Community Commentary: Take your relationship's temperature before Valentine's Day

How can we make Valentine's Day more meaningful than just another Hallmark holiday?

While it's always fun to exchange cards and share the typical chocolate, gift or romantic dinner, we believe the day can be used more consciously than that. We propose using Valentine's Day as an opportunity to get real through assessing the temperature of your love relationship.

You can do this assessment any time around the actual celebration of the day, so that it doesn't interfere with your traditional celebration. Here are a few basic topics that couples can explore together that, taken together, are a good barometer of their relationship:

1.) Communication. How much do we feel our partner is available and interested in hearing us? How much are we disclosing to each other about everyday events? Is there any issue that we are aware of avoiding discussing? How do we deal with conflict resolution together? How do we argue? Are we harboring any resentments that need to be expressed? And what might we like from our partner that would facilitate more open dialogue?

2.) Intimacy. Are we satisfied with our level of intimacy? Is there enough physical affection being shared? Are we happy with the sexual relationship? Do we express appreciation and compliments to each other? And are we spending enough time together to enhance our sense of intimacy?

3.) Finances. In a time of economic stress for so many, how are we doing with handling our individual and shared finances? Are we communicating periodically on any strains around money that could affect our relationship? Can we talk openly about credit card bills, extending beyond budgets, borrowing and saving? Are we on the same page with regard to managing our financial life?

4.) Family relationships. How are we doing with family members? Are children getting sufficient attention from both of us? Are parents, in-laws and other relatives bringing us closer or perhaps pushing us apart? Is there anything being avoided in dealing with family members that needs to be attended to? Have we expressed appreciation to these people who matter to us?

In addressing each of these areas, we're doing a quick inventory aimed at tuning us in to areas that may need further attention. And, in doing so, we're using Valentine's Day in a way that may offer us more than just a passing obligation.

DRS. STEVEN AND DEBORAH HENDLINE are clinical psychologists in private practice in Newport Beach. They have been married for 33 years. Read more at

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