It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Do the following exercise to learn where your relationship could use a boost. Along with the usual card or flowers, consider giving your sweetheart the gift of efforts to make your relationship stronger.

The items in the chart below are the characteristics most often identified in studies of happy long term couples. Although not all couples show all of these attributes all of the time, having strengths in a majority of them does seem to correlate with permanence and contentment.

Take a moment to reflect on each item. Check off the appropriate column. 

 

  In my relationship, each of us:

A
More important to me

B
More important to partner

C
Important to both of us

D
Important to neither of us.

  • willingly gives at  least 75% of the time. You each give because you want to make the relationship better, not because you expect to get something back.

 

 

 

 

  • sees the relationship as a “given”. You can count on each other’s love and trust. You are committed to the commitment you’ve made.

 

 

 

 

  • arranges to spend time with the other. You want and need to be together.

 

 

 

 

  • sees the other as their “best friend”. You’d rather share important things with each other than anyone else.

 

 

 

 

  • expresses love verbally. You don’t leave this to chance. You express your pride, appreciation, and caring.

 

 

 

 

  • expresses love through frequent physical contact. You sit close, touch when talking, hold hands, hug.

 

 

 

 

  • expresses interest in the other’s day.  You are genuinely interested in what’s going on in each other’s lives.

 

 

 

 

  • allows the other to be imperfect. You have a realistic vision of each other and keep each other anyway.

 

 

 

 

  • works on conflicts and stresses without blaming.  A problem is something to solve as a team, not a signal to fight.

 

 

 

 

  • refrains from pushing arguments into painful places. You don’t use known vulnerabilities to your own advantage.

 

 

 

 

  • works on own family of origin issues. You don’t take out on your partner negative issues that belong with mom and dad or stem from an unhappy childhood.

 

 

 

 

 

Look at the items you checked in Column B. Which do you feel comfortable offering to your partner as a “present”. Can you think of concrete and specific things you can do to make it occur more often in your relationship?

Now look at the issues you checked in Column A. Which to you feel comfortable asking for from your partner? Has something blocked you from asking or has it simply not occurred to you that you could? Take a moment to reflect on what you could do differently to invite more of these things into your life.

The items in Column C are things to celebrate together. These are the characteristics that make your relationship solid and strong. 

You and your partner might want to examine the issues that show up in Column D. Why do you think that these issues aren’t important to either of you? It’s not necessarily a problem if you are in agreement. Some couples, for example, are not very verbally appreciative of each other. They agree that actions are more important than words and communicate their caring through mutual thoughtfulness. But if, for example, every conflict leads to painful blaming and fighting, it could undermine what otherwise has all the potential to be a happy relationship.  If the items you checked in Column D give either of you pain, it’s something to work on. Think about how your life together would be different if you decided to add these dimensions to your relationship. Consider giving each other the gift of practicing them in your relationship until they feel natural for you.

 

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2008). Be My Valentine: An Exercise to Grow Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/be-my-valentine-an-exercise-to-grow-your-relationship/0001344
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.