What We Do for Love: A Professor’s Insights on Valentine’s Day Expectations
Do you love the idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day with chocolates, roses and that special dinner? But your partner not so much?
Couples at odds over the most romantic of days might want to find the give and take in their expectations, according to Laura VanderDrift, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
VanderDrift researches the personal dynamics of close relationships and what factors can help predict relationship outcomes, most notably behaviors that can break apart a relationship and outcomes regarding a person’s health.
She shares some thoughts to keep in mind for maintaining harmony.
01What is a key component of being in a healthy relationship, and how might it be especially important on Valentine’s Day?
Relationships, even the strongest and most resilient, are a balancing act, forcing us to balance our own needs with those of our partner. On Valentine’s Day especially, when romance is in the air and societal expectations are strong, the need to get on the same page is vital.
02What have you seen in your research?
Research I’ve done with colleagues shows that the best way to obtain optimal long-term outcomes from your relationship is to view your partner as a friend, and value the friendship the two of you share above all other parts of the relationship. The reasoning is simple: when someone is your friend, you value their outcomes on par with or above your own.
Your partner wants the high-fructose version of Valentine’s, when you’d prefer a more naturally sweetened kind? Remembering that this isn’t a competition, and that you want your friend to be happy can help. The sacrifices we make feel less major when we know they benefit a close friend.
03What is important to think about if a person really doesn’t want to celebrate the holiday?
If you’re still not convinced that Valentine’s is the right day (or flowers and candy are the right way) to show you care, perhaps it will help to think through the consequences of going along with your partner’s desires.
Our research shows that people who deviate from their own preferences for the benefit of the relationship both cause their partner to feel good (Hey, they got what they wanted after all!), but also prove they can be relied upon for the fulfillment of important needs in the future. Showing your partner that you care about their happiness and are willing to deviate from your own interests to obtain it can strengthen your relationship.
04Will celebrating Valentine’s Day make a relationship better?
Not necessarily. But if you consider how to make your partner happy, and show them that you’re willing to do what it takes, it just might.
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