You know what's around the corner when the boxes of chocolates, pink cards, and red roses all come out. But isn’t it about time we think about what Valentine's Day should really be about, in this modern era where the focus is on well-being, mindfulness and mental health?
Valentine's Day is often criticised for being a commercial exercise, but it shouldn't just be about flowers and chocolates. Taking the time to celebrate and appreciate relationships is crucial, but Valentine's Day should perhaps also be a time to think about the ways in which our relationships can be improved; using it as an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and how we might be able to communicate better with our partner or spouse.
Being honest about what you both need in a relationship is really important in ensuring that it flourishes and is not left to flounder. Communication is key.
WhatsApp with your relationship?
These days there are so many ways to communicate, and the way in which we interact has changed significantly over the years. Yet often we feel that we are not being heard or understood. We all spend a lot of time 'checking in' with our digital lives; on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or WhatsApp, but do we spend enough time checking in with our partners?
Last week the Chief Medical Officer produced advice to parents about children's use of the technology. One important message was to 'lead by example'; the general advice to spend more time together and to have screen-free mealtimes is just as pertinent to marital relationships as it is parent/child ones. Children certainly aren’t alone in being keen to spend much of their time on social media and looking at their smart phones.
Are we just shopping for our relationships?
Is technology having a negative impact on the way we view, and engage, in our relationships? Online dating is the new norm, but does this now mean we view and value our ongoing relationships in a different way? Are they more transient? With online dating, if we don't like what we see on the page in front of us, we simply swipe again, and we pick (or dismiss) people based on a profile, rather than following proper human interaction. Are we really finding the best long term partner this way?
Valentine's Day should be an opportunity for us to be more mindful about our relationships, and focus on how we connect, and how we can better communicate. We are moving towards an isolationist culture with technology playing a central role in all aspects of our lives. If we don't keep a check on this, it can be detrimental to our important relationships, and technology should not replace proper face to face time together; it should be used sensibly.
Communication is vital in any relationship
My experiences as a family lawyer have taught me that failure to communicate properly can often be one of the root causes of relationship breakdown. Talking to clients about how they can work on communication within their relationship is such an important part of what family lawyers do; even if it can't save the marriage, it can at least help to ensure that the separation process is as amicable as possible, and it is absolutely crucial when it comes to parenting. Taking the time to talk to each other, reflecting on whether you are really spending quality time together and communicating effectively, as a couple or as a family, could make all the difference.
Taking that initial step to seek advice on divorce does not always mean that the relationship break down is irretrievable. I always talk through the possibility of reconciliation; sometimes when faced with the possibility of divorce, people realise that what they want is to improve their relationship, not end it. This opportunity for reflection is so important that it is an intrinsic part of the divorce proceedings; solicitors must complete a certificate to notify the court whether or not they have discussed reconciliation. The message is clear: divorce is not to be taken lightly, and solicitors have a responsibility to consider all the options with their clients, including reconciliation.
There are many resources available to couples to help them work through any difficulties in communication in their relationship, for example counselling and mediation can often be invaluable.
So, whatever you are doing this Valentine's Day, try to ensure it involves one-on-one time together … and make sure you leave your phone behind!