3 Ways To Build a Happier Relationship This Valentine’s Day

emotional life healthy relationships self-love Feb 10, 2021
happy couple happy relationship


If you know how to do love the right (i.e., healthy, fulfilling, pleasurable) way, then every day is a day to celebrate it.


And heck, even though I’m not a big proponent of commercial holidays, why not celebrate love in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day too?


Nothing makes life as happy as a happy relationship, so it’s quite sensible for us to focus on what’s not going so well in our relationship/s and how we can make it better. All relationships are a coming together of two or more parties and if something’s not going right, you can feel empowered knowing that you are a part of the puzzle and therefore also of the solution that can bring the relationship into a more optimal, lighter, brighter space.


Let’s look at the 3 ways that you can build a happier relationship this Valentine’s Day and beyond.


Keep in mind, when I say “partner” below, I am referring to romantic partners, business partners, marital partners, friends, and any other partnership that you consider to be meaningful to you. Even though the lead-in and examples I use may most closely approximate romantic partnerships, where appropriate, the same happiness boosters that apply to romantic relationships apply to many other types of platonic partnerships as well!


1. Make space for vulnerability.


If you’re like most couples, your behavior had a bit of a sculpted or polished look to it when you first met. You were on your best behavior after all. You were hoping your partner would grow a liking to you so why would you do anything odd or questionable, right? It’s no wonder that you showed only 75% of who you are.


Well, it’s time to let that remaining 25% seep in. It’s hard enough to relate to someone in a world of uncertainty and hardship, let alone relate to only a part of them, not knowing who the rest really is. “The rest” (that we aren’t typically excited to immediately share with a partner) is made of those things that we consider to be regretful, shameful, hurtful, or embarrassing in some way. “The rest” consists of times we’ve been hurt and times we’ve hurt others, and it holds some of the deepest pain we’ve ever known and likely never had the chance to fully process or admit.


When I say “it’s time to let the rest seep in”, I am by no means saying that you should engage in a Dr. Phil “tell all”. What I am saying is that if you’ve built a relationship with someone that feels safe, that is based on trust and honesty, and that does its best to honor and respect rather than devalue who each of you are, then it may be time to do what scares you. It may be time to get vulnerable and share more about who you truly are. 


In the beginning, we don’t know how our past may be received by our partner, and so we keep it (or at least those parts that have the potential to scare them away) from them. As a means of protection, we avoid being vulnerable. Heck, it’s scary to be vulnerable. We don’t know how this person we’ve known for just a few months or just a few years (who can sometimes feel like a stranger), in some cases, will react.


Then, the bond grows closer, you get into a rhythm of divulging your past, and maybe you share a little bit more of who you are. At some point, nevertheless, you reach a plateau and your closeness levels off.


What do you do?


If you’re like most people, you might be tempted to shut down and wonder what’s gone wrong with the relationship. You might reevaluate your thoughts about the longevity of the relationship. You might wonder where the intimacy has gone. When it feels like this stage is approaching, I urge you instead to pause. Simply pause and see where you’re hiding. Where are you not showing who you really are? Where are you still playing off of that image you created of yourself so early on in the relationship?


Being vulnerable and making space for difficult conversations is the very thing you need to do to create intimacy. What we’re really protecting ourselves from when we avoid vulnerability is genuine intimacy. So, if the relationship feels like a safe container in which love can continue to grow, I encourage you to go a little deep and get a little uncomfortable. (If the relationship does not offer you emotional safety and requires heavy emotional lifting, then it’s time to reevaluate the relationship and this is certainly not a time to consider increasing vulnerability. Period.) Explore what it would be like to make space for mutual vulnerability. Semantically, the word “intimacy” can be described as “into me see”. It’s because true intimacy begins when you can be known and seen for who you are. And, in order to be known and seen for who you are, you’ve got to risk knowing and being yourself. So, strive to understand your past and share it with your partner. When you do, you will have opened the door to a new phase of closeness. I promise.

What we’re really protecting ourselves from when we avoid vulnerability is genuine intimacy.

2. Honor yourself.


Do you know why self-love is such a popular term these days? Because when it’s a reality, the world is yours. When you love yourself, really and truly, it means that you honor your own needs, you respect your own voice and opinions, and you lovingly create boundaries that reflect how worthy and loveable you are. When you honestly do this for yourself, it also means that you can very well do the same for your partner. And what’s better than a partner who can honor your needs, your voice, and your boundaries and reflect back to you all the ways that you love you?




The best way, then, to improve your relationship this Valentine’s Day, is to focus on listening to your own needs and wants. You may be used to dismissing what’s true for you… well, it’s time to pivot and to respect your feelings and wishes instead. You may be used to succumbing to other people’s needs while drowning out your own… well, it’s time to pivot, assert yourself, and speak up about your values and what’s important to you instead.

The best way to improve your relationship this Valentine’s Day is to focus on listening to your own needs and wants.

Similarly, if you’re used to expecting perfection of yourself… you guessed it. It’s time to pivot and allow yourself to be human instead. It’s time to expect humanness, not perfection, from yourself. It’s time to try and laugh at yourself instead of criticizing yourself for your mistakes.


What does this have to do with your relationship/s?


Coincidentally, these ways of honoring and treating yourself will also make you a partner who easily honors, respects, and is able to offer genuine love to your partner too. Respect your own boundaries and you can easily respect someone else’s. Speak up about what’s important to you and you can easily respect your partner in their assertion and proclamation of what’s true for and valuable to them. Allow yourself to be imperfect and respond to your own mistakes with light-heartedness and you will be able to do the same for them.


Have you ever noticed that your preferences for and taste in partners (whether friendly, romantic, or collegial) change as you learn to love yourself more? Well, that’s because a healthy, loving relationship with another first and foremost begins with a healthy, loving relationship with yourself.

A healthy, loving relationship with another first and foremost begins with a healthy, loving relationship with yourself.

3. Stay curious.


Oftentimes, as relationships go on, we have a harder and harder time staying present. As our past makes itself known, we try to bury it and pretend it’s not there, as we tell ourselves “the past is in the past”. But, unless you’ve worked on it consciously and lovingly for years (as I’ve shared in many of my articles, including 7 Ways to Heal Your Old Wounds), your past is not in the past.


To experience life in the present moment, we’ve got to work on integrating our past… on making our past a part of us, rather than letting it continue to be something we push away and that therefore dominates us. Part of this includes #1 (vulnerability) and part of it includes maintaining a sense of curiosity about your own past and the past of your partner.


As closeness deepens, it’s likely that you will trigger your partner in new ways, and that they will similarly trigger parts of you too. What’s the best thing to do when this happens? We may be tempted to blame, shame, revolt and/or run away, yet what it helps us to do first is to get curious. Get curious about why you responded the way you did to something your partner said or did... And get curious about why they may have said and did what they said and did in the first place…


As long as you stay curious about your partner’s words and behavior, there is less space for assumptions and therefore more space for understanding to occur. As long as you stay curious about your own words and behavior, there is more possibility for responsibility and less of a likelihood of blame and shame. And, with greater space for understanding and self-responsibility, there is more room for vulnerability and intimacy.


So, stay curious. Remember that while there is so much that you know about your partner, there is still so much left to know. And while you may know a lot about you, you don’t know everything about you. You don’t know what you don’t know.


Maintaining curiosity in moments of difficulty is exactly where self-awareness expands, where mutual understanding emerges, and where intimacy grows. When things get shaky, be on your own side… be on your partner’s side… and above all, remember that you’re on the same side. What will happen is that your relationship will very naturally grow in love.


How are you creating a happier relationship and growing in love this Valentine’s Day? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!


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