Valentine's Day gift

When Valentine’s Day comes around we are reminded it is time to focus on that special someone. For a day it is all about demonstrating our love for our spouse or partner.

Soppy cards, flowers and chocolates are all great of course. But the fact we need a prompt is a pretty sad reflection on our efforts for the other 364 days of the year.

Valentine's Day gift

Which – for me anyway – raised a disconcerting thought: why do we often need a reminder to show love to the person we share our life with?

I just don’t have the headspace right now…


On Valentine’s we are encouraged to show our love with gestures and efforts – a special home cooked meal, a small gift or a ‘date night’ perhaps.

Inherent to all of those things is the necessity of time. Space to think about what to do and time to make it happen.

Modern life however has a habit of crowding out those opportunities.

Work, families, kids, bills and the like get in the way. Even having the head space to think “what would he/she enjoy on Valentine’s Day?” can be rare. Hence the need for a reminder on 14 February to find some sliver of time to come up with what is often a rushed and poorly chosen gesture.

Or worse still, nothing at all.

No more passion ‘til next Valentine’s Day


Undoubtedly the daily grind drains the spontaneity that makes a gesture romantic. Amongst emails, insurance renewals and getting the kids to bed the natural desire to express our love for one another gets buried.

Valentine's Day hectic life

But the hectic pace of life is not the only hindrance to expressing our devotion more than once a year.

To love at all is to be vulnerable


Showing our love for someone, expressing how important and vital they are to our own life makes us vulnerable. Committing to another human in this way leaves us exposed to the risk of being hurt. A risk we might naturally try to avoid.

CS Lewis summed it up best in his book The Four Loves when he wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”

Not exactly the objective any of us would set for ourselves, is it? Not to mention the fact you will be hard pushed to find a Valentine’s Day card featuring that particular quote.

A greater truth about love


If you are familiar with this quote you will already know that Lewis was writing about a far greater truth concerning relationships and love:

“If you want to make sure of keeping it (your heart) intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

A risk worth taking


To demonstrate our love for another is a risk worth taking. It is good for us – though we might initially fear it – compared to the cold, harsh alternative.

To quote the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone gives you courage.”

Valentine's Day

Enjoy Valentine’s Day and lavish as much love and affection upon your partner as you can. But more importantly, when you wake up on 15 February try to remember that it is just as crucial to do the same today as it was yesterday.


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Valentine's Day

It might be the time of year to celebrate love but that does not mean Valentine’s Day is filled with excitement for everyone. Some will be approaching February 14 with one particular thought: do I break up with her/him before or after Valentine’s Day?

Valentine's Day

I don’t want to be ‘that’ guy on Valentine’s Day…


Society has evolved a sort of unwritten list of “no-no’s” over time. Things like not liking puppies or ignoring queuing etiquette are examples that will raise more than just a Roger Moore-esque eyebrow.

Splitting up with someone at any time around Valentine’s Day is on that same list.

Valentine's Day
You’re breaking up with me… on Valentine’s Day?

From time to time we have all laughed about the guy or girl we know who broke up with their partner before Valentine’s just to save having to buy a gift. Or discussed how we could never be ‘that guy’ (or girl) who dumped someone before Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day and relationships


Joking aside, Valentine’s Day can create genuine anxieties and raise questions about relationships. The kinds of concerns that are more legitimate than simply trying to avoid paying for a nice meal.

It is not uncommon, for example, that Valentine’s Day can bring with it fears about commitment.

Thanks to shrewd marketing by jewellers and the advertising industry, Valentine’s Day tends to be an occasion when relationships achieve new levels of commitment. Marriage proposals are part and parcel of the day, and requests to move in are becoming ever more common.

Peer pressure and the weight of expectation can be problematic. If you are not ready for such a step and think your partner absolutely is, you might feel like calling time on your relationship is the only option.

Valentine’s Day marks the end of ‘cuffing season’


The aftereffects of the Christmas ‘cuffing season’ can also come in to play around this time of year.

The prospect of spending winter nights and the Christmas holiday (party) season alone drives some singletons to ‘cuff’ themselves to a partner.  There is no guarantee however that both parties understand that this might only be a short term thing.

valentine's day holding hands

February can be when the ‘need’ for coupling ends for one half of the relationship as spring approaches and the prospect of a care-free summer rises on the horizon.

Do we still love each other?


At a deeper level Valentine’s Day can bring with it a worrying realisation for some couples.

While ‘other couples’ are excited about picking cards and gifts for Valentine’s Day, you are not. This can trigger plenty of difficult questions: what does that mean for our relationship? Do I still love her/him as much? Does she/he still love me?

What is common to all these scenarios is that to navigate them we need to talk. Not to girlfriends or the lads down the pub, but to our partners.

Talk about it


Too often in relationships we avoid discussing important issues with each other. Instead we allow our own assumptions – he/she is going to propose – to direct our actions.

Frequently these can be inaccurate or incomplete and based on interpretations of what our partner has done or said. Without open and honest dialogue, we can end up causing ourselves and our partners much emotional pain.

Don’t assume, ask!


Your partner may be thinking about a proposal around Valentine’s Day. But if you speak to them about where your relationship is you may find they love you enough to wait until you are both ready.

Or they may be under the impression this is what you want from them and they are not quite ready for the commitment either!

valentine's day talk about it

All relationships move at different speeds. Better communication can help you both understand that you are ultimately heading in the same direction but at slightly different speeds.

There is no right or wrong time to break up with your partner. There are however good and bad reasons to separate.

Make sure this Valentine’s that any decision you take only comes after spending time talking about it.


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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.