Peter Pearson

Feb14-225Picture this. It might fit for lot of guys. Valentine's Day approaches. A week before this special, romantic day, Joe starts calling around for dinner reservations. He believes he is pretty smart thinking ahead like this.

Bad news. Every restaurant he calls is booked until 9:45.

Joe is getting desperate. He knows Sue won’t be happy with the EARLY BIRD SPECIAL at Denny’s.  That would qualify for a special place in his “memory hall of shame.”

He would like to tell Sue he doesn’t want to be a slave to the calendar, like herds of lemmings all stampeding to eat out on the busiest night of the restaurant year.  He hates the whole overpriced and crowded experience of Valentine's Day, with food getting colder by the minute until harried waiters schlep it to the table.

But no. The calendar says February 14th. And duty calls.

Gifts? The pain just gets worse. Every year he needs to give her something that brings tears to her eyes, just like in the commercials. It is the gift that proves his love, passion, and everlasting dedication to the person he cannot live without. And preferably, the gift should be even better than last year’s. He suspects that only Hallmark executives and restaurant owners are truly happy with this day.

But Joe can’t reveal all this to Sue. She wouldn’t understand.

What’s a guy to do?

Poor Sue. She’s not looking forward to another evening with grim, stressed-out Joe. Although more sentimental than Joe, she is not a big fan of noisy, crowded restaurants with overpriced menus. She would actually prefer a quiet celebration dinner the evening before or the evening after.  It’s easier to get in and a lot more relaxing. But she knows Joe goes to a lot of trouble trying to find a nice place – even though sometimes he strikes out.

Sue doesn't wholeheartedly buy into our consumer-oriented society that exchanges gifts because the calendar says it is the thing to do. Flowers and a card (that is not so sweet it triggers a diabetic coma) would be fine. Actually a more grown up expression of his affection and connection – just a few lines from his heart – would be great.

It is very difficult for her to give Joe a gift. His wants are few and simple. But the calendar dictates the ritual.

She would like to talk to Joe about her concerns, wishes and desires, and perhaps create some experiences instead of giving “things.” But she doesn’t think he would understand or be receptive.

It’s a good thing February 14th happens only once a year.

Does this sound familiar? Would you like to share your Valentine’s challenges? Or maybe you have suggestions for dealing with these difficulties. I look forward to reading your comments below.


Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.