Valentines is one day that focuses on love but as we all know relationships require ongoing expressions of love and commitment. We asked Kasia Rachfall for advice on improving your relationships year-round and she had some great tips to share!
Kasia Rachfall and her husband, Bryan, are the co-founders of Fresh Perspective Family, a company whose mission is to empower and inspire parents and kids from the inside out. She is the author of the book Keys For Moms: Enough is Enough! Simple Strategies For Identifying and Silencing the Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself.
Q: What are your thoughts on Valentines, is it a nice romantic holiday or does it put too much focus on one day instead of performing thoughtful gestures year round?
A: I would say it’s both. Valentines should be thought of as an occasion to enhance a relationship which already includes kind and loving gestures through the year from both partners.
It shouldn’t be used as an excuse to do something kind for your partner/loved one to make up for the lack of those gestures during the rest of the year. It can be celebrated without the pressure of spending a lot on commercial gifts and without a lot of expectations.
Q: Besides chocolates and flowers, what are some of the best ways to show your love year round?
A: Time is the most important thing that you can spend with a loved one to maintain a strong relationship. Even if you only have a few minutes during the day because your schedule is busy or you work opposing shifts, you can spend those minutes really listening to each other. Often we ask how our partner’s day went and we don’t take the time to listen to their response because we’re busy thinking about our own day or how we want to respond. When you listen without an agenda it shows.
You can also ask your loved one what they need and how you can support them. Again, listening to their responses is essential and then following through with your offer of that support. When you give of yourself without an agenda it enhances a relationship at a very deep level.
If you know that your partner doesn’t enjoy a particular task at home, you could just randomly get it done for them.
Q: The recommended weekly date night can be hard to fit in one’s schedule. Is it essential or are there other ways to stay connected?
A: It can be tough to stick to a date night with today’s busy schedules, especially if there are children with activities. Date nights allow the partners to leave the environment where they may be tempted to do something other than focus on each other…like clean up, organize the paperwork, etc.
If you can’t find a sitter and leave your home, you can still create that special out-of-the-house atmosphere by putting in some extra effort. Perhaps use special dishes or set the mood with candles once the kids are in bed. Perhaps get your dinner catered to your house or order in.
Pretend there is no cleaning or paperwork or other tasks that exist for that period of time. Consciously keep your focus on having meaningful conversation/time with your spouse and if your thoughts do stray to the housework, gently dismiss them. Remember, this is time for both of you to relax mentally and physically – just because you’re in the familiar spaces of home doesn’t mean you can’t do that.
Q: How can you improve your child’s chances of having healthy relationships in the future?
A: Children learn in many ways from those who have influence over them and they tend NOT to learn from what we SAY…but more from what we DO. It’s important to model respect, kindness, love, and other values that make up a good relationship.
I encourage spouses to have a conversation about what are the most important values and beliefs that they want their children to have about life…and then to live those whether the kids are watching or not. If the mom and dad have unresolved issues that are causing a strain on their relationship, the kids will pick up on this. The parents need to figure out their own “stuff” in order to help their children have the best shot at success in life – whether that’s in relationships or other areas.
Q: What are some of the biggest roadblocks to happiness in relationships?
1. Playing the “my stress is bigger than your stress” game.
This is where we have a venting competition rather than just letting the other person talk about what happened in their day. A simple way to avoid this and avoid getting ourselves all worked up is to agree that you’re both going to take a certain period of time to vent. Then once both partners are finished, you’re not going to compare the stories or try to top them, you’re just going to move on and focus on the positive parts of your day.
2. Not taking responsibility for our own choices and not being willing to change what’s not working for us.
This has nothing to do with fault or blame for ourselves or anyone else. It has everything to do with taking a no excuses approach to making our life work for us. If we’re stressed out or unhappy with something then we need to be willing to change it – find whatever resources and support are needed to help ourselves and go for it. As long as the changes we want to make will help you be your best self and are ecological (good for) your family, your community, and the planet, you owe it to yourself to be your best self.
3. Not communicating what we really need, want or mean. Unfortunately, humans aren’t able to read minds. We need to be clear about our expectations and desires so that our loved ones don’t have to guess. Of course it’s nice to drop hints and be surprised – but if we rely on our partner always being right about what we want, we’re in for a disappointment.
Communication is key to relationships remaining strong. Communicate about the good AND the not so good. If you’re frustrated about something with your partner, tell them. Tell them how it makes you feel and offer a solution. Work together to figure it out. And don’t forget to tell them when they do things right. It’s a big confidence booster and makes us feel loved.
Kasia Rachfall mnlp, cpc, bba
Fresh Perspective Families