Marriage Experts Recommend a Valentines Day Relationship Tune-Up

Husband-and-Wife Team of Psychiatrists Offers Advice on Running Your Relationship Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Feb 12, 2013


Married psychiatrists Drs. Philip Lee and Diane Rudolph say that just one percent of Americans are completely satisfied in their relationship with their spouse or partner. The 99 percent of Americans who are feeling somewhat dissatisfied with their significant other should use Valentine's Day to reflect on all the things they love about their mates and give their relationship a tune-up.

"I often ask couples whether they feel they are in a sports-car-type of relationship or in a more reliable family-sedan courtship. One may offer great moments of excitement, while the other may be more stable and dependable. It doesn't matter which type of relationship you are in, as long as it is the right one for you," says Dr. Phillip Lee, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program.

Dr. Diane Rudolph, also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and co-head of the Marital and Family Therapy program, says, "Valentine's Day is a great chance to give your relationship a tune-up by appreciating the good things that your partner brings to the table. If you are feeling bored in your family-sedan relationship, remember the advantages of having a reliable partner. If you think your partner is too volatile, think back on all of the fun, exciting times you had and how bored you may have felt in past relationships."

Dr. Lee and Dr. Rudolph have been counseling couples for more than 25 years and have been married for more than 20 years. The doctors share their advice on how to keep your relationship running like a well-oiled machine on Valentine's Day and beyond.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit

  • Be diplomatic. Instead of screaming and throwing a tantrum about the things that make you upset, praise your partner for doing the things that are helpful to you.
  • Remember the good old days. Almost everyone remembers the "early days" of the relationship as more fun than the present. It's probably because you weren't arguing about how to get to the restaurant, where to sit or how much to drink.
  • Be polite. Try being polite for a week starting on Valentine's Day. There's no shame in saying "Thanks for picking up the kids" or "Great-looking dinner; can't wait to try that chicken." While it may seem silly to talk that way to your partner, just remember you would do the same for a business partner, employee or your child.
  • Break the cycle of arguments. You don't have to voice your displeasure about everything. Rather than expressing yourself in a negative way, break the cycle of blame and recrimination by treating your spouse more like a friend or co-worker. You wouldn't argue with your co-worker about mundane details because you want to have a civil relationship with this person.
  • Never say never. Don't begin sentences with "You never…," e.g., "You never clean up after...," "You never take my feelings into account…," or "You never think of anyone but yourself…" This places your spouse on the defensive and accomplishes nothing — it is a losing start. Try something like "You know what would be really great?" or "It would really help me if you could…"
  • Say "thank you." Show your appreciation for all of the things that your partner does no matter how small or how you may really feel. Something as simple as a "thank you" can make a dramatic difference in your relationship in a matter of weeks.
    • "Thanks for picking up the kids."
    • "Oh, look, the dry cleaning is back. Thanks, honey, for picking it up."
  • Just listen. Try just listening to your partner without offering suggestions, criticism or a solution to his or her problems. Most of the time your spouse just wants you to listen and calmly empathize without saying any more. Even if it seems pointless to you, that's often all that the person needs.
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