Whether you're married, in a relationship, or single, Valentine's Day is a day of significance to most of us. After all, the day itself signifies romantic love. Depending upon one's circumstances, it's either a day we dread or one in which we demonstrate our love through romantic cards, chocolates, flowers, candlelight dinners, and other such things.
Many unintentionally single people consider the day a painful reminder of their singleness. For those in relatively new relationships, it is often stressful deciding how best to approach this particular day. When people are unhappily coupled, it's an anxiety-ridden day for very different reasons. However, for those of us in happy, loving relationships, it is typically a day filled with love, joy and romance. Many of us express our love through cards we exchange and often personalize them with handwritten notes. If our romantic expectations were not met on Valentine's Day, it isn't uncommon to express that disappointment as well.
Hopefully, you aren't one of those who will be on the receiving end of such disappointment. If so, consider yourself lucky that your significant other cares enough about you and your relationship to share their feelings with you. Ideally, you will listen carefully as they express their needs and learn from the experience, rather than getting angry and defensive. After all, it's not as though the opportunity to engage in such heart to heart discussions over our need to feel appreciated in such a manner avails itself often.
You see, ideally, we're all taught how to read, write and speak in at least one language. We're also hopefully taught proper grammar. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to properly communicate. This is a huge problem, as is evidenced by the fact that most conflict results from miscommunication. We tend to jump to conclusions based upon incomplete information. We make a great many assumptions, the vast majority of which turn out to be incorrect. We hold people accountable for failing to meet our unspoken expectations, as if they were mind-readers. We don't even know if we attribute the same meaning to the words we use. And, we forget to separate the person from their behavior. Rather than expressing our disappointment as it pertains to people's behavior, we often shame them instead. As Brene' Brown, Ph.D. says, "separating self from behavior is the difference between shame and guilt. Shame is very correlated with addiction, depression, suicide, aggression, violence, bullying, and eating disorders. Guilt, on the other hand, is inversely correlated with those same outcomes."
We also tend to take each other for granted, except possibly on holidays such as Valentine's Day. In his book, "What Predicts Divorce?: The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes," John Gottman found that "the single biggest determinant [as to whether or not wedded couples will divorce] is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another.... He found that the optimal ratio was five positive comments to every negative one.... For those who ended up divorced, the ratio was something like three positive comments for every four negative ones."
For those of you in happy romantic relationships, regardless of whether or not this Valentine's Day exceeds or even meets your expectations, it wouldn't hurt to improve your communication moving forward. If nothing else, try and assess the ratio of positive to negative comments you make to each other. Chances are, you may need to make some adjustments in that regard, if you value your significant other and hope to celebrate many more love and romance-filled Valentine's Days together.