Valentine’s Day is an easy opportunity to do something we often fail to do in our busy and distracted lives: affirm the special place that our primary relationship holds in our hearts. Aaron Cooper, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, is available to comment on the ways couples can see past the corporate culture of Valentine’s Day and create a meaningful holiday.
“The heart is the symbol of Valentine’s Day because it’s not about thoughts and opinions and ideas so much as it’s about emotion — what we feel toward one another,” says Dr. Cooper. “Couples can make the day as important (or unimportant) as they care to, but why squander such an easy opportunity to let someone dear to us know, ‘You mean the world to me.’”
Dr. Cooper points out that “it’s the marketplace that drives the emphasis on Valentine’s Day — the corporate culture that’s selling candy and flowers and gifts of all kinds. What’s important isn’t what we buy or how much we spend, but a message of caring that we deliver. That, more than stuff, is what feeds the soul.” Dr. Cooper provides the following tips for couples to see past the commercialism, manage expectations and risks, and use the holiday as a way to let the ones we love know they’re special:
1. If you’re unsure about your relationship, unsure about how much love you feel for your partner, don’t let that stop you on Valentine’s Day. “Put money in the bank” by taking the high road anyway and conveying admiration and appreciation. Positive messages or compliments are never out of fashion.
2. Unless it’s an absolute given that you and your partner always exchange a Valentine’s Day favor, mention that you’re planning to do so and ask your partner to do the same. It avoids the disappointing awkwardness when one partner bears gifts while the other shows up empty-handed.
3. Talk about whether this year will be a big ticket or small ticket Valentine’s Day. It avoids the awkwardness when one partner delivers a single red rose while the other presents an emerald bracelet.
4. If things have been rocky lately in your relationship, consider calling a Valentine’s Day truce just long enough to shine a light on what’s been good in the past, regardless of how thorny things feel lately.
5. Make sure the kids know about any loving or caring Valentine’s Day gestures you and your partner exchange. It promotes their feelings of security in your relationship, and it teaches them the importance of loving gestures.
Dr. Cooper earned his PhD from Loyola University of Chicago. He co-authored the book I Just Want My Kids to be Happy: Why You Shouldn't Say It, Why You Shouldn't Think It, What you Should Embrace Instead, which received highest honors in the 2008 Mom's Choice Awards and was a finalist in the 2008 Indie Excellence Awards. His thoughts about youth and family issues have been cited in over 500 newspapers, magazines and websites from coast to coast.
To speak with Dr. Cooper about Valentine’s Day issues for couples, or to learn more about The Family Institute at Northwestern University, please contact Colleen O’Connor at email@example.com or 312-509-6300 ext. 485.
ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY – For 45 years, The Family Institute at Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org) has been committed to strengthening and healing families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a unique, innovative not-for-profit organization, governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.