Valentine’s Day is the equivalent of New Year’s Eve for relationships. It is a time to celebrate the past together, to move forward in a relationship with “resolutions”, or to foster a budding romance. However, due to the stress and pressure often associated with Valentine’s Day, it can also be a time where festering relationship problems come to the surface and breakups can occur. Not all issues can be remedied with just one solution, and oftentimes these issues require constant maintenance, just like a garden must be tended year-round. For a beautiful, lush, healthy relationship like the gardens at Versailles, dedication and vigilance are needed. Take a look at the following five common relationship woes to address before a Valentine’s Day blow-up.

Responsibilities

Equal sharing of responsibilities is a major grievance among couples, and can end relationships. Responsibility regarding finances, children, or health constantly need to be monitored. If finance disagreements plague a relationship, prepare a budget for short term and long term use. If this proves to be too difficult or an agreement cannot be reached, ask a neutral third party to act as the mediator, such as a finance-savvy relative or personal banker. No matter what the arrangement, couples must have an agreed-upon plan set in place when considering the division of responsibilities in any category of life: chores, finances, family, career choices and many other issues.

Priorities

Time and time again, fights will begin like this: she wants to exchange Valentine’s Day gifts this year while he thinks they should both just save the money since it is already coming from the same bank account. Her goal is sentimentality and romance, while his is practical financial stability. Neither is wrong or right, but it is sometimes hard to see the other’s point of view when you disagree. Coming up with a numbered list of mutual priorities as well as individual priorities can help a couple balance their difference in opinion. This is an exercise that can be used in all categories of a couple’s life, and can help them better visualize and understand the small things that are important to their partner.

Stress

So many individuals are plagued by stress, from work-related stress to infertility. Stress can ruin a relationship like a slow-acting poison if left unchecked. Although it may not be the relationship itself that is causing a couple’s unhappiness, it is easy to place the blame on a partner since they usually bring one another joy. If either partner is stressed, it is important to provide appropriate support for one another. Set aside a regular time to talk about daily gripes, and truly listen. Give advice or suggestions only when it is asked for, and seek additional help from a therapist or close friend if needed. The stress couples feel is less likely to jeopardize the relationship if both continue to communicate and maintain an open dialogue with one another, showing the other that their issues do matter.

Support

Supporting your partner in their daily lives is a key component in relationships, from the minute to the significant. Lack of support during particularly difficult times can create a wedge between two people and leave partners feeling isolated and lost. In cases like these, there is a perceived lack of concern, care, and consideration, and one partner may begin to feel that the relationship has become one-sided. Be present, and provide support by lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Show compassion by helping in practical ways, such as cleaning the house or taking care of dinner if the appropriate emotional support cannot be provided. Small gestures can go a long way in helping a partner heal when dealing with significant personal disappointments and traumas.

Expectations

As days, weeks, months, and years pass by, couples may find themselves in a constant state of change and growth. Naturally, relationships will encounter certain stepping stones, such as exclusivity, marriage, and beginning a family. It is in these moments that the couple will need to mutually decide whether or not to embark on these journeys together, or if they have reached the extent of their relationship. If a couple’s expectations or timeline for their relationship do not match, friction within the relationship is hard to avoid. They must either compromise their own expectations to meet their partner’s, or stand their ground.  One partner not wanting to move forward in the relationship is usually a deal-breaker for the other individual, but it is not a conversation to be had on Valentine’s Day. Be sure that expectations are discussed at the beginning of the relationship, and if any changes occur, bring it up to your partner immediately. It is unfair to both parties to try to maintain a connection that does not have the appropriate foundation or conditions to grow and flourish.

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