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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Valentine's Day a Time to Review Relationships

LAS CRUCES - As Cupid pulls his bowstring on Valentine's Day, couples should take some time to evaluate their relationships, said a New Mexico State University family science professor.

Besides delivering the traditional flowers, candy and valentine, partners can take an extra step to improve their relationships with their significant others, said Robert DelCampo, who specializes in marriage and family therapy and teaches a College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences course entitled, "Interpersonal Skills in Intimate Relationships."

Today's working couples are on a fast track, packing more and more in their lives than their predecessors of the 1960s, DelCampo said.

"Recent studies show we now work an additional 160 hours each year when compared to American workers 30 years ago. That's a full month more on the job," he said. "What happens is we work so much that we sometimes forget about caring for our significant other as we try to endure the stressors in life."

DelCampo suggests using Valentine's Day as a day to begin a new pattern of introspection to determine a relationship's strengths and weaknesses.

"Celebrating Valentine's Day in the traditional way is great for a relationship, but couples can do much more to keep their relationships alive and cultivate them. Really give your relationship an honest evaluation and see where you're lacking," he said.

DelCampo suggests partners perform a quick checklist to evaluate their relationships.

"People in healthy, growing interpersonal relationships have times that they need togetherness; apartness; pushing and being pushed; and leading and being led, DelCampo said.

Making time to talk and focus on each partner's needs is part of the togetherness need. "Sitting together to watch a television program is not togetherness," he said. "Togetherness involves a person asking the other person about what's going on in his or her life in an undistracting environment."

Allowing partners enough time to be away to gather experiences outside of the relationship satisfies the apartness need, he said. This helps relationships grow because partners bring fresh, often exciting, topics back to the relationship for discussion.

The third need, pushing or being pushed, works when partners encourage each other to try something new in their relationship, like attending an opera or going on a mountain biking trip for the first time.

Supporting and encouraging partners to accomplish their personal goals fulfills the fourth need for leading and being led. There are times when one partner feels the need to do something that is solely important to that person. It could mean going back to school or taking a special trip.

"Reviewing these needs has to go both ways," DelCampo said. "You may be getting support for some activity you've always wanted to do, such as climbing Mt. Everest, but ask yourself if you have recently supported your partner with his or her desired activity."