The Happiness Connection  

Add spice to your marriage

“Feb.14 should be renamed Single Awareness Day.”

This is a statement I heard while listening to an interview on CBC radio this morning. It made me laugh, but it also made me think. Feb. 14 could just as aptly be named ‘Unhappily Married Awareness Day.’

I know there are cynics who say Valentine’s Day is just another opportunity for stores to make money, or that we should be showing our loved ones how much we care every day.

I agree with both these statements to some degree, but just because there is a commercial element to the occasion, or we should show our love daily, doesn’t mean Valentine’s Day has no value.

It is the perfect opportunity to remind your special person how much they mean to you. It doesn’t have to cost money, and you don’t have to stop showing them your love the rest of the year.

This is especially important for couples who have been together for a long time. It is easy to take each other for granted, or assume your spouse knows how important they are to you.

Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to make sure they know how you feel.

Dinner and going to see a movie are both popular Valentine’s Day activities. If your relationship is healthy, both are great ways to celebrate, but if you are struggling, they aren’t necessarily going to give you the evening of your dreams.

I used to tell my husband that we had a problem marriage because all we ever talked about were problems. We had lost the ability to enjoy time together. I saw him as not caring about me or my life, and he saw me as someone who was always unhappy and frequently complaining.

If your relationship is a fragile place, enjoyable conversation over dinner doesn’t come easily, and sitting in a dark movie theatre is too distant.

My advice is to find an activity you can do together. If you find your lives becoming increasingly separate, choose something that you are both relatively inexperienced at, so you are on an even playing field.

One of my favourite activities is Pinot and Picasso. Like the name suggests, you sip wine, and paint, while receiving step-by-step guidance on how to create a masterpiece. This experience is designed for people who don’t consider themselves to be artists.

It is incredibly therapeutic and provides the perfect opportunity for some problem free bonding.

If painting doesn’t do it for you or your budget, try bowling, mini golf, hiking, a walk, board games, or dancing. If you don’t dance, try taking some lessons.

Look for something new.

I suggest doing something active and new because physical activity, stepping out of your comfort zone, and mastering a new skill, have all been scientifically proven to boost your level of happiness.

One study showed that after participating in just seven minutes of a novel and interesting task together, the quality of a couple’s relationship increased. (Aron et al, 2000) This boost doesn’t happen if the activity is perceived as mundane.

For anyone struggling to get their relationship back on track, find something new to do together. It is easy to forget why you were attracted to your partner, especially if everything you experience together is negative, or if you have grown apart.

For couples who are on solid ground, build opportunities to have new and exciting experiences together on a regular basis, especially if your circumstances are changing with new jobs, or the addition of children. It will help you maintain your bond.

Take turns choosing a new experience or create a list of activities. Set a goal to cross everything off your list by a specific deadline. Setting and working towards goals is another way to boost your happiness. You may be amazed at the difference it makes in your relationship.

If you have a partner who doesn’t seem to take any notice of your hints or suggestions about Valentine’s Day, stop being subtle. Spell out what you want to do. Choose something together, but let them know ‘nothing’ is not an option.

If they refuse to get involved, perhaps it is time to rethink your relationship.

My husband will often ask me if we are doing anything for our anniversary or Valentine's Day. That is OK. I am happy to give him guidance. He doesn’t always have to instigate the situation although that is nice too.

Work with the partner you have rather than the partner you wish you had. Some people just need guidance to get started.

Make sure to mark Valentine's Day in some way during February. It doesn’t have to happen on the 14th, and it doesn’t have to involve money, but make sure your partner knows just how special they are to you. 

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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