Valentine’s Day can be a make or break situation for couples. To make the holiday a successful one that enhances and strengthens the relationship, couples need to be clear about their expectations, and focus on what they give to their partners as opposed to what they receive.
Alexandra Solomon, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University is available to comment on how couples can make Valentine’s Day an opportunity to strengthen their relationship by switching to a giving mindset.
“My favorite definition of intimacy comes from feminist researcher Kaethe Weingarten, who states that ‘intimacy is the co-construction of meaning that leads to coordinated action,’” says Dr. Solomon. “In other words, intimacy is whatever YOU and I deem it to be within our relationship. If WE have created meaningful ritual around Valentine’s Day, and if we use that ritual in the service of our love, then Valentine’s Day is a vehicle for intimacy.”
Dr. Solomon insists that Valentine’s Day certainly provides the opportunity for a couple to strengthen their relationship, but couples need to show up with a giving mindset: “Each partner needs to ask themselves the question, ‘How can I use this holiday to express my love and affection for my partner?’ This is going to go much better than if one of both partners approach the holiday asking, ‘How can you use this holiday to express your love for me?’”
Approaching the holiday with a giving mindset makes space for the reality that individuals have unique love languages. “Take these examples,” says Dr. Solomon. “Ted wrote a poem for his partner. Rhonda washed her partner’s car without him asking. Jane let her partner sleep in while she took care of the kids. Jason offered his partner a massage. These examples include acts of service, creative expressions, and material gifts. No one expression is better than any another expression, but couples get into real trouble when they act as if there is a hierarchy of expression, or when they compare what they ‘got’ to what another ‘got.’”
To speak to Dr. Solomon about how couples can switch to a giving mindset for Valentine’s Day, or to learn more about The Family Institute, contact Colleen O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.609.5300 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.