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It's OK to Have a Boring Valentine's Day

Feb 10 2014
Happy couples keep the romance alive year-round.

It's not unusual for couples to find themselves sitting in front of the TV with their kids on Valentine's Day, the supposed most romantic day of the year. In the case of my family, we spent one February 14 watching a re-run of Wipeout.

The lovey-dovey among us might accuse us of prioritizing our kids over our marriage or avoiding each other on this special day, but that particular year Jeff and I had each had a grueling month of work, hadn't spent enough time together as a family, and had no desire to find a babysitter and fight the crowds.

There has always been a debate about whether it is healthy to have grand expectations for February 14. And for good reason. Because what I've found among those who have the best relationships is that how they handle Valentine's Day has much, much more to do with handling expectations than the celebration itself.

For the last three years I've been studying happily married couples for my book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. These husbands and wives set up specific patterns in their relationship throughout the year that don't put undue pressure on one single day. And these habits also change how they approach the red roses and boxes of chocolates come February. As we gear up for Valentine's Day yet again—whether you'll be on the couch or at a fancy restaurant—here are three important lessons from the habits of happily married couples:

They hang out with each other a lot.

Despite having busy schedules just like everyone else, these spouses make it a point to be together as much as possible—not just on "date nights" but driving to kids' soccer practices, sharing a hobby, or even grocery shopping -- just to do something together. Because of all this informal together time, the Big Day simply doesn't loom as large in their mind. If they arrange something: great! But they don't feel the same slightly hysterical pressure to have to arrange something spectacular. They don't have as much risk of someone feeling slighted or let down if it doesn't turn out perfectly.

And it turns out that during a season when spouses are struggling, spending "regular" time together is even more important than a Valentine's Day surprise. When we're fighting a lot, we are often tempted to avoid the conflict by reducing our time together, but that eliminates the special protection that comes from keeping our friendship close. Thirty minutes each day hanging out together (and being friendly, not negative) is far more beneficial than going on a special Valentine's date—and avoiding each other the rest of the week.

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