Valentine’s Day for many is a time of romance, love, and gifts. However, for many, 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 you are in the category of being reminded, everywhere you shop and constant social media advertisements about Valentine’s Day, that your relationship is in distress there is hope.
Why is it that so many wait until one day in a year to celebrate one of their most important relationships? Do we really need a reminder day to focus on showing our love? An intimate relationship is a minute by minute, day by day, way of life that is dynamic 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 that connection with our intimate partner becomes strained and we find ourselves heading in different direction
An analogy my wife (who is also a professional counselor) and I use in therapy is about a couple walking together on a set of railroad tracks hand in hand. We have even practiced this activity, ensuring no trains were coming, to experience what it would be like. We noticed that as long as we held hands and walked at the same pace and communicated constantly we continued going the same direction and each felt supported and able to walk a narrow rail without too much difficulty. Then we tried walking the rails without holding hands and it became evident that the task became much more difficult and our focus turned towards ourselves instead towards each other. We both struggled to walk the rails and even felt the disconnection with each other.
Unfortunately, most couples seek counseling when their relationship is in serious distress versus seeking support when they’ve noticed the intimacy in their relationship is beginning to wane. One couple described their relationship as a bus that has gone off the road, into the ditch, upside down, is now full of dirt and weeds, and only one wheel is still slowly turning and making a squeaking sound. Yet, they acknowledged that at least one wheel is still moving which was their statement of hope. I can say from experience that rebuilding relationships takes a great deal of effort with a high level of commitment. Although rebuilding is difficult it is possible and through couples counseling I have experienced many couples that have done the hard work and re-established a loving intimate relationship. Also, if at least one partner reaches out for help improvements can be made. Often, when one makes the commitment to improve the relationship the other will follow.
If you are noticing that your connection and intimacy with your intimate partner is not where you want it to be, consider couples counseling sooner than later.
By Scott Rheinschmidt
Clinic Director, Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, San Antonio