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February 2011

Valentine’s Day & Marriage
150 150 Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

I am sitting here at my desk, the morning of Valentine’s Day — a favorite holiday of some, feared by many!  In the background, my iPod is playing (by coincidence I assure you!), “All You Need Is Love.”

Ahh, romance is in the air.  Try going to the store and not being assaulted by pink, red and white.  Cards, candies, fragrances, stuffed animals, flowers, balloons, lingerie, oh my!  I sometimes am confused on whether romance is in the air, or the smell of money for retailers.

So much pressure has been put on this one day. . . and yet all the day should be is a reminder of romance and love.  And no, they are not the same.  Romance is the chemical drug that often has us disregarding logic and reason.  It pulls us into circumstances and chances that are beyond our rational decision-making — sometimes for good and sometimes for ill.

What should you do, this day, if you find yourself in the midst of a struggling relationship?  How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day then?  As I write this, I am responding to a question I have now been hearing from clients for over 3 weeks:  “what do I do about Valentine’s Day?”  Fearful of doing nothing and making things worse, people are also fearful of doing something and making things worse.  The proverbial rock and a hard place.

So, let’s boil it down again, without the “help” of the malls and stores.  Valentine’s Day is a chance to say “I care for you, I love you.”  It can also say “I am STILL attracted to you, believe it or not.”  So, here is my simple suggestion:  make it simple but thoughtful.  Generally, that means a card and a thoughtful token.  Not jewelry or lingerie if your relationship is struggling.

Why?  Simple:  too much pressure.  Instead, go with the distilled sense of what this day is about, the reminder of love.

First step, finding a card that doesn’t gush, doesn’t presume, and doesn’t pressure.  Something that says “I love you.”

Second step, finding a thoughtful token.  Perhaps a favorite dessert or a CD.  Maybe a thoughtful book (NOT one on fixing your marriage!).  Perhaps a box of truffles.  The big thing here is to not try and win someone over.  Instead, the hope is to remind them that you love them and you know them.  You know what he or she would like.  In other words, something that will make someone feel “thought of.”

2 steps, and you can avoid all the pressure that the stores seem to build in people struggling with their marriage.

And one last thing:  don’t get caught up in what you get.  That really isn’t the point.  The point is to show YOUR love.  So remember, the same struggle you are having, your spouse may be having — but without a good answer.  So give him or her some room and don’t take it too personally.  After all, this is just another day with a chance to show love.