Chat about Valentine's Day relationship issues with Susan Kraus
February 14, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Susan Kraus is the relationship expert and couples counselor for BoomerGirl.com. She takes your questions on the day of romantic days.
Happy Valentines Day! I'm Haley Harrison and I'll be moderating today's chat with Susan Kraus, relationship expert.
Hi! I'm Susan and I'm here to answer whatever.... hope that it helps in whatever small way!
Is it true that if you aren't looking, or paying attention, then that's when you find that special someone?
What are your tips for achieving longevity in a relationship -- after the honeymoon phase is over?
maybe. But I think it is more when you aren't so hungry for a relationship that you send out desperate vibes.My advice for those looking is to do what you really like as often as you can and with as many different groups as possible. Make yourself happy and satisfied with your own life and you are more likely to engage with someone who is also happy and shares some interests. Just doing the bar scene or staying home with CSI reruns won't work
Honeymoon is a state of mind. There are small gestures that you can do every day to be affectionate and caring. Making the marriage a priority and couple-ness a priority is important. It is so easy to lose the couple in the family when there are kids.... priorities shift. After 27 years of marriage, my favorite advice is to try (and this will sound hard) to have one 24 hour period every month alone with your spouse. A cheap motel may sound expensive but, trust me, divorce is expensive. Pack a picnic, keep it inexpensive if you need to, exchange babysitting with other mom's.... but have that uninterrupted time to show each other that the two of you matter.
Lets get real. Isn't Valentines Day a creation of Our Maker, and serves as a yearly reminder from her of our ignominious position relative to women?
And more importantly, why can't we ever convince our Valentine that a dinner on *any other* night of the year is far better, and will not be met with waiting times and overflowing restaurants, more relaxed, and hence more romantic?
I could not agree more. You are so right. Forget the position in relationship to women in general, however, and focus on your relationship to one special woman in particular. If you are a nurturing, appreciative partner the whole year long, then Valentine's Day is gravy. Compliments, small gestures of affection, telling your girl how she is "your girl" and that she is important to you... helping her when she needs help, holding her when she is down... these are the important parts of relationship. If you do that, and aren't stingy with your time or affection, you'll be a Valentine all year long. Tonight I will have a Valentine dinner with my hubby.... and I don't care if it is take-out on the coffee table or a fancy restaurant meal. But this is the man who makes me tea almost every morning before he takes off, that rubs my feet when they are sore, that gives me hugs every single day and tells me I'm cute even when I know I am not feeling cute at all. He may bring me a small bouquet of my favorite flower, or a card, and I'm going to have a small surprise for him.... but we know that the holiday is artficial.... and the year-long love is what counts.
Can you talk about your most recent column on boomergirl.com? Do you hear from a lot of long-married couples about keeping things fresh, new and like when they first met? What do you tell them?
It's hard to keep things like when we first met...because we know so much more about each other and that initial thrill of lust is tempered with reality. And it is work (unfortunately)to keep romance going. I've sort of talked about some things above so I'll try another angle. I believe that doing new things together.... having small adventures.. helps keep us 'fresh.' Anything to break out of routine, to surprise your partner, is great. Do the unexpected rather than the routine. Here are some ideas: farm out the kids, fix a special supper, make yourself feel sexy, and have a little romance. OR call him at the office or wherever and ask him to not come home but meet you at a restaurant. I remember the best thing I ever did for my marriage (this is the best!) was back when we had our 2nd baby, It was Christmas break, my folks were visiting, we hade a 5 year old and a almost 1 year old (still nursing). We had not had a night alone is what felt like decades. I got my folks to cover.... booked a room at the Eldridge, took over some clothes and stuff in the afternoon whenhe was out, and then went for a walk with him at about 5 p.m. We stopped for coffee at the Eldridge. I left him to go to the restroom (he thought) but instead gave the room key to the bellhop with a note to give to my husband. "Come on up to Room 303." He was freaked, but he came stumbling up, and we had 24 hours alone. It set the tone for years and gave us memories.... of course, I had to run back home at 10 p.m. to nurse, but hey, he was asleep by then. That night, and the knowledge that romance was not dead but just in hiding, held us over many a dry spell in the coming years. We continued to try and get away for nights, and we're happy all these years later.
However, romance is a daily thing and once a year grand gestures will never compare to the small gestures. The most romantic thing may be saying to a tired spouse (when you're tired too) "What can I do that would be most helpful to you right now?" and then doing it cheerfully. Romance is about caring, and that means even when we don't feel romantic.
Help! I want to show my boyfriend how much I love him tonight. I tell him a lot and he knows how I feel but I want to do something that will show him, wow, this girl is amazing. I know he is the love of my life and he is still realizing, in his slow, stubborn boy way, that I am the one for him. What can I do that will send his feelings for me over the edge?
In your practice, what are the main reasons you've found that married women or men fall in love with another person? And, how do couples overcome that?
Does it have to be tonight? The pressure is on then for both of you to make it 'special.' Can it be another day when he is not expecting anything?
I think I'd start with what he most enjoys, his interests, and plan a day around them. Not so much what is seen as traditionally romantic as what he most likes. Tickets to a game, a movie, whatever. The kind of dinner he likes. BUT there is a core problem here is you are so sure he is the love of your life and he is "still realizing" in his "slow, stubborn way" that you are the same for him. In fact, there is a part of me that is thinking "Back up, slow down, give him space." Maybe this is not yet the time for how amazing you are. What you don't want is a relationship where you are trying to prove yourself to him. Just go be amazing, do fun stuff, maybe not be so available until he is as well. It is important to be treated as well as you treat him and if that is not happening, then put on the brakes. One great night or grand gesture will not prove anything.
Well, this answer is out of order but you'll figure it out.
We like to think that a vow to be faithful will keep us faithful. But I think a vow to be honest and talk about what we are feeling and to listen and care is a better vow. If feeling atracted to another person is unspeakable in a marriage, then it becomes a secret. Secrets beget secrets. Any secret is more powerful than any fact.
I think that attraction is a part of being human. When we are feeling isolated, alone, disconnected, not values, not understood.... then that attraction can feel more intense. We can mistake intensity for love. SO, to overcome that I'd say to do whatever you can to keep connected, talk, have no secrets. That said, if a person wants out of a marriage and they are looking for reasons to justify leaving, they are not inclined to be open, share, push for intimacy. It is impossible to compel fidelity in someone who truly wants to leave.
What I see in couples I work with is that there is a reliance on routine, a detachment from each other, a lack of authenticity that makes one feel like a fake... and that the spouse who has an affair is hungry for a connection in which they feel real.
For couples thinking about taking a trip down the isle, what do they need to be sure of and consider before saying "I do?"
and by isle, I mean aisle.
They need to be able to talk about everything... nothing off limits. I suggest to couples that they get one of John Gottman's books on marriage, and read it, and actually do all the exercises to try to learn more about each other, how the other thinks and why they feel the way that they do. So many couples in love assume that the love will carry them through the tough decisions... like who will move for the other's job, or how many kids or kids at all, or how to manage finances and fiscal priorities. Whatever issues or problems there are before the marriage will follow them into the marriage. Now, I am not saying to look for someone with "no problems" at all. We all have baggage and issues. But the task is to be able to talk about the issues and resolve differences with respect, humor, fairness. If there is a bully in a relationship, sarcasm, disrespect, disparaging remarks... these are not going to go away and are much more of a threat to happiness than being of different religions or backgrounds or having different interests. Feeling like you have to placate a partner by not being your authentic self is a very big 'red flag.' Feeling like you can be yourself and not have to hide parts of yourself is a "go."
Thanks to Susan Kraus for joining us and answering all the relationship questions. Sorry we couldn't get to all of them today...there were too many. This closes our chat for the day.
Well, this was my very first on-line chat and it's been fun! But I have to go now and run over to Dillons and get a little candy for the kids (my other Valentine's.
Hope you all have a lovely evening, even if this is a commercially promoted holiday designed to make most of us feel like we're bot quite doing the romance thing right.