In celebration of Valentine’s Day and in honor of all of the relationships we hold near and dear, I’m sharing some relationship wisdom with you that was written by my cousin, Michaela Tomberlin, a licensed psychotherapist. Many of you have heard me share how special my relationship with Michaela is – more sister-like than cousin-like. I’m so grateful for her loving support, humor and professional guidance through life’s ups and downs. Recently she was asked to write this piece for an organization in her hometown of Anderson, SC. It’s just too witty and wise not to share. Wishing you a love-filled Valentine’s Day!
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the red and pink arrives in stores, nauseating some while making others swoon. A marketing favorite, Valentine’s Day conjures up images of little cherubs with a bow and arrows, causing love to burst forth between two unsuspecting victims.
While this sounds peachy, anyone who has been brave enough to follow his or her heart into a relationship knows it’s not so easy. As a spouse for 18 years and counting, and a psychotherapist for longer than that, I’ve learned a few things over the years.
First of all, get some perspective. Don’t think of a lasting relationship as a ride on a pink magic carpet with sparkles wafting behind you as you and your sweetums drift into the sunset (sorry young lovers!). No, experts confirm that although the ride may start like this, romantic love is O-V-E-R in roughly two to four years. Here comes the good part, though. Although the exciting romantic love takes a back seat, deep love takes over and people develop a bond with one another that can last a lifetime.
Here are some communication tips that can make deep love last a little longer and keep you out of the doghouse:
- It’s better to request than suggest. That’s right, one little word can make all the difference. Instead of saying, “I suggest you do the dishes,” try, “Can I make a request? I am overloaded right now and it would really help me if you could do the dishes.” Or, “I have a request. Please let me know when you have a minute to talk about it.”
- Be realistic. Look…wrinkles, bad breath, and mood swings are inevitable. So are personal struggles, good and bad times, and family crises. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by placing unrealistic expectations on your partner or yourself. Enjoy the good and let the rest go as much as you can.
- Be respectful. Treat each other with kindness and grace. Don’t forget “please” and “thank you” and always acknowledge the other’s opinions, even if you don’t agree, (such as, “I hear what you’re saying. Thank you for telling me.” See? You don’t have to agree, but you’ve let your partner know they have been heard).
- Never name-call or hurl insults. If you have done this in the past, apologize to each other and commit to moving forward without those words in your vocabulary. Let past infractions stay in the past.
- Don’t fall for the 80/20 rule. Many get trapped spending 80% of their time focusing on the 20% that is wrong with their spouse or partner. Wake up and enjoy the 80% of what you fell in love with your partner for in the first place.
You can always spruce up your relationship with a little self-help from the experts. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages is a great resource. Susan Winter has a more pragmatic approach to love, dating, and breakups, and has books and podcasts available. T. D. Jakes is awesome. Somehow the man seems to understand everything. And when in doubt, read or watch Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. It’s sure to leave your heart bursting and your love for your sweetums rejuvenated.
“In our deepest moments of struggle, frustration, fear, and confusion, we are being called upon to reach in and touch our hearts. Then, we will know what to do, what to say, how to be. What is right is always in our deepest heart of hearts. It is from the deepest part of our hearts that we are capable of reaching out and touching another human being. It is, after all, one heart touching another heart.” ~ Roberta Sage Hamilton
Michaela Tomberlin, M.A., LPC
Michaela is a Licensed Professional Counselor and co-owner of Counseling for Life in Anderson, SC, which offers psychotherapy services to clients of all ages. She and her husband have two children and live on a farm with three cats, dozens of chickens and eight ducks.