Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day balloonsThe cards are in the shops. The adverts for champagne and chocolates are on the TV. Pink love hearts are popping up everywhere. We cannot fail to notice it is Valentine’s Day very soon.

The annual celebration of love puts high value on grand ideas and romance. Couples that have been together for a long time can naturally feel a bit removed from this. Life gets in the way and spontaneity can begin to decline. Grand gestures make way for a simple exchange of cards and little else.

Does that mean Valentine’s Day is unimportant when you have been together a long time? Definitely not.

Valentine’s Day is still important

Everyone has an opinion on 14th February. Some think it is romantic and a date to be strictly observed and never missed. Couples can spend hundreds of pounds on gifts, a romantic meal or getaway. Others are horrified at the commercialism of your favourite restaurant charging double for the same meal you had last week. Whatever your opinion on Valentine’s it is important to ask whether it is the same as your partner’s perspective?

Valentine’s is only for ‘young love’

It is not unusual to meet couples who have been together for a while saying that they “don’t celebrate Valentine’s” and that it is “only for young love”. But behind the seeming disapproval of its commercialisation and contentment not to be involved there can be an individual who is secretly coveting a bit of attention.

On this one day of the year they might actually be desperate to get a surprise or enjoy a day that is not just like every other Tuesday. The bottom line is this: ask and do not assume, even if you have been together for 20 or 30 years.

Valentine's Day cuddly toyRemind them how valuable they are

Just because Valentine’s Day has not been a big deal for you and your partner in the past couple of years does not mean that is still the case. Where an individual has experienced a difficult time – perhaps due to the loss of a parent or loved one – they might really need a day of being reminded how valuable they are.

That of course is not to say that valuing your partner equates to how much you spend. Despite what jewellers, restaurants and travel websites tell us, a genuine demonstration of love is far more precious. Simple things mean the most like preparing a meal on Valentine’s Day at home or booking him/her in to a local spa for a massage.

In making an effort to celebrate your love as a couple, it is the little gestures that mean the most. A kiss, a hug, a rose picked from the garden are the kinds gestures that hold our partners close and keep the spark alive. Whether it’s your 1st, your 15th or your 30th anniversary this year, celebrate your love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Relationship tips and advice

The Spark is a leading relationship counselling and support charity. We exist to help make relationships work for everyone in Scotland.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for tips and advice on making your relationships work. We also offer a range of free relationship resources on our website to help with the problems we all face in life.


Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is meant to be about love and relationships. For couples just starting out in a relationship it can end up feeling like an obstacle course full of opportunities for misunderstandings, overblown efforts and underwhelming gifts.

To help couples navigate that first Valentine’s Day we have 3 simple tips to help you both enjoy your day.

1. Talk about Valentine’s Day in advance


Valentine's Day heartTalk to your new partner about what you should do as a couple for Valentine’s Day. Communication is the foundation of a good relationship no matter how long or short it has been. In the build up to Valentine’s Day, particularly for new relationships, it is essential.

The 14th February is a potential banana-skin for any relationship. It is loaded with expectations and often, assumptions. Not to mention the peer pressure of what his/her friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend did for them/bought for them being broadcast on social media.

If you like your new partner a lot but are not quite madly in love yet you might feel a card is sufficient. When you turn up to your work to a bouquet of roses, a giant novelty card, cuddly toy and an invite to dinner at the priciest restaurant in town, you might wish you had talked about it beforehand.

Valentine's Day -James Nesbitt Cold Feet Rose
James Nesbitt’s Adam serenades Rachel (uncomfortably) in Cold Feet.

2. Romantic gestures in the movies and TV rarely translate well into real life

Whether it was Adam wearing nothing but a single red rose for Rachel in Cold Feet or Colin Firth proposing to Aurelia in Love Actually, we love sweeping, romantic gestures. But in real life they can sometimes be, at best, embarrassing or, at worst, a relationship breaker.

If you have had a discussion with your new partner in advance you should be clear on where they stand. For some a grand romantic gesture on your first Valentine’s Day would bring them nothing but joy. For others it will be mortifying. Knowing how you both feel about the day and your relationship will avoid any potentially painful (the thorns on that rose – ouch!) embarrassment.

Few relationships blossom or whither on the basis of a single Valentine’s Day so really think about what your new partner would enjoy most.

3. Agree on gifts or no gifts (and no surprises)


The question of gifts and their value is another minefield for that first Valentine’s Day together. Initially there is the stomach churning awkwardness of saying “you shouldn’t have” as you exchange your £1.50 card for a bracelet and a first edition of the Velveteen Rabbit. Then comes confusion and hurt from a complete misunderstanding of the status of your relationship and its perceived value.

Agreeing whether to get gifts or not and a price limit is a great idea. For that first Valentine’s Day agreeing no gifts but to share a night out/night in is a good starting point. If one of you is excited to give a gift (“I’ve seen something you will really like!”) then agree a realistic price limit. Once that is agreed, stick to the agreement! Do not ‘just get something anyway’. Instead of your partner feeling great they are likely to end up feeling guilty for not surprising you.


These conversations might feel awkward at the time but they are a good way of avoiding more difficult ones later. And they can go a long way to helping keep expectations in check and avoid the hurt of Valentine’s Day disappointment.

Relationship tips and advice

The Spark is a leading relationship counselling and support charity. We exist to help make relationships work for everyone in Scotland.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for tips and advice on making your relationships work. We also offer a range of free relationship resources on our website to help with the problems we all face in life.

youth relationship education WAVE Trust Parenting toolkit

The Spark welcomes the new Toolkit for Future Parenting, developed by the WAVE Trust in partnership with the Scottish Government. As providers of extensive early years and youth relationship education programmes, we are delighted to see the introduction of this important youth relationship resource.

youth relationship education WAVE Trust Parenting toolkit

 A valuable resource for youth relationship education

Building on Early Years and the National Parenting Strategy, the toolkit recognises what The Spark and other relationship professionals have always known: relationships are key to Children and Young People’s lifelong outcomes.

The new WAVE Trust programme will offer non-judgemental, supportive and practical information about Parenthood and Relationships to Young People. It is designed to lay the foundation for ‘transformational change in the preparation for positive parenthood’ and ‘to make the next generation of parents the best generation of parents’.

These are fantastic aspirations for youth relationship education in Scotland. However they place great expectation on an already stretched resource: Scotland’s teachers.

 Do teachers need support to implement the Toolkit for Future Parenting?

The Spark’s work in schools means we encounter school staff daily. They are passionate about getting the best for their pupils. Sadly this often comes with the acknowledgement that the time and skills required to implement additional programmes alongside the Curriculum for Excellence are extremely limited.

Programmes that cover emotional wellbeing and personal development often place an emotional burden on teachers: they may feel ill-equipped to deal with some of the issues raised by pupils and this can impact on them personally. This can leave teachers feeling distressed as they don’t have sufficient time or specialised skills to support their pupils in the manner they would wish.

youth relationship education

The importance of skilled facilitators

The research undertaken ahead of the production of the Toolkit highlighted ‘the importance of having facilitators who have the skills to help children process strong feelings and who should be able to demonstrate an example of what a good relationship looks and feels like and having personal experience of being a parent is helpful’.

The Spark can provide support for the implementation of the new Toolkit for Future parenting:

  • The Spark Relationship First Aid Programme would help key delivery staff to develop additional expertise and skills to support the delivery of the Toolkit.  It would increase their confidence to be able to open up and close down difficult topics in a safe way and know where to access additional support for their pupils.
  • For schools where their teaching staff are already stretched, The Spark have a team of experienced relationship facilitators who have the specialist skills to help children process strong feelings, who would be able to deliver the programme.

The future

Our hope is that this toolkit will build a foundation for further programmes to support our young people. The Toolkit acknowledges that:

  • Many of the young people undertaking this programme will have additional challenges and they may not have had the optimum circumstances within their own families.
  • The programme may highlight the need for further support through counselling for those of our children who may have experienced family conflict, loss, relationship difficulties and breakdown within families and indeed those young people with multiple challenges including being looked after.

The Toolkit is a very welcome resource which we hope will be widely used. Should you be a professional or statutory agency that would like to hear more about how The Spark can support the implementation of the toolkit or our work in general, please contact us on 0141 222 2166, e-mail or visit our website.

Couple with relationship problems

That sense that something is not right in a relationship – with our partner, kids, family or colleagues – often comes with a real difficulty in working out what it is. We can cause ourselves more upset and unhappiness by running over endless possibilities in our minds, tip-toeing around each other or just plain ignoring it. In response the team at The Spark has created a free, online Relationship MOT to help people find a place to start.

The Spark Relationship MOT Couple facing relationship difficulties

The Spark Relationship MOT covers 6 common areas where relationships are challenged in modern society. Users can answer questions anonymously about issues covering addiction, the role of the home caregiver, financial pressures, ill health, the challenge of deciding to live together and the general topic of struggling in a relationship.

From the answers given the MOT provides a snapshot of a particular relationship at that point in time. Just like a car MOT, the survey cannot fix the issues you might be facing but it can provide clarity on where to start finding solutions with help from The Spark. Additional topics covering becoming a parent, empty nest, bereavement, retirement, seperation and parenting teens will be added later in the year.

Try the Relationship MOT online, free and in confidence.

Relationship support and advice

The Spark is available to offer a range of free and paid-for services that can help you address the issues highlighted. Our website offers a range of free guides, booklets and ‘hints and tips’ to help with many of the common relationship problems we all face. Coping with the arrival of a new baby, dealing with those difficult teenage years and finding ways to reconnect are just some of the topics covered. Check out our free resources.

For more personal support our free Relationship Helpline is available on 0808 802 2088. The helpline offers a safe, confidential space where you can discuss the issues highlighted by the Relationship MOT or your own feelings. Financial worries, stress, anxiety, infidelity and parenthood are common issues we deal with every day at The Spark.

Counselling – not as scary as it seems

Often more in-depth support in the form of face-to-face counselling is the best solution for significant difficulties. Seeking out counselling individually or as a couple can seem daunting initially. You can speak to one of our team on freephone 0808 802 0050 and discuss the counselling options available to you at one of our regional centres across Scotland. There is no obligation to make an appointment at any time and often the chance to talk about the issues is enough at that time.

Here to help

The Spark is here to help. Whether individuals, couples or families we want to help address the issues that are stopping them from moving towards better, healthier relationships. Call us free and in confidence on 0808 802 0050 or complete an enquiry form.

To keep up to date with the latest news, information and free advice follow The Spark on twitter.