Holding hands provides a sense of security, while a good hug boosts serotonin levels, writes Deirdre Reynolds.
RED roses, luxury chocolates and racy lingerie are just some of the clichéd romantic gifts sure to fly out of shops between now and the international day of love on Tuesday.
Yet something as simple as making your partner a cup of tea could be all it takes to keep the spark alive for the other 364 days of the year, say relationship therapists.
“It is really important to make your loved one feel valued on a daily basis if you want a long-lasting relationship,” said psychologist Sharron Grainger.
“It is so easy to become complacent in a long-term relationship — and valuing your partner can be easily forgotten. Issues with communication is the most common complaint she hears from couples, followed by lack of spending time together, parenting issues and use of technology.
“However, with a little effort, it is just as easy to make someone feel loved and important,” says Grainger.
Co-founder of Dublin matchmaking service Intro, Rena Maycock says ‘kindness’ and ‘honesty’ top the wishlist of both male and female clients who are looking for a partner.
“Romance is rarely mentioned as a ‘must have’ during our profile interviews,” she says.
“When it is, it is as likely to come from a man as from a woman.
“Meeting a match with similar characteristics in terms of personality, hobbies and goals is of paramount importance.
“However, it is extremely important to continue to cherish each other to ensure your relationship remains solid — even if it is simply reminding your partner that you appreciate them.”
Regular date nights without the kids, romantic weekend breaks and breakfast in bed are just some the ways to make every day Valentine’s Day, the matchmaker advises. But cost-free gestures including holding hands could be even more valuable when it comes to keeping the love alive.
“Going about the furious business of life, it can be easy to forget the simplest of things in your relationship,” she adds.
“Kissing [your partner] hello and goodbye reminds you that you are a couple, and not just housemates.
“Similarly, holding hands provides a sense of security in a relationship, while a good hug boosts serotonin levels, making us feel happier and more at one with our partner.”
Almost a year and a half after tying the knot in Italy, and six years since they first met, Lisa Cannon says that rugby player husband Richard Keatley still gives her a buzz.
“Every morning before work, Richard makes me coffee,” the TV3 Weekend AM presenter says.
“If he has time, breakfast will be laid out on the breakfast bar, and on weekends, I also get breakfast in bed.
“But the nicest [thing] is when I’ve been away and there are flowers in a vase on the countertop when I come home.”
Although it may sound frothy, catching up over a cappuccino could be just the thing to stop trouble from brewing, says Grainger, who is based at Connolly Counselling Centre in Dublin.
“Couples should aim to have a date night once a week,” she suggests. “But if this isn’t possible go out for a coffee at any time and reconnect.
“Communication is key. Every couple should spend a minimum of 15 minutes every day just checking in with each other — without phones, laptops or the TV getting in the way.
“Ask your partner how their day was, but more importantly, listen when they are talking. As a rule of thumb, when one partner is talking, the other should be listening so attentively that they can almost repeat back every word said.”
Newlyweds Niamh Reddy and husband Jim are set to toast their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple over candlelit dinner at their favourite restaurant in Dublin next Tuesday.
Though, cosy nights in are equally important for the pair, the account director at Burrell Marketing & Publicity says: “Usually, myself and Jim would spend Valentine’s Day at home together. As this will be our first as a married couple, we plan to mark the occasion with dinner at our favourite restaurant.
“Otherwise, it is generally the smaller, inexpensive things that we do for each other throughout the year that mean more to us, whether that is coming home to a cooked dinner after a long day or just going for a drink in our local.
“Despite our busy lives, we always make time for each other and that’s the most important thing to us.”
Last year, romantic Irish people splashed an average of €55 on Valentine’s Day flowers for their loved one, more than any other European nation and €22 more than German lovebirds.
This year, saying ‘thank you’ could be the best gift you give in return, argues Etiquette School of Ireland founder Orla Brosnan, whose etiquette courses include advice on how to behave romantically both online and off.
“We need to regroup and pay a bit more attention to basic manners,” she says.
“Holding a door open for somebody, helping them with their coat and just being a little bit more mannerly in our everyday life.”
Being nicer even saved Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman’s 17-year marriage to film executive Kris Thykier, the mum-of-three revealed to Red magazine: “All I know is that you can have a different marriage with the same man. We don’t have rules, but we look after each other more. So whoever comes home first normally makes the dinner.
“It’s just about being nice to each other.”
Meanwhile, Sharron Grainger urged long-term couples not to reserve sexy smalls or foot massages for February 14 either.
“Sexual intimacy in a long-term relationship can be a struggle for some couples,” she says.
“Rather than rushing out to buy expensive lingerie, couples should set some time aside to rekindle the passion and closeness they once perhaps had.
“Starting by simply holding hands while sitting on the sofa watching TV. Then go one step further by taking turns giving each other a massage — you never know where it might lead.”
Set aside 15 minutes, at least, at the end of each day to sit down and chat with your partner about their day
Don’t make them compete with your iPhone for attention by switching it — and other gadgets — off first
Pay attention and always compliment your partner when they get their hair done or dress up
Show you appreciate them by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ like you would to others
Reconnect physically by holding hands or just snuggling up while watching TV on the sofa
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