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Picture the scene: You've taken your loved one out for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner at a restaurant with just the right ambience and a sumptuous menu and you've even planned a surprise for right around dessert time. But, in between the appetizers and main course, you realize you are surrounded by a dozen couples barely exchanging a word to each other. His gaze is fixated on his plate and she’s gazing off into the distance. The silence between them is deafening. So you vow never to let that happen to you and your beloved. But, would you know where to start to keep the love and passion for each other alive? Give these strategies a try.

1. Stop Having to Be Right
There's an old saying: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" Think of all the times when you engaged in arguments with your partner simply because neither of you wanted to back down. The desire to be right overtook your love, respect and compassion for each other. There are all kinds of reasons that may be responsible for your need to play know-it-all. Maybe you had an older sibling who derided your opinions, you saw one or both of your parents do it, or you were bullied at school and vowed to never let anyone get the better of you again. The first thing you need to realize is that your partner is none of those people who made you feel small or inadequate (if that’s the case in your relationship, being right in an argument is the least of your troubles). Keep in mind that if you are busy trying to be right all the time, you’re missing out on some prime opportunities to learn how your partner thinks or feels and what you might be able to do to keep him or her happy. Also, accepting that you can be wrong on occasion makes you more approachable when your partner really needs a shoulder and support.

2. Accept that You Might Have Different Needs
It's no surprise that John Gray’s "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" was a bestseller. Suddenly, millions of spouses, partners and singles on the dating scene got insight into some of the most mundane issues that keep the sexes from having lasting relationships. For instance, Gray points out that in relationships, women crave caring, understanding, and devotion while men seek trust, acceptance, admiration, and encouragement. Instead of criticizing or belittling your differing needs, understand that on some level, they are primal. Raging against them is tantamount to trying to stop a mother from being protective of her young or arguing with the law of gravity. Cater to your partner's needs and marvel in how you’re different. With a better understanding and acceptance of each other's needs, you stand a better chance of growing together as opposed to drifting apart.

3. Keep Expectations Realistic
Unrealistic expectations or delusions about how relationships or love "should be" can eat away at once healthy relationships. Too often I see clients looking to their partner for the love and acceptance they never got while growing up. They may carry the false belief that their partner should somehow make their life feel "complete" or make them happy without sufficient effort on their own part. Being in love with someone also doesn't mean you have to be together all the time. Spending time immersed in your own passions and interests helps you to grow as people and to have richer, more fulfilling lives as individuals. Living under the same roof doesn’t make either of you mind-readers, so don't expect your partner to know what you're thinking. Carrying around unrealistic expectations puts your relationship under a heavy, dark cloud — one that's always at risk of bursting when minor misunderstandings or mishaps occur. These expectations also lead to suppressed rage, anger and a lack of forgiveness. One way to not let them ruin your relationship is to be as open and honest as possible in the early stages of your romance. Also, expectations change during a relationship, so keep sharing them with your partner and learn to find middle ground or to prioritize them.

If you've already tried some of these strategies in your relationship, but with little improvement, consulting with a marriage counselor or relationship expert may be beneficial. Inviting the insight of a detached third party is better than risking becoming a detached couple, just like the ones in the restaurant on what is supposed to be the most romantic night of the year.

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The Center for Personal Development and Psychotherapy specializes in telephone and face-to-face counseling, treating individuals and couples seeking to improve their relationships. Counseling with Dr. Stollman is designed to help patients in dealing with a wide range of psychological issues. Whether you're looking for Los Angeles marriage counseling or someone to talk to about your depression, Dr. Stollman can help.

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Sessions can be scheduled for either one or two hours in length. Two hour sessions provide adequate time to explore issues without interruption.

Dr. Gary also does telephone coaching for those who prefer to participate from the privacy of their own home and he offers a free 15-minute phone consultation to all first-time callers.

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(800) 474-1445

(800) 474-1445

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