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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante  

Fostering a loving relationship all year round

By Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

The month of February naturally brings with it thoughts of romantic love. Valentine’s Day is the time of year when we set aside time to make our loved one feel special. Usually this is done with flowers, chocolate, cards, jewellery, or a fancy dinner. As much as this special day gets special attention, however, celebrating your relationship once a year is not enough for it to stay healthy and loving. Effort must happen all year round.

The main characteristic of a successful romantic relationship is that it feels secure and safe. This means that both partners feel that the other is committed and faithful, and that they can go to their spouse with any concerns or questions without there being a negative effect. A big red flag that there is difficulty in a marriage is when one is scared to tell their partner something because they will be overly upset or angry. Another sign of trouble is when one feels that they are “walking on eggshells;” trying not to upset their partner. When one of you feels uncomfortable in your own home, or feel that you are putting on an act, it is time to do things differently. It is never too late to change the tone of your relationship, but it takes effort by both partners.

So how do you create a stronger bond with each other? These tips are small things that go a long way. These actions do not cost any money – just a bit of time and effort every day.

Don’t automatically try to fix it

A stereotype of men is that they tend to be problem solvers. They hear about a situation and automatically look for ways to solve the dilemma. However, women often just want to vent about a situation that is troubling them. Sometimes, frustration and misunderstanding happens when the goal is not clear. For instance, one might want to talk about the cost of an unexpected car repair. This can lead to an argument if they are not on the same page. It will help to clarify the intention of the speaker right at the beginning of the conversation, such as “I just need you to listen because I’m pretty upset about this”, or “We need to talk about our options of what we can do to solve this problem.”

Put down the electronics

At some point during couples therapy, I will ask a couple what their evenings at home look like. Often, it will be described as both people sitting in the same room, but each is on their phone, laptop, iPad, or watching TV. The whole evening can go by without any meaningful conversation. Furthermore, pictures and comments made on Facebook or other social media can be misinterpreted and create feelings of jealousy. Social media can be fairly harmless as long as there is regular communication between partners because that sense of safety and security is there. And if one feels threatened by a picture or a comment, this needs to be addressed right away. It is important to validate their feelings (e.g. “I understand that you feel worried about that picture, but it means nothing to me,” rather than “You’re just making a big deal out of it. You’re crazy.”

Go on a date – at home

Sometimes, it is not possible to go out for a night on the town due to finances, childcare, or work schedules. This shouldn’t stop you from having a romantic evening at home. After the kids are asleep, you can watch a movie together, have a picnic on the living room floor, or just cuddle on the couch and talk. It doesn’t cost anything to put on a romantic song and slow dance. Making your spouse feel special does not have to be complicated.

Compliment your partner when they least expect it

Telling your spouse that they look awesome is a great way to make them feel attractive, especially if it is during an unexpected moment such as first thing in the morning, or after a rough day at work. Your partner will feel more confident that the physical attraction is still there. This has the overall benefit of assuring your spouse that you are committed and faithful. To further increase closeness, don’t just focus your compliments on one attribute. Comments on physical appearance are nice, but make sure that you also make note of their intelligence, kindness, and accomplishments.

Walk down memory lane

It is always nice to reminisce about what it was like when you first began dating. For instance, talking about when you first met, how you talked on the phone for hours, when you met the other’s family, your first kiss, that time when you walked in the rain together. Whatever it is, recalling these moments has the powerful effect of rekindling the spark right now. You remember what attracted you to your partner, long before the bills, the kids, and the pressures of work came along. Together, you remind yourselves why you decided to make a commitment to each other. This will help carry you through the tough times.

Be silly

The expression “nice guys finish last” may not be as accurate as “boring guys finish last.” Being boring in a relationship means that you do not try to share common interests with your partner, that you are not willing to try new things, admit that you’re wrong, or be vulnerable and share your feelings. You might also be reluctant to laugh at yourself. Being silly and fun together is a way to keep the spark alive, and it also is an outlet for all the life stress that comes our way. When you laugh together, you feel safe and secure with one another.

At first, it might feel unnatural to try to connect with your loved one in these ways. However, over time it will get easier and not feel like such an effort. The payout will be tremendous.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is the founder of Nexus Counselling and a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. She is a proud member of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council and a provider for the Blue Cross Employee Assistance Program. Cheryl has experience helping clients with issues such as grief, depression, relationship difficulties, parenting, aging and illness. She can be reached at (204) 297-6744 or