February has arrived, and that means Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. It’s the season for hearts, chocolate, red roses—and Cupid. Like many people, you may view the holiday as an annual check-up for your relationship. With that in mind, it seems like an appropriate time to share two points that often dictate the conversation when I counsel couples. Here they are.
- You Can’t Change Your Spouse
First, realize that there will be some things you don’t like about your spouse, just as there will be some things he or she doesn’t like about you. Nobody gets along 100 percent of the time, and marital bliss doesn’t last forever. When reality sets in, you will undoubtedly discover some of these differences, and you’ll likely be astonished that you didn’t notice them before. Regardless, the sooner you accept them, the better.
Unfortunately, many people attempt to change their spouse, an approach that is rarely successful. You might wish your spouse was a more attentive listener or handy around house. Maybe you think your wife spends too much money. The truth is, you can’t change your spouse, so stop trying. People only change when they are ready—not because you or anybody else tells them to. Any efforts to the contrary are a waste of time and energy.
Instead, try to mesh with your spouse and find ways to connect. It doesn’t make sense to ask someone to change who they are—even though you might think they should do it for you. Instead, look for ways to grow together. A good place to start is finding new things to do that you both enjoy. Keep in mind that this is a process, and both husband and wife need to work at it. It takes time and effort to find some common ground that allows your relationship to thrive.
- You Can Be a Parent and a Husband or Wife at the Same Time
Once upon a time it was just you and your spouse. If you have children, however, that period in your life may seem like a distant memory. The sad truth is that many couples stay together for the kids. But when your kids get older and need you less, you may suddenly discover that you hardly know your spouse. That’s because years have been devoted to parenting, a task that many people put ahead of their relationship. Of course, this isn’t how it should be. Being a parent and being a husband or wife is not mutually exclusive.
To avoid this scenario, be sure to schedule regular mom-and-dad time. Hire a babysitter and do something together—without the kids. Dates with your spouse should happen more frequently than once a year on Valentine’s Day. Strengthen your relationship by making these outings a regular occurrence. You don’t want to forget what it’s like to have fun without your kids.
It’s also important to model for your children the role of husband and wife. Make sure they not only see you as mom, but also as dad’s wife, and vice versa. Share stories about your life before they were born, and help them understand that you value the relationship with your spouse just as you value your relationship with them.
Keeping both of these points in mind will help your relationship grow and thrive. It takes some effort and planning on your part, but it is well worth it in the long run. Happy Valentine’s Day!
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.