How to love and live for 365 days a year
IS VALENTINE'S Day the most romantic day of the year for you and your loved one? Most happily-married people will tell you that for them, Valentine's Day happens not just in mid-February, but every day . . . or at least once or twice a week.
Contrary to the many cynical jokes, marriage does not have to go stale with the years. A happy marriage is like a living plant which, with constant care and nurturing will thrive and grow with the years.
Do you have what it takes to have a happy, romantic marriage? The following are several questions a therapist might ask, to evaluate marital or relationship satisfaction: How much time do you spend with your spouse? ''Plenty,'' say many couples. However, ''time spent together'' can take various guises: a) High-quality time. Attentive and intimate, either verbally or non-verbally communicating with each other without outside distractions.
b) Medium-quality time. More business-like, voicing one's views about children, in-laws, other family issues, or work.
c) Low-quality time. Together within the same premises, but either one or both is occupied by other tasks.
Special effort is required to create more ''quality time'' together when living in a hectic society like Hongkong.
What kind of priority do you give your partner as far as time is concerned? a) Do you make time to be with your spouse no matter how busy you may be? b) Do you spend time with your spouse only when asked? c) Are you sharing your time with your spouse only when you have nothing else to do? For many couples, priority is often given exclusively to children. For others, career and job come first. The only time they spend together is when they are in bed, half-asleep. The couple ends up with only left-over time for each other.
Do you enjoy talking with your spouse and sharing your thoughts and feelings? Many people will answer, ''of course but I'm too busy'', ''our children take up too much time'' or ''we don't have much to talk about any more''.
Enjoying talking and sharing thoughts with your partner is the basis of a satisfying marriage.
If you are not doing so, it is for a reason. Does a busy lifestyle distract you from each other? Or does some incompatibility make you create excuses to avoid communicating? How intimate and meaningful is your communication? Couples often occupy the same house and bed but feel like strangers. They want to share and be intimate, but find themselves growing apart. They communicate ideas and facts but rarely share their personal feelings about each other.
In cases like this, work is needed to establish open communication. To maintain a happy marriage, couples must try to share feelings and thoughts, in order to enhance intimacy and the growth of their relationship.
Do you and your partner avoid intimacy? Often couples work as a team to avoid intimacy without realising it. For example, one partner may continuously keep busy at home or at work, while the other is absorbed by television or the computer.
Superficially both look content and peaceful, without being bothered by each other. Meanwhile, the chances for closeness are being sabotaged.
How do you and your partner create intimacy? Open communication is the way to bring intimacy into a marriage. This means a willingness to share one's honest feelings and thoughts as well as to listen to one's partner. It means seeking ways to resolve conflicts rather than ignoring them.
It means respecting each other's differences. It is a willingness to apologise or forgive and not dwell on past grievances.
A happy marriage is not a matter of chance. You can choose to have marital happiness, if both you and your spouse are willing to work at it. This way, you will enjoy Valentine's Day every day of the year. Cathy Tsang-Feign is a licensed psychotherapist, with offices at the Vital Life Centre, phone 877-8206.