Michael Gabriel, author of “The Balanced Relationship Barometer,” discusses Valentine’s Day and how his own heartbreak led to a deeper understanding of what it means to be in a fulfilled long-term relationship.
There is more than one theory on the origins of how Valentine’s Day came to be. In 1537, England’s King Henry VII officially declared February 14 as the holiday of St. Valentine’s Day. Much has changed since the Middle Ages, when chivalrous deeds and poems were used to court women, to our current consumer product-focused bonanza for companies like Hallmark, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva and 1-800 Flowers. What has not changed is the physiological potion of love. When you’re in love, and the brain releases an abundance of feel-good chemicals and hormones, all seems right with the world. It’s a natural high and in this initial infatuation phase behaviors change, hearts beat faster and obsessive cravings for each other can cause one to lose perspective. Yet, it’s what comes next that is most challenging. After this initial infatuation and excitement of falling in love, the relationship needs a balance of what is essential for long-term happiness.
Valentine’s Day is not just about hearts and flowers, sexy lingerie or expensive chocolates. Whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, or are at a good place or going through a rough time, this day is another reminder to reflect on your relationship. Hopefully, it’s a time to recognize and appreciate the sunny times you have had, and to validate your love and care for each other. It’s also a reminder that having a healthy and fulfilling long-term relationship takes ongoing effort, and should not be limited to a fixed time of year.
After my own marriage of 10 years ended, I set out on a quest of self-awareness determined to help my young daughter, and others, avoid a similar, painful situation. I experienced lingering questions that perplex many people who are in, or have been in, a romantic relationship. It’s not about finding the faults, but in recognizing and appreciating the good experiences (sunny), while not overlooking or avoiding those problem areas that could lead to bigger issues (stormy) and a possible breakup or deep dissatisfaction down the road (a stormy forecast direction).
According to numerous research studies, the probability of a long-term, fulfilling relationship that doesn’t lead to divorce or discontentment is worse than a coin toss. I didn’t find that acceptable, and focused on improving these odds.
Breakups or divorce are painful enough, and even more so when children are involved. For me, I could not fathom how to explain to my angelic, seven-year-old daughter why mommy and daddy no longer would be living together. In trying to understand what happened with my marriage, and whether the problems could have been foreseen and addressed, I began to formulate the insights, tools, and framework culminating in my book, The Balanced Relationship Barometer (CreateSpace, June 2015) and its associated mobile app.
It’s all about knowing yourself and what you really want, by building awareness and seeing trends of your relationship needs, values and qualities through your daily experiences. Men and women of various ages, and in different stages of healthy, as well as unfulfilling relationships, have validated this approach.
The book’s intent is to help guide readers through the often confusing maze of emotions and decisions, with clarity and insight. If it helps create healthier and more fulfilling relationships, and prevents even a single breakup, divorce, or continuing unhealthy relationship, then it will have been well worth the effort.