Valentine’s Day. The most romantic day of the year. Unless you’re like many married couples who dread the holiday filled with hearts, roses, and chocolates, because you and your spouse have begun to feel like strangers. Or worse, like enemies. You may struggle to get through the day without rolling your eyes, making a snide comment, or getting into a full-blown argument. How in the world will you survive another Valentine’s Day?
I’ve got an idea or two for you. Actually, nine.
1. Be open and honest about expectations and plans.
• Plan the day ahead of time, together. I would suggest keeping it simple, such as making a reservation at a restaurant that you both enjoy. It does not need to be extravagant or expensive.
• It is important to be open and honest about your hopes for the day. If you want a present, be clear with your spouse that you would like a present. Do not say “No presents” if you mean “Yes, I would love a present.” Be clear. Be real. If you’re not, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Give him/her specific ideas if you have them.
• Be open and honest about your hopes for physical intimacy, and ask your partner about their hopes for physical intimacy. Do not pressure your spouse to meet your expectations for intimacy. If one partner would like physical intimacy, and the other partner only feels comfortable with hugs and kisses, then the couple should stick with hugs and kisses. Follow the partner with the lowest comfort level. Sex is only sexy if complete consent and willingness is found on both sides. Honoring your partner’s physical intimacy boundaries will help that partner feel more open to deepening intimacy in the future.
2. Do this compassion/relaxation exercise together before your date.
• Click here for the guided compassion exercise
3. Pray for yourself and your spouse.
• Pray for God to give you grace and patience. Pray that He helps you show your spouse the love and respect that he/she longs for.
• Pray for God to give your spouse grace and patience. Pray that He helps your spouse show you the love and respect that you long for.
4. Do not discuss marital issues or arguments.
• Set these issues on a “shelf” while you are on your date. These will not get resolved tonight, and arguing about them will absolutely make the evening miserable.
5. Put your phones away.
• No phones on the table. Put them in your purse, in your pocket, or better yet, leave them in the car. Playing on your phone during dinner is a good way to make your spouse feel uncared for, undervalued, and ignored. Putting your phone away is a simple way to show that you value your time together.
6. Focus on trying to enjoy time with your spouse. Say things like:
• “I’m glad we get to spend time together tonight.”
• “I enjoy talking to you.”
• “It’s nice to do something fun together.”
7. Use your manners.
• Use your manners as you would if you wanted to make a good impression on someone important to you. Be polite, kind, and respectful in your words. Say please, thank you, and you’re welcome. Use a soft tone of voice.
8. Assume that your spouse has positive intentions and is doing the best that he/she can.
• Be patient with yourself; be patient with your spouse. If your spouse does something mildly annoying, like park the car in the farthest spot from the door, take a deep breath and let it go. If you’re having a thought like, “He parked the car so far away because he wants me to be miserable and cold,” try challenging it with something like this: “He parked the car far away because he enjoys getting a bit of exercise, and now we get to spend time doing light physical activity, which is healthy for us both.”
9. Notice your feelings throughout the date. If you notice that irritation, or another difficult emotion, is starting to set in, use RAIN:
• R: Recognize and acknowledge it. Take a deep breath.
• A: Allow yourself to feel it. Take a deep breath.
• I: Investigate and gently ask yourself where it is coming from. Take a deep breath.
• N: Nourish with self-/other compassion. Take a deep breath.
If you follow this guide, I have a feeling that this Valentine’s Day will be more pleasant than some other years. It might not have fireworks or that “wow” factor, but you’ll probably have a nicer time with your spouse than you expected. You might even remember how much you like each other.