Give the Gift of Validation This Valentine’s Day

straight coupleBy now you’ve all probably made your Valentine’s Day plans or purchases, unless you’re riding the party-of-one bus or following a “no gifts this year, we’re poor” policy (in which case, I’m with you). According to Statistic Brain, the average V-Day consumer spends around $116 on gifts, and 53% of women—apparently men need no representation—say they would straight-up dump a dude if he didn’t partake in said purchasing. But whatever happened to good old-fashioned gratitude? It turns out, instead of putting your money where your mouth is, it may be more beneficial for couples in the long run to use their pie holes as intended: for sweet somethings.

World-renowned marriage expert John Gottman insists relationships revolve around two things: trust and betrayal. To measure these factors, Gottman filmed couples’ interactions, then had each partner post-rate them by turning a dial toward if they believed they’d lost or won. A zero-sum game occurred when one partner’s loss was the other’s gain. Cooperative-gain couples, however, were composed of partners looking out for each other’s best interests despite disagreements.

Over a 20-year period, the fate of those zero-sum gamers proved deadly, as Gottman discovered that almost three times the men than those from cooperative-gain marriages were deceased. Gottman showed correlation to the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Occurring in both sexes following orgasm, oxytocin is euphoric and bond-producing, while vasopressin, produced solely in males, creates a vigilant, competitive response. As these responses affect blood pressure, and blood pressure affects life expectancy, exacerbation is easily imaginable within a distrustful relationship.

Fidelity, Wiring, and Longevity
Sexual and emotional disconnect are the main drivers of infidelity amongst couples. Although sexual dissatisfaction remains the number one motivator, local sex therapist Rachel Taylor refers to emotional disconnect as the compellor of sexual turbulence. To Taylor, romantic struggles boil down to an unmet need, either lost or realized as infeasible.

Amanda Orton, another Corvallis-dwelling sex therapist, cites the addictive, heady high felt at the beginning of any bond as a driver of infidelity. Orton explains this high as a form of anxiety, which is unsustainable and dissipates over time.

“You don’t have the history of all the negativity with that new person,” Taylor elaborates, further acknowledging the ease we feel in being so brutal to those we feel closest and most comfortable to, those more likely to take the blows without considering jumping ship.

Orton further touches on mental health issues, such as bipolar disorders, which induce manic states of hypersexuality. Another factor is recent anthropological research which favors non-monogamy as being historic in human nature.

In Taylor’s experience, preferences in relationships fall on a more Kinsey-like scale, between monogamy and polyamorousness, etc, “where some people are just naturally more monogamous and that fits right for them.”

Whichever way, couples are better off when cooperatively working toward the desired end goal, yet unfortunately, often don’t seek help until approaching crisis mode, when the emotional vigor requisite to combat and engage has all but dissipated.

Sexpertise from Local Professionals
“Couples who learn to fight fairly and gently early on and those who work through disagreements instead of merely fighting and not coming to a resolution tend to stay connected and committed,” said Orton.

Orton credits value-driven boundaries, such as a no name-calling rule, with keeping couples in sync, and Taylor offers a take-turn venting technique. She suggests each partner takes about a 15-minute stress-expressive soliloquy, while the other empathizes and validates their comprehension, resisting any urge to offer solutions or turn to problem-solving mode.

“We live in a culture of criticism,” said Taylor, which can be intended as constructive, but very damaging within a relationship, especially when interpreted as authoritative or as a shortcoming on the behalf of the recipient.

Taylor’s most successful couples are able to identify and verbalize values and appreciation. They are able to say what the other is doing right, or in times of discontentment offer solutions instead of a closed-for-discussion dissatisfaction.

Orton recommends strengthening connections by maintaining date nights, or, for the busy-bodies of the world, setting a sex schedule, which, she admits, may sound cringe-worthy, but can be a major success.

Statistics and Tips You Can Love
The silver lining, as relayed by Orton, is that 70% of couples can work through issues of betrayal, and come out ever closer. And despite the long (limp, impotent…) road, the benefits are undeniable—like if how, you’re a man, you might live longer. So be a team player, and on top of all the Hershey’s Kisses and Hallmark pleasantries—big moneymakers which Gottman references as only driving distrust along with economic disparities—spackle on a fine layer of appreciation. Unless you could care less and live for the high of making cherub babies cry or just love those short-lived, you’re-perfect-until-I-know-you moments.

By Stevie Beisswanger