What does Valentine’s Day mean to your relationship? The opportunity to express how you feel through thoughtful, romantic gestures? Or is a cursory card and flowers from a forecourt all you can muster?
Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when the world pressures you to show love to each other. Yet this annual ritual can shine a spotlight on your relationship in ways that aren’t always comfortable.
If you’re happy and in love, you can bask in the glow that this celebration brings. However, if you’re among the one in four couples whose marriage is struggling, the 14th of February can highlight the ever-deepening cracks in your relationship. If you recognise yourself here, are you going to let another year go by without at least trying to work through your issues?
The two main reasons that bring couples into counselling are loss of communication and lack of sex. What links those two reasons is intimacy.
Communication, at its very heart, is the art of intimacy
For reasons of work, family, children, or the daily stresses of running a household, couples can struggle to communicate what they want and need from a relationship. They may feel ashamed to express their desires to their partner. They may fear rejection, or just feel unable to connect emotionally.
Sex is an important part of a healthy, romantic relationship. It’s about having fun and being intimate too. Yet for many reasons it’s often the first thing that gets lost when couples stop getting on. Sometimes sex is not intimate at all. It can feel just physical, with no emotion attached, and the other partner can end up feeling alone and rejected. Sometimes sex can be withdrawn as a form of punishment – and what remains ‘unsaid’ in a relationship can fuel resentments and unhappiness.
So, how can couples learn the art of intimacy?
- Couples can start by communicating – without fear of being rejected or ridiculed – what they feel is acceptable and not acceptable within their relationship.
- Touch, cuddles and reassurance are an important part of the dynamic between any loving couple. Both partners need to feel safe within a relationship to be themselves and to allow the other to express their feelings too.
- Couples need to explore and communicate their sexuality with each other. This year Valentine’s Day coincides with Think About Sex day, organised by the Sexual Advice Association. So, it could be your chance to re-think and communicate your own sexual desires in your own way to your partner.
- Once partners start communicating again and feel safer with each other, sex becomes much less of a problem because the trust is back.
- Couples also need to play sometimes. Let go of the huffiness or sulkiness that can turn one of you into a child. That’s not attractive at all. But give each other the chance to play: be creative and inventive. Have fun. Make sex a joy, not a chore. Most importantly, keep talking.
Open, honest, trust-filled communication can go a long, long way to healing the wounds in your relationship. And not just on Valentine’s Day.
Give your relationship a chance: book a couples counselling session with one of our specialised couples therapists at The Awareness Centre by calling 020 8673 4545.