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.

family day

One of the most common issues raised in couples relationship counselling is a grievance list about the division of family and household responsibilities, and how it leads to a strained relationship.

We are busier than ever in our lives and media messages appear to celebrate our busyness. There is almost an unspoken contest to see who is the most stressed and busiest. Parents are challenged by society to be the couple who cram the most activities in for their kids in an effort to get them ahead in life. In the world of the high flying career, couples are often thinking “who has the busiest career?” because almost every magazine has an article about celebrities ‘juggling’ responsibilities. And us, like those celebrities, are striving to wear the ‘busiest’ (and thus ‘most important’) badge of honour.

Busyness + importance = self-worth?

strained relationship
Busiest wins the trophy?

What we do not tend to do is to ask ourselves why we need this in order to feel valued?  How did we reach the stage where our identity is dependent on how busy we are? In other words how much we are needed/depended upon at work and at home defines our sense of self-worth. But arguably the most important question of all in this is a simple and often overlooked one: do we individually or as a couple actually want to be caught up in this merry-go-round?

Research says that we work longer hours than ever to satisfy our employers. Similarly, in the developed world we are providing ample opportunities for our children in further education, sport, music and activities. So what’s the catch? In the hypnotic whirlwind of ‘having it all’ nearly a third of parents are complaining of burnout.  They are drained and argue about responsibilities and the result is a very strained relationship.

A strained relationship: the reality of the merry-go-round

A recent example from The Spark Counselling highlights the nature of the problem:

When Chloe and Sam started coming to counselling they both looked exhausted.  Chloe explained she felt “in her head, it’s a constant swirl of planning and schedules”. She picks up the kids, runs to the supermarket for dinner, and throws it down whilst also putting on the washing and feeling like she hasn’t the time to breathe.  Somehow, in the midst of this the kids amble along and manage to ‘work’ their parents. Consequently no help is given with tidying or the washing up.

Meanwhile Sam said he “can’t do right for doing wrong.” When he gets back from work, feeling exhausted too, he gulps down his tea, indigestion choking him,  gathers Sophie for gymnastics and Rory for football practice. Often he forgets their kit (another grievance for Chloe) and has to race back for it. At weekends he finds little relief: Saturdays and Sundays have become centred on the children and their various activities, sports and hobbies.

Both Chloe and Sam felt that they “hadn’t signed up for this”. They believed being a family would be great but it felt like a huge burden.  As the tension mounted, the kids were starting to play one parent off the other. Their’s was a very strained relationship.

strained relationshipChloe and Sam were taken through a series of scenarios during their marriage counselling:

Was it time to take stock? Their marriage and family was at risk of collapsing in on itself and the spectre of depression and other health problems later in life was rising.

Did they look at their partner and just feel resentment? Did the person who at one time understood you more than anyone else and made your world a safe and loving place, now feel like a competitor or a rival?

Chloe and Sam worked through their difficulties and found a better balance in their lives following counselling. It proved to be a safe place in which to stop the merry-go-round for a while and understand what they really wanted from life.

Sound familiar?

If this sounds or feels familiar, The Spark Counselling can help you on the road to a similar positive outcome. A strained relationship rarely heals itself but we have included some tips on where to start the process in your relationship. You can also talk to us free, and in confidence, about counselling options for you and your partner on 0808 802 0050 or find out more.

Getting off the merry-go-round – tips

strained relationship
Stop! I want to get off.

As a couple, make time to sit down and discuss the following topics individually. Agree beforehand that this is not about blame. It is very probably that you are both feeling the same way:

  • Do you ever wish we had more down time and more time together?
  • Do we connect with each other anymore?
  • Sit with your partner and state what is making you unhappy in your strained relationship?  Try to understand with each other what is behind this feeling.
  • Can you jointly agree what is really important to you as a couple or family?
  • Spend time looking at ways you can create time for each other as a couple and as a family.
  • Take stock of what you really need in your week, especially in terms of household chores. For example cleaning the bathroom is important but do you really need to iron the duvet covers? You can probably let go of that one.
  • Although your days are probably planned to the precise minute like a military operation, agree to set aside real time for you to be together as a couple and to do something special you always enjoyed (going for a coffee, dinner out, going to a gig). And don’t let it slip.

The Spark Counselling provides marriage counselling, couples counselling and family counselling from centres across Scotland including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Dunfermline, East Kilbride, Irvine and Paisley.

To book a counselling appointment freephone 0808 802 0050 or e-mail The Spark.

Find your local The Spark Counselling centre here.

Find out more about The Spark Counselling services for Couples and Individuals, Families and Young People.