Being a Certified Gottman Marriage Counsellor for years and being married for 26 years, you would think love, romance and passion should be second nature.  But it isn’t! Every year during Valentine’s Day I am reminded to reflect on how to keep the romance alive in a long term relationship. One way to ruin this awesome reminder is to excuse it away, by saying; it’s all about the commercialism…  “I will show love when I want to, not when some saint says I should.” This could be a grave mistake. Trust me, I have made it too many times!!!


Create rituals of connection.

It is true that commercialism and insane mark-ups are everywhere whenever a special holiday comes around and it can really ruin the intention of the holiday.  (I am so cheap that I make sure I buy flowers one week in advance and never go to a restaurant on the actual day.)  So get mad and rebelliously stomp your feet, about this insidious practice and then step back and think for a moment.


Why is this tradition important for relationships?

It reminds us every year to make sure we are remembering to celebrate the love we have with that someone special.  Research is clear that couples who develop rituals of connection which are behaviours we can count on, and depend on are healthier than couples that pretend that love, romance and passion just happen by some freak accident. One of the mistakes that marriages that end in divorce or relationships that are stable but miserable often do is rely on a myth that if we are not fighting and avoid all conflict, that fun, friendship, and passion will just magically appear in their relationship.  This is simply not true.  Those marriages that have been proven to last, recognize that the passion stays alive because they create Rituals of connection, to keep it alive.


Rituals of connection are any behavior that a couple chooses to make purposeful in order to stay connected and have fun doing it.  Happy couples start and end their days in special ways. They know what makes a great weekend for both of them and they build in activities that they both enjoy. They commit to a date or two a month, they know what each of them wants, or don’t want, when they are for example sick and they definitely have talked about how to initiate and refuse sex.  There are literally hundreds of informal and formal rituals that begin to define a couple.  Valentine’s Day is just a yearly wakeup call reminding us to say “I love you” and celebrate your commitment.


Make it your own! Talk about what Valentines means to you and ask your partner what it means to them.  Focus on what makes your partner feel more connected to you. Valentines is not just a day, it is a symbolic reminder to build daily rituals you can count on.


One more thing… makes sure you tell your partner how remarkable they are, and that you can’t wait to get your hands on them (in a good way).  Most of the time these loving thoughts about our partner stay in our head and rarely trickle past our lips. Most couples that come to therapy say they feel taken for granted and unappreciated.   At counselling when we ask couples to say positive things about their partner, they rarely have a problem coming up with three or four things to say from the previous week or two.  When asked if they had verbalized this to their partner the answer is no, but they did think about it. What good is that??? If you don’t say it, your partner cannot read your mind.

Darren Wilk, Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) and Co-founder of, has been working with marriages and families since 1988.   This includes being a foster parent providing care as a professional parent loving and inspiring children with various challenges.

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