Valentine’s Day for many is a time of romance, love, and gifts. However, for many others, it’s a reminder of the current state of distress in relationships. If you are in the category of being excited about Valentine’s Day: to celebrate love with your intimate partner and have made plans that include food, gifts, and other activities, we say, “Enjoy the day!” If everywhere you shop and constant social media advertisements about Valentine’s Day only remind you that your relationship is in distress, then we say, “There is hope!”
Why is it that so many of us wait until that one day in the year to celebrate one of our most important relationships? Do we really need a specific day that reminds us to focus on showing our love? An intimate relationship is a minute by minute, day by day, way of life and fluid with continual growth. It is true that life’s daily activities of work, family, home and even hobbies can distract us from focusing on our most important relationships. And, sometimes these activities distract us for so long a time that the connection with our intimate partner becomes strained. We can find ourselves heading in different directions. An analogy my husband and I often use in couples therapy is about a couple walking together hand in hand on railroad tracks. We have practiced this activity ourselves ensuring no trains were coming in order to experience what it would be like. We noticed that if we held hands, walked at the same pace, and kept up the conversation, we stayed connected and in tune with one another. Each of us feeling supported by the other while walking on a narrow rail without too much difficulty. Then, we tried walking on the rails without holding hands. Balancing our steps on the rails was much more difficult. Our focus turned towards ourselves instead of each other. We both struggled to walk on the rails and even felt ourselves emotionally disconnecting from each other.
My husband and I have provided couples counseling to many people. Unfortunately, most couples don’t seek counseling until their relationship is in serious distress versus seeking support when they notice the intimacy in their relationship is beginning to wane. One couple described their relationship to us as a bus that had gone off the road, landed upside down in a ditch filled with dirt and weeds, and only had one slow turning, squeaking wheel left. Yet, they could recognize that the one remaining wheel was their statement of hope.
My husband and I can say from our experience that rebuilding relationships takes a great deal of effort and a high level of commitment. Although rebuilding is difficult, it is possible. Through couples counseling, we have witnessed many couples put in the hard work and reestablish a loving, intimate relationship. We’ve also witnessed that if at least one partner reaches out for help, improvements can be made. Often, when one partner makes a commitment to improve the relationship, the other will follow their lead.
If you are noticing that your connection and intimacy with your partner is not where you want it to be, consider getting couples counseling sooner rather than later. As professional counselors, my husband and I have seen many couple regain the joy and intimate connection they were missing.