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February 9, 2017
by Hilda Huj

The Case of Valentine’s Day: Relationship Rapture or Massacre?

February 9, 2017 10:30 by Hilda Huj

Valentine's Day is an annual festival to celebrate love. A day when we celebrate love in all of its forms, but especially romantic love. However, multiple studies have shown that couples are more likely to break up in the weeks before and after Valentine's Day. Why would a day, meant to celebrate love, result in more break-ups? Through the course of this article, will address some of the most prevalent reasons, and how to deal with them.

 

 

Setting the Bar Too High

Valentine's Day is a highly scripted holiday. Which means that it provides us with a special set of expectations for appropriate behavior. This, in turn, affects our personal expectations and leads to setting our own expectations quite high. High expectations may sometimes lead to improved circumstances because they affect and improve our behavior, but if they do not pan out, they lead to feelings of great disappointment -which in turn can lead toward the end of our relationship.

Making Comparisons

Most of the activities we do with our partner on the Valentine's Day are public. Plans for dinners, concerts, or events are in open places, talked about in conversations and shared on social media. In addition, given that Valentine's Day is so commercialized, advertisements flood us with pictures of perfect partners, gifts, and celebrations of the Valentine's Day. Seeing and hearing about others' sometimes exaggerated or idealized accounts of Valentine's Day celebrations or how perfect Valentine's Day is supposed to look like, makes it difficult to avoid comparisons with our own Valentine's Day celebration. Therefore, even if we were enjoying in our celebration and were satisfied with it in the moment, these comparisons can lead to dissatisfaction about our own way of celebrating.

Revealing Existing Difficulties

However, while the previously mentioned reasons focus more on the instigating effects of Valentine's Day, in my opinion, the most important effects are those catalyzing ones.
Studies have shown that Valentine's Day may catalyze the impact of ongoing relationship difficulties, meaning that Valentine's Day may reveal, highlight and even exacerbate ongoing relationship difficulties (Morse & Neuberg, 2004).And, again, those difficulties can be various.


Some of the most common issues that can be catalyzed by Valentine's Day are:

-Sexual and Intimacy Difficulties
-Significant Differences in Core Values and Beliefs
-Feelings of Boredom in the Relationship
-Communication Difficulties

Each of the previously mentioned relationship difficulties have a profound effect on our relationship on an everyday basis. However, it seems that on Valentine's Day their impact becomes stronger.
For couples who have sexual and intimacy difficulties in their relationship, high expectations with regard to sex on Valentine's Day may leave them feeling disappointed in themselves or in their partner. Given that everything around us is showing us intimate partners enjoying Valentine's Day, we can realize that we do not feel that kind of intimacy in our relationship or start to wonder will we ever feel those feelings again. Valentine's day can be extremely stressful for men with sexual difficulties, such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, due to excessive mental and emotional pressure caused by worrying about their ability to perform and expectations imposed by society. Furthermore, many women experience sexual difficulties at some point in their lives, such as difficulties with sexual arousal, yet this difficulty is discussed far less often. This can present a great source of stress and frustration, which can build up more around Valentine's day.

While planning how to spend Valentine's Day we can realize that we are completely different from our partner and/or that he or she is not what we expected. This can be especially significant for new couples, who did not have an opportunity to get to know each other very well. However, it may also happen to couples who have been in a relationship for a longer period of time and have grown distant from each other. In the end, these realizations are something that can leave us wondering what do we really want from our partner and will our partner ever be able to satisfy our needs? These feelings of disappointment can eventually lead us toward a break-up.

On the other hand, for couples who have been in a relationship for a longer period of time, Valentine's day may lose its charm. Seeing other couples having fun, can leave us wondering why our relationship is not so exciting as theirs? Are we still in love with our partner or does our partner still loves us? Is our relationship just a force of habit? Are we stuck in one place and now are not able to move from it? Too much predictability can lead to indifference. Over time, apathy can turn to exasperation, annoyance, and irritation. The security that once was something that protected us, can become a prison; leading in the end of our relationship.

Communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship between two people. Without it, it is not possible to have any kind of a relationship. On Valentine's day, when we make plans together, difficulties in our communication can become more highlighted. For example, if we are not able to communicate to our partner our expectations clearly on an everyday basis, then we will eventually feel disappointed. Communication is a key indicator of the quality and stability of our relationship. If the quality of our communication with our partner is high, it is most likely that we will be highly satisfied with our relationship (Holman, 2001). In contrast, poor communication is more likely to have an adverse effect on the quality of our relationship, and it will probably set us and our partner on a course toward ending our relationship (Gottman & Levenson, 1992).

To summarize, if there are no positive daily things in our relationship, like gratitude and affirmation that make our relationship thrive throughout the year, Valentine's day will just make things worse. Some partners, more often than not, use extravagant dinners and gifts as band-aids to chronic relationship issues. While that may actually serve as a short-term solution and trigger a honeymoon period, it will actually be detrimental to our relationship and possible lead to a break-up just because we did not deal properly with the difficulties we have had.

What to Do and Why?

It is critically important that we pay attention to and celebrate our relationship and partner throughout the whole year. If we do notice difficulties, we should decide to work on them immediately. And if we are not able to solve them together, it is important to talk to someone who can help.

Many long-lasting committed relationships persevere despite periods of relationship difficulty and dissatisfaction (Surra and Hughes, 1997). A good number of relationships might have survived the downward blip in relationship expectations and qualities if the partners had worked on their relationship actively. Therefore, in order to have a good relationship, we have to deal with the difficulties we face as they emerge.

Why Therapy?

Therapy represents a safe place where we can work, together with our partner, on the difficulties we face in our relationship. Space, where we are able to feel structure, containment, safety, and support. We are able to be vulnerable in front of another human being and express our feelings and thoughts. By so doing, we will be able to gain insight and learn new skills which will, in the end, heal our relationship.

Summary

Valentine's Day can instigate or catalyze various difficulties in our relationship. If we decide not to deal with them actively or if we just try to use short-term solutions (such as expensive dinners, sexy or expensive presents, etc.), we may be on our way toward the end of our relationship. Therefore, it is important to work on the difficulties we face actively.
Furthermore, when we face difficulties that we cannot solve it is important to talk to someone who can help - a therapist. A therapist will be able to help us gain insight and learn new skills, that will heal our relationship over time.

 


References: 

Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital Processes Predictive of Later Dissolution: Behavior, Physiology, and Health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(2), 221-233.

Holman, T. B. (Ed.). (2001). Premarital prediction of marital quality or breakup: Research, theory, and practice. New York: Kluwer Academic.

Morse, K. A. & Neuberg, S. L. (2004). How do holidays influence relationship processes
and outcomes? Examining the instigating and catalytic effects of Valentine’s Day. Personal Relationships, 11 (2004), 509–527.

Surra, C. A., & Hughes, D. K. (1997). Commitment processes in accounts of the development of premarital relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 5–21.

About the Author

Hilda Huj Hilda Huj, B.A., M.A.

Are you looking to talk with somebody who can help? Together we can gain insight into your situation, find a deeper understanding, evoke meaningful changes, improve your relationships, and heal you by using a potential that you already have.

Hilda Huj has a clinical practice in St Albert, AB