Tools to help you keep a healthy romantic relationship
By Michael T. Bell, Ed.S., N.N.C., L.P.C.
With the approach of Valentines Day, most of us are finding ourselves bombarded with images of warm, happy, loving couples. While none of us should expect our own relationships to mirror the fantasy, air-brushed images of love that Madison Avenue uses to help sell Valentines cards and candy, we still may be aware that our own romantic relationship may be falling short of even more realistic expectations.
Most failed relationships are not, metaphorically, shot in the head. Rather, they die a slow death over time due to neglect. Almost everyone gives relationships the time and effort they need to be healthy at the beginning, but as time wears on, relationships have a tendency to be placed on the back burner as things that seem more pressing though most likely are less important take over. This can leave your romantic partner feeling unimportant and insignificant. If these feelings persist, then love dies.
It is good to think of a romantic relationship as something that requires basic maintenance. Would you expect a healthy plant to stay healthy if you didnt water it regularly? Would you expect a nice new car to continue to run well if you did not keep up with its maintenance schedule? Why then, should you expect a relationship to stay healthy if you dont do the maintenance necessary to keep it that way?
Relationship maintenance does require work, but can also be enjoyable. And the tools necessary for romantic relationship maintenance are already at your disposal:
1. Your Day Planner. It isnt just for business. Use your day planner or PDA to set up reminders ahead of time. Include a reminder, way ahead of time, to set up special plans for an anniversary or your partners birthday. Include random prompts throughout the year as reminders to do something romantic for no reason at all.
2. A Date Night. Setting aside a special time to regularly connect, such as a date night, can be a very helpful way of making sure that you do not neglect your partner. Just as you schedule regular oil changes and maintenance for your car, your relationship also needs regularly-scheduled time and work if the relationship is to keep running well.
3. A Favorites List. This list includes such things as your romantic partners favorite food, color, gift, movies, activities, flower, author, or whatever else you can think of. It can help you pay better attention to your partner and be more in tune with his or her likes and dislikes. Combine your favorites list with your day planner to do some very romantic things. For instance, if you know your partners favorite author or type of book, include a random prompt in your day planner to pick up a book he or she will enjoy. Notice when your partner is almost out of a favorite perfume or aftershave, then, as a surprise, pick up a new bottle without being asked.
4. A Daily Connection. Its all too easy to just pass by each other as the years go by. Your daily connection is something to remind you to be aware of whats going on in the life of your partner. For some couples, a daily prayer together before heading off into the workday offers a chance to connect and think about the other persons coming day. Perhaps it means just setting aside fifteen minutes at the end of the day for each partner to report on how the day went and on whats coming up. A friend of mine and his wife worked separate shifts and so they kept a notebook on the kitchen counter and wrote notes to one another each day. These notes were often very thoughtful and romantic even after fifteen years together, and certainly helped to keep their relationship strong.
5. Counseling. Many people think that relationship counseling is only for relationships that are in dire straits. The truth is that meeting with a counselor as a means of maintaining a healthy relationship can be very useful. Counselors can help couples improve upon already healthy relationship patterns and identify patterns that could become a significant problem before they do. Counselors dont always have to serve as relationship rescuers. They can also serve as relationship coaches.
Maintaining a strong, healthy romantic relationship does take thought and effort, but is also an enjoyable experience. And there simply is no question of the rewards that come from such a relationship when you put in that effort.
Michael T. Bell is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Manassas, VA. He is also the author of You, Your Relationship & Your ADD: A Workbook. His web page is www.michaeltbell.com.
The Counseling Corner is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nations largest organization of counseling professionals, and with the support of the American Counseling Association Foundation. Additional information for consumers and counseling professionals is available through the ACA web site at www.counseling.org.
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