Reclaim Valentine's Day

Forget the overpriced flowers this year. Bypass the cheesy lingerie too.This year, give a real gift, one that is personal and that will last much longer than those long-stemmed roses ever would.

This Valentine's Day, give your loved one the gift of communication. Step up and repair what needs to be fixed. In my two decades of helping couples mired in conflict, I have found that there are three destructive behaviors that can zap the love right out of a relationship (and ultimately destroy it). This year, start a new dialogue and transform those long-standing relationship enders into the gift of a strengthened relationship.

1. Holding on to past grievances

Still angry about something that happened a decade ago? It could be as grand as the time your husband didn't show up for the birth of your first and only child, or as small as the time your wife didn't stand up for you when her mother made a snarky comment. No matter how large, or how small, if you are still angry, well, then you are still angry. And chances are you have been holding onto that grievance with your tight little hand.

If since the event your spouse has not only apologized, but also walked the walk and made real changes -- or at the very least, if he or she hasn't committed the crime again, then perhaps it is time to forgive and with full pardon!

Here's what to do: Start by choosing one grievance you have been grasping, take a minute to close your eyes, breathe in and on your exhale open your hands and let it go. That's right, LET IT GO. I don't care if it wasn't fair at the time. JUST LET IT GO.

Ultimately, you have two choices: you can have your grievance or you can have love. Holding onto old grievances comes from your head. It is a brain thing. Love comes from the heart (you do want love...right?) Try letting your heart lead you. By doing this you will be giving your partner the greatest gift of all, the gift of forgiving! Too hard? Recall three times when he really stepped up, was a champ and proved his love in a big way. Did he take care of you while you were sick, or just in a bad mood? Did she leave you a love note out of the blue? Did he fully support you to quit the job you had grown to hate and start to pursue your passion to paint? Get the idea? It's far too easy to develop and become habituated to only seeing the negative. The next time you feel compelled to be snarky, try remembering these and other times when he got it right, did something really great, loving and grateful!

2. Lack of trust

It could be as big as the affair you discovered or as small as just assuming he won't follow through. No matter what, if there's no trust there's no relationship.

Here's what to do: Offer your partner the gift of doing what it takes to rebuild that trust, first by acknowledging his or her hurt. Explain that you really understand how your actions made him or her feel violated. Take responsibility for the damage you have done. Now, ask your partner and yourself, "What can I do to rebuild our trust?" And make a heartfelt commitment to doing it.

3. Mr. and Ms. Right.

You know the game. You have an argument and refuse to give in because you always have to be right. The problem is, he has always has to be right, too. And so there's a conflict.

Here's what to do: Put your ego aside and quit holding onto being right! All you're doing is making yourself look like a dog holding onto a bone. Put the bone down and start listening to your partner instead. Just for the moment, at least, put yourself in their shoes, put aside your need to be right and set your intention to completely understand how he or she feels. Ask yourself what's the payoff or the fear of letting go of the need to be right? Is it working? Is it getting you more love? Or does it just give you the temporary rush of winning and being right (which ultimately just creates distance from your loved one and yourself). I'm not saying do it all in one day. Start being open to the intention idea of letting go of being right.

Okay, so now that you know what to do, how do you turn it into an actual "gift"? Try these scenarios: Imagine you're now at the restaurant, or your kitchen table, having your favorite dinner with your loved one. You could actually say, "Honey, I've been holding onto something for about 10 years and I'm going to let go of it. That time you called my little sister a trashy little tramp? This is the last time I say those words or even think them. I'm letting that go." Or "Listen, we never talk about this, but I still think about that time I did the blah blah blah and you were really hurt by it. Is there anything I can do that would repair that for you?" Or how about this: next time you find yourself in the middle of an argument, mentally stop -- mid sentence, if necessary -- and say, "you know what? You could be right." Even if you think that your partner is nuts, dead wrong, just say those words. Even if you're lying through your teeth. Just practice saying them. See what happens. How it's almost comically impossible to keep fighting, once you say that sentence."

The perfect day to start transforming those long-standing love destroyers into lasting intimacy and a more peaceful home... is today!

Follow Tara on Twitter at @tarafieldslmft

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