Q: My son and daughter-in-law say they have no plans to celebrate Valentine's Day because it just doesn't interest them. They've been married less than a year, and I'd think they'd jump at the chance to celebrate a romantic holiday. Should I be worried?
Jim: It depends on what they mean when they say Valentine's Day doesn't "interest" them. I know many deeply religious people who aren't eager to celebrate Christmas, either, because of how materialistic it has become.
The real measure of your son and daughter-in-law's relationship comes in how they treat and relate to each other the other 364 days a year. The same should be true for all of us. There's nothing inherently wrong with cards and chocolates on Valentine's Day. I can think of worse things than having a day set aside to proclaim undying love for your spouse.
But married couples should make an effort to inject that same passion into their relationship on a (BEGIN ITALS)regular(END ITALS) basis. That doesn't mean we have to break out the fine china and have a candlelight dinner every night. But there are countless ways we can and (BEGIN ITALS)should(END ITALS) express our devotion. We can set aside a regular date night, or send a quick e-mail during the day to say, "I love you and I'm thinking about you." I can guarantee that something along those lines will mean more in July or September than it does on Feb. 14!
This is something that my wife, Jean, and I try to bear in mind even when we're running at a frantic pace and trying to catch up with our boys. If your son and his wife are endeavoring to keep the spark alive throughout the year, that's much more important than whether they participate in Valentine's Day.
Q: I dread Valentine's Day. All of the hype about love and romance only reminds me that none of it exists in my marriage. I gave up hoping for a card or flowers years ago. I'm tired of trying to breathe life into a dead marriage, but I don't believe in divorce.
Juli: Marriage can feel like the loneliest place on earth, especially around Valentine's Day. When you're single, you expect to be lonely, but not when you have a ring on your finger.
There are many reasons why love in marriage fades. Serious problems like addiction, abuse, extramarital affairs and mental illness can certainly extinguish feelings of romance. However, most people "fall out of love" for less sinister reasons. The busyness and stress of work, kids and finances cause a couple to drift apart over the years. One day they wake up to find the only thing they have in common is a tube of toothpaste.
If this is where you and your husband find yourselves, don't give up. There are many things you can do to get your marriage back on track, but sitting back and waiting for flowers isn't one of them!
Marriage counseling is an excellent way to improve your communication and resolve conflicts, but you also need to relearn how to have fun together. Tell your husband how much you miss him. When you do this, be sure to make it sound like an invitation, not a complaint. Reminisce about what caused you to fall in love with him in the first place and tell him what still attracts you to him.
Regardless of how busy you are, make time to play together. This might feel awkward at first, but it will become more comfortable with time. Pursue a new hobby like hiking, cooking classes or volunteering. Don't fall for the line that the grass would be greener in another marriage. Every marriage has dry spells. The grass is actually greener where you water it!
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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