Guest Post by Marty Babits, Author of The Middle Ground: Three Tips for Heating Up Your Relationship this Valentine’s Day
Marty Babits is a friend, colleague, and truly gifted therapist who does individual and couples work. His book The Middle Ground is one of the few out there that speaks not just to people in relationships, but those of us in remarriages or repartnerships with children as well.
I asked Marty to share some of his thoughts about Valentine’s Day and here’s what he had to say…
Limits in the middle ground are not placed on partners by each other but are presented by circumstances or adversity. Leaving Eros out of the middle ground is a little like envisioning a healthy diet without a thought about acquiring fresh and delicious food.
1. Number one will come as a surprise to many. A school of prominent psychoanalysts inform us that a person’s ability to become surprised – by others as well as by themselves – is a reliable index of their state of mental health! A person whose existence lacks an occasional, or even more frequent, surprise may have shut down their capacity for spontaneity. Delight is the best variation of surprise on Valentine’s Day, so: Take a chance on doing something that, though decidedly out of the ordinary, you have confidence will bring a smile to your partner’s face. Pleasing a child in this way is a snap. Why is it harder to make it work for a grown-up? Because our capacity for surprise grows rusty in proportion to our accumulated responsibilities; so consider this a rebalancing exercise. Dress up is always an option, whether you go in the Victoria’s-Secret direction or become a walking replica of your partner’s male-to-die-for-fantasy. If you can’t think of a specific character to take residence up within, how about becoming a masked mysterious caller. Whatever works as long as it playfully surprises.
2. Put some thought into giving your partner a means to true satisfaction. Shuffle a deck of index cards, each of which has a coupon value written clearly on the underside. For example, one may say, twenty minute back massage; another may say, I’m in the mood to please, tell me what I can do for you –again, as in all suggestions here, no one is ever obligated to do anything they find unappealing. So, if you ask for something and it’s refused, go on to wish number two. Another card may say, let’s spend a day at the spa together or any other pleasurable sensual experience that you wish to plan together. I’d like to take you to the restaurant of your choice, or tell me where you’d like us to go together may work. A proven winner: Play the second movement of Mozart’s violin concerto #3 in G Major (adagio) – it’s under ten minutes and guaranteed to transport you both – try it even if classical music tends to leave you cold! (Find it in the public library or download it from iTunes)
3 – Take a brief detour just over the steamy border of your comfort zone. Sex therapists strategize ways to help couples feel more comfortable talking about what they feel in the realm of touch, affection, love-making; this can mean revealing what each of you likes, dislikes or feels they could take or leave. Do you know what kinds of touches your partner likes? Have you ever articulated what you enjoy? Has either of you ever actual broached these topics in conversation? If you have not had talks like these with your partner, try taking turns expressing your feelings and curiosity by candlelight. Aim for anything from giggly fun to dumbstruck deer-in-the-headlight enlightenment. Guideline: state explicitly that if either you or your partner feels uncomfortable in the conversation that you both agree to stop immediately without any pressure or negative repercussions. Whether the dialogue builds momentum or is short-lived, being able to respect each other enough to stop with sensitivity can be a trust-builder with enormous positive repercussions!
Valentine’s Day is a day to brighten up the spirit of mutual renewal. Forget about your grievances for this time period and go with the flow of honoring each other’s initiative in event and decision-making. Give yourselves something to remember and look forward to – and if you must, throw in a few chocolates, flowers and even a Valentine’s Day card for good measure. There’s no harm in any of it.
Marty Babits, LCSW
Author, The Power of the Middle Ground: A Couple’s Guide to Renewing Your Relationship
Tags: blended family, couples therapy, divorce, family, Marty Babits, remarriage with children, romance, romantic advice, stepmonster, stepmother, stepmother advice, stepmother support, The Middle Ground, Valentine's Day, wednesday martin