Romance over time
Valentine’s Day, the feast of love and romance, takes on various meanings depending on the stage of life one is in.
For the teenager, it is anticipation, secret Valentine’s cards sent to – and hopefully received from – the object of one’s desires. For the newly in love, there’s nothing like a big romantic night out, complete with roses and gift to say “I love you”.
As time goes on and relationships become established or entrenched, does Valentine’s Day remain meaningful or do the card and romantic gift become a duty?
Psychologist Jason Copperstone says celebratory days such as anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and Valentine’s Day can be a nudge to reflect about our partner and relationship.
“In a healthy, loving relationship, Valentine’s Day can be a focus point for reflection and showing one’s appreciation for one’s partner; an occasion to celebrate one another and spend quality time together.”
The fairytale notion that a couple fall in love and proceed to live happily ever after can burden us with unrealistic expectations of what consitutes ‘true love’.
When it seems as if you’ve been together forever and life is a routine of bills, parenting and household concerns, romance can seem akin to one’s teenage years – gone, never to be regained.
Fortunately for those seeking to re-introduce a sense of romance into their relationship, romance is never dead and buried and can usually be rediscovered.
“One day of affection and care is not going to make up for the misery of a bad relationship,” emphasises Copperstone. “Valentine’s Day must be the start of a new chapter in the relationship rather than an annual event.”
If you’ve simply fallen into the trap of taking one another for granted, Valentine’s Day can herald a return to romantic ways with relative ease. Start off by concentrating on the characteristics you value about your partner and make it a point to communicate what these are. You could add a personal note to a soppy card, write a note, or find an opportune time to discuss your feelings.
Romantic acts don’t need to be grandiose displays of affection. Dinner at a top-notch restaurant; a dozen roses and/or a box of chocolates may be traditional gifts, but nothing beats a thoughtful gift from the heart. Breakfast in bed (or even coffee – February 14 is a Monday after all) or your partner’s favourite meal for dinner are ways of showing you care.
If communication these days is limited to practicalities, and the art of conversation is buried beneath the mundane, try to recreate shared experiences from your early days together. Hire out the first film you watched together as a couple, buy a copy of the album you listened to together; recreate your first date – anything that will enable you to share memories and get the conversation rolling.
Having re-established a connection, hang on to it after the holiday. As the old adage goes, it’s the little things that count. Asking about each other’s day, sharing an interest beyond parenting, making time to be together – these are all actions that do not require any financial outlay or even much effort, just some thought and time.
If the relationship is suffering from a more serious malaise, no date on the calendar will be enough to fix it. If both partners are committed to saving their relationship, Valentine’s Day could be the start of the long haul back to a healthy relationship.
Just as one wouldn’t expect to be successful at work without putting in a great deal of effort, maintaining a healthy relationship also requires effort from both parties.
Taking the time to appreciate your partner and demonstrating your love throughout the year is the best way to keep romance alive and well in your relationship.
In a healthy long-term relationship, Valentine’s Day may well seem superfluous to requirements. The commercial version of the holiday will do little if anything to benefit a happy relationship and yet, it may still be worth placing some emphasis on this day honouring love and lovers.
Much like a birthday or anniversary, February 14 can be a day to celebrate one another more than is normally the case.
Whether the flame of romance in your relationship is a roaring fire or a flickering candle, have a good February 14, and remember that a relationship is for life, not just for Valentine’s Day.
(The Sunday Times)