Now that Valentine's Day is past, how do you keep the relationship healthy and growing the rest of the year?
Couples who are happy together are committed to the goal of giving each other pleasure.
They create mutually satisfying love and friendship rituals. Rituals are habits that build and strengthen a relationship. They are thoughtful acts for one another — something to look forward to. For example, my friend Gene visits a farmers market on Saturday mornings. He always surprises me with something he purchased — sometimes seasonal vegetables, sometimes an unusual orchid.
Couples who are happy create a safe place to discuss any issue openly and honestly. This sense of safety is the foundation upon which couples negotiate things that are bothering them. Most people enter a relationship with certain expectations. But if they lack the ability to talk about them and negotiate, those issues become sources of power struggles that will damage the relationship.
They use good communication skills, which means they listen to each other to understand what the other is saying and feeling, and only until each person is fully heard do they proceed to problem-solving.
Happy couples turn toward each other rather than away. This means they look for ways to be physically and emotionally close. This can be a kiss on the cheek, a whisper in the ear as one walks by, holding hands or taking walks together. Couples who turn away from each other don't develop closeness.
They infuse their lives with shared meaning: Volunteering together in a charity, church or synagogue; visiting a friend who is ill; preparing a meal together for a family with a new baby. Such activities help them bond on a deeper level.
These may seem like small habits, but they form the backbone of a deeply fulfilling relationship. The actions must be intentional, something you have given thought to, something you choose. If you haven't known how to do that, begin now.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at email@example.com.