Home HEALTH HEALTH CHECK In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love

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Strengthen your bond on
Valentine’s Day—
and every day

Improving your relationship with your partner this Valentine’s
Day is about getting back to basics. That means setting time aside
and just focusing on each other. “You can fix dinner together, stay
at home and do something private and personal,” said Brenda Aranda,
a social worker at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie. Try not to
make it an ordinary night. “Put on some quiet music, have a little dancing,
use your imagination and pretend you are out some place that is quiet and
romantic,” said Aranda.

If you want to do something more elaborate, you can take
off from work and get a reservation at a hotel in the French
Quarter.
This is a great chance to get to know our amazing city. “You
can take tour guide rides with the horses or take a boat ride on one of the
steamers,” said Aranda. Some even serve dinner. Trying new things is good
for your relationship. “One important ingredient is for couples to continue
dating throughout their marriage because it is easy to get caught up in
raising a family rather than focus on being a couple,” said Garry Eldridge, a
marriage and family therapist. Make an effort to have date nights for just the
two of you.

If you are lucky, you may be able to have an extended date
weekend.
“Some of the fun is anticipating the date and looking forward
to it,” said Eldridge. When people are married and live together they may
get to the weekend, be unsure of what they feel like doing and decide to go
to the movies at the last minute. However, since it is unplanned, you lose
the excitement and anticipation. For the curious, you may go and stay at
a plantation home. This can be a special getaway. Some people are better
Valentine’s Day planners than others. “You might have to start at square
one, sit down, have a conversation and share what you think of as romantic,”
said Aranda.

Have inside jokes or terms that only you and your partner
understand.
Some married couples may choose to refer to their partner
as their boyfriend or girlfriend. “Over the long-term, they need to keep the
idea that being boyfriend and girlfriend is how they started and they need
to keep that energy alive in their relationship,” said Eldridge. Engaging in
novel, new activities together is one way to keep the bond strong.
Eldridge suggests understanding the five love languages, as identified by
author Gary Chapman. “He identifies words of affirmation, quality time,
receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch,” said Eldridge. It is often
the case that couples genuinely love each other but are communicating
love to their partner in a way that they do not get or receive well. You may
prefer the language of giving your wife gifts to show that you love her, but
if she prefers acts of service, the best thing you can do is mop
the floor.

Communicate more often. “There are studies that show that
women use 5,000 words a day and men use about 2,500 words a day, and
that is because women tend to use language and communication to build and
nurture relationships while men use them to get things done and accomplish
tasks,” said Eldridge. Making a conscious effort to understand what each other
is saying can reduce conflict in your relationship.

Consider your partner’s wishes as well. “Ask each other how you
want to spend Valentine’s Day and incorporate that into your plans so both of
your needs are met,” said Eldridge. This means taking into account sexual or
physical needs as well. “Couples that are satisfied usually have a good, healthy,
sexual relationship that is satisfying to both people because it is a way of
bonding, connecting, communicating and tuning in,” said Eldridge. Remember
that this communication is the key. “When people are understood, they feel
more loved and when you understand someone, you love them more,’ said
Rebecca Stilling, a social worker.

Get bold. “There is a book called Nice Couples Do, which is a book of sexual
fantasies or little vignettes and the idea is for couples to continue to get to
know each other,” said Eldridge. If you find a fantasy that you would like to
live out with your partner, you can bookmark the page for him to see and vice
versa. “Maybe somebody likes whipped cream or somebody likes lingerie, so the
stories can help improve communication in a nonthreatening way and let you
get to know each other on a physical level even better,” said Eldridge.

Say thank you. One therapist told the story of a friend whose wife would
make him a cup of coffee and run a bath for him every morning. He loved
it until one day he walked into the bathroom and when he stepped into the
bathtub, his foot hit cold porcelain and there was no coffee. When he asked
what happened, his wife said that she wanted to remind him that she does
those things because she loves him and not because she has to. “Do a gratitude
list about your partner, where your wife writes a list of all the things she is
grateful for and you do the same for her,” said Eldridge. Sharing the lists with
each other can be moving. “As you go back to your dating life, you said ‘thank
you’ a lot for dinner, picking you up or helping you out with something, but
when you are married, you may forget these behaviors,” said Eldridge.

Make a list of things you want to do or places you want to go. Then compare your list with your partner’s. “It gives you a goal to shoot for or
something you can look forward to and that anticipation is important in the
relationship,” said Eldridge. To move forward, you have to get over the past,
including any hurts. “You have to be willing to say you are sorry, that you were wrong and ask what you can do to make it better,” said Eldridge. Often the
third part is left out.

Valentine’s Day should not be the only day of the year that
you show your feelings.
You should cherish your relationship every
day. “It is a simple and free thing to remember to hug each other and make
physical contact,” said Stilling. It is not just about sexual intimacy but
also about taking time to be affectionate. “You should be sitting together
and holding hands like you did at the beginning of the relationship and
rekindling those things,” said Stilling. It even offers benefits for your
health. “When you hug for 10 seconds, you release oxitocin, which is the
bonding hormone that paired couples release with each other and mothers
release with their children,” said Stilling. This hormone is known to
increase longevity of relationships.

Do a nice gesture like bringing home flowers or a card.
Remind yourself that this act of kindness does not have to be limited to
Valentine’s Day. “You can pick up a bouquet of flowers or pick up your
husband’s cologne or aftershave,” said Stilling. Showing your appreciation
in words and communicating clearly can be the biggest assets of your
relationship. Counseling is sometimes a good gift. “If people cannot solve their problems effectively early in a relationship, a few sessions of finding
out how to talk to each other, listen to each other and solve problems can
prevent problems down the line,” said Stilling.

Find win-win situations. “You both love each other and want each
other to be happy, but often people get into a fight where they each want
their own way,” said Stilling. If one person gets their way and the other is
miserable, both people cannot feel good. “Be creative to wind up happy in
the situation. Most often, if you are creative about it, there is a solution,”
said Stilling. Find activities that you both enjoy.

A day at the zoo is always a great date and the scenery is
spectacular.
“People love to sit under the oak trees, watch the fountain
and be in the shadow of the columns of the sea lion pool,” said Sarah
Burnette of the Audubon Nature Institute. There are also movies playing
at the IMAX Theatre adjacent to the aquarium. “You can always walk
along the river afterwards, which is romantic, or go to the aquarium
and see Buck and Emma, our sea otters,” said Burnette. Those with a
sense of humor can check out the graphics of insect reproduction at the
insectarium. “They have unconventional mating practices and you can
find out about sex in the insect world,” said Burnette.

Whatever you do, make it fun. “Orchids, tulips and roses are
popular, but you should give flowers all year,” said Leslie Stidd-Massony of
Mitch’s Flowers. Be original. “Surprise somebody: Pack them a picnic or
say, ‘Just change and get in the car,’” said Stidd-Massony. Couples massage
is also nice. “To come home and see your honey vacuuming is so sexy, and
a man in an apron cooking is hot too,” said Massony. Try not to wait until
next February to put the spark in your relationship. “I think Valentine’s
Day should be all year,” said Stidd-Massony. “Why should you wait for a
holiday?”