've never met anyone who doesn't feel hurt by criticism; it's the human condition. So what can we do when we're frustrated? Stuffing our feelings in doesn't work either! Use this method: "When you... I feel..." In the "when you..." say what the person has said or done. In the "I feel..." use I-statements and talk about the feelings that came up for you -- feelings such as sad, hurt, frustrated, lonely. You are being vulnerable and letting your partner know what is going on with you. The purpose is to inform and become closer. You can also ask for what you want - just make sure it's not a demand (demands just don't work!)

9. Stay Connected
Being loved and connected is easy during pleasant and good times; yet it's even more important during hard times. The connection can be lost when we feel hurt, get too busy or bored. The "silent treatment" erodes connection. Notice when there's a disconnect, then do or
say something to reconnect. Use the speaker/listener method in #3 to ensure safety. If you are upset and need some time away, say, "I need to go out for a walk, but I will be back in 2 hours. I'll come find you and we can talk then." Your partner then feels connected and knows you'll be back to work it out. 

10. Create Your Own Rituals
Couples need a sense of shared meaning. Rituals are a great way to feel a sense of belonging and create meaning. The family gathering every Sunday for dinner is an example of a ritual. Create your own family traditions and customs for holidays. Toasting a loved one with a glass of champagne can be a birthday ritual. I suggest daily rituals with your partner. For example, hug and kiss before you leave for work. Every night before you go to sleep, you could ask each other, "What was the best part of your day?"