Relationship therapists from Europe and the Middle East share their insight into how married couples can keep their romance alive on Valentine’s Day and beyond.
Valentine’s Day is a day when lovers celebrate and express their love for each other with romantic gestures and gifts. And while romance itself is often associated with people newly in love, relationship experts from around the world say that married couples can enjoy romance too, as long as they put in the work.
Dr Yaron Shapira, a psychotherapist who works online with individuals and couples based in Tel-Aviv, Israel, told The Sarajevo Times that “unlike falling in love, maintaining long-lasting love takes a lot of effort.”
“While falling in love is a passive, short term, and intensive emotional reaction to a new relationship, love is gained through hard, long term, and much less glorious work,” said Dr Shapira.
“Married couples should never take their relationship for granted, and always try to explicitly make time [for each other] and prioritize it,” he said.
Appreciation, Admiration and Respect are Key
Marilena Kyrkili, a Couples Coach in Athens, Greece, told The Sarajevo Times that romance within a marriage diminishes when there is “no longing and craving for the partner”, while at the same time, conflict increases in frequency and “admiration is gone.”
“Romance dies in marriages because in most cases after getting married, spouses take each other for granted. They stop expressing their feelings to one another and they stop having long conversations as they used to,” she said.
“In marriage, two different worlds with different beliefs and norms, are called to coexist and in most situations, instead of accepting the diversity of the other, spouses put it under a microscope and require the partner to change, and to adjust and adapt to their own standards,” said Ms Kyrkili.
To counteract this, she emphasized that married couples need to accept each other’s differences, “must continue showing and expressing their love and care”, and actively seek out ways to “maintain the admiration of the other.”
During conflict, Ms Kyrkili said couples need to be mindful of the way they treat each other in order to preserve the relationship.
“When fighting, partners must be extremely careful of the things they say and the way they behave when angry,” she said.
“To protect their relationship, they should always and in all circumstances, be respectful.”
Romance in Marriage Requires Conscious Effort
Dr Heike Melzer, a psychotherapist focusing on couples and sexual therapy in Munich, Germany, told The Sarajevo Times that marriage is more difficult than dating due to the responsibilities married couples have to children and everyday living.
“Married couples have different priorities,” Dr Melzer said. “Kids, daily life…and the rose-colored glasses are gone.”
Dr Melzer explained that “love needs closeness, desire and distance,” and when desire begins to dwindle, “you have to do something to keep it alive.”
“As Germans are not known for their romantic side (more the rational one), they need to reprioritize their attention to the relationship,” Dr Melzer said. “This is an active process which needs daily ‘work’ and the biggest impact is to be the change or be the person you want your partner to be.”
She also recommended not to “overload the relationship with unrealistic expectations,” and advises couples to put their smartphones down in order to be more present with each other.
Couples Need to View Communication as an Investment
Aida Sujoldzic, a coach who works with couples in Sarajevo to improve relationship satisfaction, told The Sarajevo Times that while martial and non-marital couples in Bosnia face similar relationship challenges to any other country, there are some issues heightened in Bosnia.
“What is perhaps more pronounced in Bosnia than in other countries is that Bosnian society is patriarchal with traditional values and, therefore, disagreements are often the result of beliefs about the role that both partners have in the relationship,” Mrs Sujoldzic said.
In order for couples in Bosnia to enhance their sense of connection with one another, she said that communication is the answer.
When marital conflict arises, Mrs Sujoldzic said couples need to “be open to reviewing one’s own perception and actively seek more information,” adding that the extent to which a couple invests in relationship communication is what they will get back in marital satisfaction.
Expert Recommendations for Married Couples on Valentine’s Day
Dr Melzer from Germany said that while she considers Valentine’s Day “overestimated,” she believes it can serve as an “anchor to think about what makes your partner happy.”
“And if you really want to surprise your partner,” Dr Melzer added, “skip Valentine’s Day, because it’s too commercial and do something unexpected the day before or on the rest of the 364 days of the year.”
For Ms Kyrkili from Greece, Valentine’s Day is the “perfect opportunity for married couples to rekindle their relationship and erotic feelings.”
“In Greece when we see a couple fully in love, we say, ‘for them, all days are Valentine’s days’. So, on Valentine’s Day spouses have the chance to spend some private time together and come closer,” Ms Kyrkili said.
She encouraged couples to choreograph a date on Valentine’s Day to be like it is the first date the couple has ever had.
“Arrange something special, dress formally and meet each other like it’s your first date, with the mood to get to know each other a second time over.”
According to Ms Kyrkili, “if married couples were thinking and acting in a Valentine’s Day mood daily, all marriages would be perfect and long-lasting.”
Interviewed and written by Miya Yamanouchi