NEW YORK (February 2010) — Love is in the air, but Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time to express love for your partner; rather, it should serve as a reminder to devote time and energy to your relationship every day.
“Valentine’s Day is not a day for arguing with your spouse or significant other. In fact, no day is good for that. Couples should spend more time acknowledging the positive aspects of their relationship and put aside their complaints,” says Dr. Philip Lee, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program.
His wife, Dr. Diane Rudolph, also a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program, says, “Although most couples believe it is healthy to clear the air and not keep anger ‘bottled up,’ constant arguing usually leaves both partners feeling bad about the relationship.”
Dr. Lee and Dr. Rudolph have been counseling couples for more than 25 years and have been married for more than 20 years. The doctors share their advice on how to keep the flame of love burning past Valentine’s Day.
- Be considerate but not too practical when you consider buying a Valentine’s Day gift — remember that this day is about celebrating the charming nature of love.
- Be diplomatic. Instead of screaming and throwing a tantrum about the things that make you upset, praise your partner for doing the things that are helpful to you.
- Give your partner space. Give yourselves a chance to unwind before tackling the evening’s chores. You both need some transition time after work, and once you’ve had that time you will both be much better listeners, and probably more willing to cooperate with each other.
- Remember the good old days. Almost everyone remembers the “early days” of the relationship as more fun than the present. It’s probably because you weren’t arguing about how to get to the restaurant, where to sit or how much to drink.
- Be polite. Try being polite for a week starting on Valentine’s Day. There’s no shame in saying “Thanks for picking up the kids” or “Great-looking dinner; can’t wait to try that chicken.” While it may seem silly to talk that way to your partner, just remember you would do the same for a business partner, employee or your child.
- Break the cycle of arguments. You don’t have to voice your displeasure about everything. Rather than “expressing yourself” in a negative way, break the cycle of blame and recrimination by treating your spouse more like a friend or co-worker. You wouldn’t argue with your co-worker about mundane details because you want to have a civil relationship with this person.
- Never say never. Don’t begin sentences with “You never…,” i.e., “You never clean up after…,” “You never take my feelings into account…,” or “You never think of anyone but yourself…” This places your spouse on the defensive and accomplishes nothing — it is a losing start. Try something like “You know what would be really great?” or “It would really help me if you could…”
- Say “thank you.” Show your appreciation for all of the things that your partner does no matter how small or how you may really feel. Something as simple as a “thank you” can make a dramatic difference in your relationship in a matter of weeks.
- “Thanks for picking up the kids.”
- “Oh, look, the dry cleaning is back. Thanks, honey, for picking it up.”
- Just listen. Try just listening to your partner without offering suggestions, criticism or a solution to his/her problems. Most of the time your spouse just wants you to listen and calmly empathize without saying any more. Even if it seems pointless to you, that’s often all that the person needs.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease; the first indication of bone marrow’s critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world’s first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and www.med.cornell.edu.