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Valentine's Day brings mixed emotions to the fore for many of us.  While some enjoy the day as an opportunity to celebrate love, for others it can be an incredibly painful time.  Stress, pressure, expectation, and for many people, an in-your-face reminder that others have what we can only dream about or hope for.

The clear winners are the florists, jewellers, restaurants, and card manufacturers.

In this blog, we take a look at some common relationship stresses and give tips on how to work towards healthier relationships, be they romantic or otherwise.

Remembering to Communicate
There is a well known saying that familiarity breeds contempt.  When we are getting to know someone new, we typically expend more energy in that interaction.  We listen more intently, we get to know them from a fresh beginning, we share ourselves in various degrees as they get to know us.  Communication is often at its richest point in the early stages of a relationship.

The problems begin when the relationship becomes established and we start to relax and shift our focus elsewhere.  There can be nothing more satisfying than the knowledge someone loves you as you are and knowing that you don't have to keep proving yourself to that person.  This sense of security can be a real boost to our confidence and self-esteem.  However, if we are not careful, we can allow the communication channels to dry up, making assumptions that the other party knows where we stand and what we think.  As the pressures of life and work build-up, the time taken to talk and share with someone can easily be lost and the seeds of discontent or misunderstanding can be sown.

Top tip - make time to reconnect with others to hear how things are going in their lives and share your own story.  Don't assume you know everything already.

Allow people to change
When relationships form, we learn the behaviour patterns of others.  The problem, especially in families, is that we can become so used to someone's way of being, that it can be difficult to allow them to change.  Particularly in the world of social media and quick communication via text and email, a comment that reminds us of old wounds can flare up our emotional response to someone.  When someone we barely know says something slightly insensitive, it is less likely to cause us pain than if it is someone we have known for a long time who frequently used to hurt us with similar comments.  This then triggers off our anger and we can respond in an overly harsh manner, rather than having the grace and patience to explore what was being said and why.

Top tip - when you've known someone for a long time, remember that they can change and you have to allow them to develop and grow without constantly holding old wounds against them.

Seeing the positive in others and the negatives in loved ones
It's a common experience when dating - we see the other person as a perfect human being.  Their flaws seem tiny and endearing.  Yet a few years into the relationship, we can find those same "charms" to be infuriating.  Part of the reason for this is that when someone gets close to us, we begin to see their flaws more.  At a distance, it is much easier to see the positives and overlook the negatives.  This can lead some people to pursue serial relationships, always seeing the potential but then being hit by reality.  The media and film industry do little to help with this as we see glamorous celebrities and overly sexualised relationships.    It is important to be aware of this, and when we see seemingly perfect "others", it is good to remind ourselves that everyone has their own blend of traits, some endearing, some that would frustrate us if we had to live with them each day.  When looking at our loved ones, it can be healthy to stop and ask ourselves what things we genuinely appreciate about them.   Loving someone else in an unconditional way can open the door to them loving us.  To constantly appear to be judging, critical, and disappointed with another will block this kind of affirmation.  

Top tip - imagine you were writing the opening summary of a CV for someone you are in a relationship with.  How would you describe them, using only positive language and focusing on their strengths?  Try writing this out to describe them, and if they're willing, ask them to do the same for you.  You might surprise each other.

If you are looking for professional support for your relationship, visit our Couples Counselling and Relationships page:

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