Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Reframing Valentine’s Day as a Day to Reconsider Your Relationship

Whether or not you love Valentine’s Day or reject it as another commercially driven, marketing opportunity- the symbols, verses, cards and candy bring relationships to mind. As such, an unexpected but valuable way to reframe Valentine’s Day is as a day to reconsider your relationship.

For many people Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to affirm loving feelings and emotional connection that are present throughout the year.

For others it can invite a “ re-set” of their positive connection with recognition that they may be taking each other for granted or expecting the relationship to stay vibrant without showing the kindness, affirmation and affection they once shared.

For others for whom their marriage or long-term relationship has become more habit than happiness, more painful than positive, more destructive than supportive–Valentine’s Day may be a difficult but important touchstone for examining–Can this relationship be saved? Should this relationship be saved?

Relationship Reconsideration

Having spent many years working with many couples, I always maintain that if two people want to find a way to heal, reconnect and grow their relationship–there is a way.

  • A valuable step for both partners is to take a few minutes to look past the last argument or assumed dismissal to really reconsider their relationship. Listed below are questions that touch upon different relationship dimensions.
  • Since we really can only change ourselves, the questions invite a personal reconsideration of the relationship as a step toward mutual reconsideration.

 Try answering the questions on your own. Consider jotting down some thoughts and invite your partner to do the same. Is there anything you can share that may foster a closer understanding of what is happening between you? Good or bad, it may be a  start to the conversation you both need, want but have been unable to have.

 Relationship Questions:

 Are You Personally Happy?

Because people often report wanting to leave a relationship because they are “ unhappy,” it is worth recognizing that no partner can be responsible for your total happiness. Research suggests that at least 40% of our happiness comes from our own intentional pursuits of life choices and goals.

  • Are you sure that the problems you are experiencing as marriage or relationship problems are not projections of your own personal discontent, lack of life purpose, boredom, insecurity, health, friendship or financial disappointments?
  • Do you find that your relationship actually dampens the happiness you generate on your own?
  • Do you find that even when you try to bridge the happiness you have found at work, in recreation, or with friends by telling your partner about it or inviting their participation, there is little interest shown or a critique that “brings you down?”
  • A relationship should not deplete you of the personal happiness you generate-it should support and expand it.

 How Realistic Are Your Expectations?

It is realistic to expect that there will be love, respect and a sense of mutual concern in a committed relationship.

That said – How much do you really expect of your partner and how much does your partner expect from you?

In Christine Meinecke’s perfectly titled book, Everybody Marries the Wrong Person, the author captures our tendency to start out by idealizing and expecting perfection from our partners only to find out that they ( like us) are far from perfect and actually don’t meet all our expectations.

The question is whether there is enough love to celebrate what is wonderful and accept what is not.

 Is There Trust in Your Relationship?

  • Is your partner a confidante – Can tell him/her those things you might not tell anyone else?
  • Do you trust that your partner is faithful to you as an intimate partner – do you have the same values about fidelity?
  • Do you trust your partner to forgive you – do you trust yourself to forgive your partner?

 Is Intimacy Possible in Your Relationship?

What solidifies a relationship and connects partners in a way that makes their connection special is the intimacy they share.

  • Is there still a wish to be affectionate, to laugh like insiders, to feel close, to be intimate even in the broadest non-sexual terms?
  • Is there still a mutual interest to be sexually intimate or to work together to reclaim intimacy in any ways big or small that make you feel special to each other?

Is Dependency Compromising Intimacy?

  • Are you or your partner so dependent that there is no separate space, no permission to be with separate friends, no room to have a different thought, opinion or interest? Is excessive dependence smothering the loving?
  • Is the dependence on your partner more like an addiction than a loving bond? Must you stay in this relationship regardless of whether it steals your happiness and self-esteem?

 Is Your Relationship More Work than Wonderful Connection?

People often ask if their relationship should be so much work. They despair that no matter what they or their partner does, there is no feeling of harmony, mutuality, easy discourse or recovery from disagreements.

If the reality is that your relationship takes more from both of you than it gives and/or that one or the other is unwilling to change, show compassion or grow- help may be needed regarding the decision to end or mend the relationship.

On the other hand, no one just shows up for a great relationship. It takes work and if that work is mutual– don’t give up!

Seek help, grab and expand the moments, reach back for the initial spark and hold on to the belief that for the sake of love – people can change.

Sometimes Two People Have to Fall Apart to Realize How Much They Need to Fall Back Together

 – Colleen Hoover