Valentine’s Day: Making love last life

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Valentine’s Day: Making love last life

There are no quick tips or recipes to making love last. It’s about maintaining an emotional connection, says clinical counsellor Shereen Khan

By Mary Paulose

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Published: Fri 14 Feb 2014, 12:40 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:24 PM

It’s Valentine’s Day today and there’s a rush among couples getting ready to thrill their Significant Others with lavish gifts or sweet nothings. However, a niggling thought arises at the back of one’s mind: are we putting 
more weight on showing love, rather than growing in love?

Why exactly did jazzy external displays of romantic love gain currency over a steady, sustained partnership of mutual respect and putting one’s daily needs over the other? That perhaps shows in 
the number of relationships falling apart these days. To deconstruct and tackle this very modern-day plague of love and marriage, Shereen Khan, clinical counsellor, marriage and family therapist, conducted a pre-Valentine’s day workshop in Dubai on ‘Making Love Last’, on February 11.

The workshop pitch was “learning to evaluate what is missing in your relationship; conflict resolutions, skills and techniques on building trust and affection.” We caught up with the counsellor, based in Vancouver, Canada for a little tête-à-tête on what constitutes love, actually.

The focus of her workshop was for individuals to understand more about themselves in the context of a relationship. It was not about how to attract a mate, but how to maintain the relationship once you are in it. “There will be some learning opportunity for everybody, those couples who are just starting out, couples who are thinking about 
the next level in their relationship, marriage or kids; couples who may have lost each other in the race of raising kids and staying competitive in their careers, and for couples celebrating their own children’s weddings and/or birth of their grandchildren,” says Shereen.

She attributes the timing of her Dubai workshop to serendipity. “I had been thinking about an opportune time to offer a couple’s weekend retreat, and my sister Zareen (an event manager) and her collea-gues just ran with the idea of putting on a workshop,” she says. “Talking about relationships and communication isn’t available on a public forum. I want this information to be accessible to everyone.”

In the UAE, Shereen has worked in community mental health, school and university counselling situations, and also provided some personal counselling. “I have to say the situation is varied here. In most romantic relationships, it is not just the two people who are involved. The issues are complex and intertwined with cultural, religious, 
familial and societal expectations, that are important to understand, explore and respect when working with couples in this region. There are also a significant number of people here who are maintaining long-distance relationships, which comes with its own set of concerns,” Shereen reveals.

As for the perfect way to first 
creating, then maintaining a succ-essful romantic relationship, she says there are no quick tips or recipes. “However, if I am to sum up, it has to be about maintaining an emotional connection. As long as the partner feels that someone’s got their back, other life stresses and relationship stresses will bec-ome manageable. So the key is to develop an emotional connection and check in with your partner if they are feeling unheard or dismissed. Nothing wrong with asking questions such as, ‘How can I love you better?’, ‘How can I be a better partner to you?’, ‘Do you feel that you can trust me and rely on me?’” And the worst recipe for 
disaster is the accumulation of too many regrettable moments 
in the relationship, leaving no room for repair and reconciliation, warns the counsellor.

In the UAE, with its vast expatriate and floating population, sustai-ning relationships — and meaningful ones at that — is definitely problematic. Single people here looking for love will tell you that they mostly encounter interest from the opposite sex in having a fleeting or ‘fun’ relationship. Shereen’s take is, “This is definitely a challenge. Dubai is a city that has a lot to offer and when there are so many temptations, it can become hard to maintain long-term bonds, unless the individual is intentional in what they want — being honest about their own needs to themselves and up front about the kind of relationship they want.”

As for the buzz surrounding Valentine’s Day, Shereen says there are two sides to it. “I understand the sentiment: it has become the second biggest sales event after Christmas shopping in the West, and has caught on in the Middle East as well. However, the focus on Valentine’s day and all the flowers and hearts around us are unavoidable, so what better way to focus on our love life than this very day? A commitment to self-improvement and staying connected in your 
relationship is a gift that keeps on giving,” she says. Something akin to the way we start fresh resolutions on New Year’s.

The flip side is, for singles or couples who are in distress, the focus on V-day and seeing happy couples all around magnifies the hurt and pain they may be experiencing. “Also, there are many who are anti-Valentine’s day because of the focus on gift-giving that has made retail outlets profit. Further, expectations tend to get higher with social media, when friends are posting pictures of roses received, followed by a helicopter tour and dining at the Burj. V-Day can become all about keeping up with the Jones’.”

Life can be as simple or as complicated as we make it. “Choose simplicity, which does not mean it is going to be easy, but it will allow you to savour the people and things you truly enjoy,” points out Shereen. “I would like to add that couples who continually pay attention to each other and their relationships can thrive emotionally and intellectually. It turns out that love, not unlike life, is mostly about showing up and being present in the moment. -

Five things couples can start doing this Valentine’s Day

Be fully present with your partner. Which means turning off your electronic devices and giving them your undivided attention.

Initiate dialogue about yourself, your partner and your hopes and dreams together — cultivate the 
same goals.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable and express appreciation and gratitude for the little things.

Do something for the first time with your partner. (Trying sushi or singing a song together — anything that can be your first as 
a team).

Learn something new about your partner — this may be going out on a date night, or exploring a new or common hobby together, your goal is doing something new and learning things that you never knew about him/her.

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