Guys, it’s time to stop hating on Valentine’s Day

Ladies, here’s a little secret about Valentine’s Day.

When it’s just us guys in the room and women are out of earshot, we take a vote. Nine out of ten of us agree that Valentine’s Day is just a made up holiday for us to do things for our wives and girlfriends because we didn’t do enough at Christmas or on birthdays or on anniversaries or on Mother’s Day, if you’ve birthed one of our children (by the way, thank you for that).

But what about that one out of ten kind of guy who thinks Valentine’s Day should be federal law?

Usually he’s an extra tender fella who loves his wife so much that he’ll sit through an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy without complaining. He’s the kind of guy who makes the rest of us look bad because nobody else was willing to step away from the poker table to answer a call from his wife.

The truth is we may roll our eyes at the poor sap, but guys, it may be time to start listening to him. It may be time to take a page from his playbook and start recognizing the value in celebrating a day devoted to your significant other.

Our biggest mental block is that we see Valentine’s Day as this goopy, floral-fueled, chocolate-covered lovefest. And for years and years we, ourselves, have perpetuated this. That’s right, guys. We’re to blame.

It’s not that women don’t like flowers or chocolates or carnival-sized teddy bears, because plenty do. It’s that we don’t know how to do any better.

We haven’t figured out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about saying “I love you,” which most of us say every single day, anyway.Valentine’s Day is about a very concrete thing. It’s about showing gratitude. It’s about saying thank you.

You know you’re doing Valentine’s Day right when you’re doing something to say, “Thank you for being supportive in my life. Thank you for your companionship. Thank you for holding down the fort when I was swamped with work for three weeks. Thanks for handling the kids when I couldn’t. Thanks for going on bike rides with me even though it’s not really your thing. Thanks for being so nice to my mom when she came to stay with us. Thanks for helping with the taxes. Thank you for letting me share my life with you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

That’s all it really is. It’s an opportunity to say thank you.

One of the most common problems in long-term relationships is that we grow complacent. You see each other every day, you take trips together, you eat together, you brush your teeth next to each other. For newlyweds, that’s an exciting prospect. For marriage veterans, being together so much breeds complacency.

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to stop being complacent, to break up the cycle a little.

Maybe you’ve raised kids together, started a company together, redone houses together, traveled together, suffered the loss of family, or helped care for an ailing relative together. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to say thank you, to express gratitude for the role she plays in your life, to say, “I’d pick you all over again.”

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


11 ways to ruin your relationship

Many of us are doing these things daily, and have no idea we are well on our way to ruining our relationships, because thankfully, we feel like its our partner’s fault.

1. Tell them “just calm down” or “get over it” when they are really upset.

2. Remind them of all the times they have failed you (ESPECIALLY when they least expect it, like when they are in the middle of a football game, or have just woken from a nap).

3. Tell them that they are just like having another child, and treat them that way too (phrases like “can you handle that small task?” and “I have to remind you a million times because I know you’ll forget!” are perfect).

4. Pretend you are going to do something they want you to do just to get them off your back, then don’t do it (while telling yourself that it’s really their fault you’re lying, I mean, come on, if they weren’t so needy and demanding you wouldn’t have had to lie!)

5. When they do something you asked them to, rather than thanking them, say things like “Well for once you followed through!” Tell yourself they won’t do it next time, its just a fluke. Stay cynical.

6. Don’t remind yourself, (or your spouse) what you know about real stresses and hardships in their life that make it hard for them to be the person they really want to be. You must act as though they could easily be pleasant and helpful and when they aren’t that way the only explanation is that they are SIMPLY CHOOSING not to.

7. Meditate on the idea that committed love is just a hoax, no one can really do it, people are too different, who wants one partner anyway? Think on your friend who’s been married 10 times. This must be proof. (DON’T think on the couples you know who somehow seem to be so close through the years, or deep yearnings in your heart to be known and accepted; keep that stuff pushed down!!)

8. Assume the worst – at all times! They most definitely purposefully forgot your birthday, just to hurt you; she’s bringing up that worry not because it is a real worry, but just because she likes to see you suffer.

9. Spend time wondering if you didn’t just choose the wrong person (rather than thinking about what you could do differently in the relationship). Focus on the idea that if you had just waited and married so-in-so, everything would be different, you’d have the life you want. Don’t let yourself think about how you felt about your partner in the beginning or factors that may have changed your relationship.

10. Never, I repeat NEVER consider your own role in your current struggles with your partner (especially not how you are so critical about the dishes, or how you tune them out every time they start talking about something they are worried about).

11. Above all, tell yourself you don’t really need them, what they do doesn’t effect you. You can leave any time and be fine.

Of course, if for any reason you’re interested in something else… something like a longer and healthier life; quicker recovery from physical and mental health problems; a significantly lowered chance of addiction; a more satisfied sex life; and a healthier next generation… if you’re interested in that, well, you might want to try something else.

(If you want to find out more about these claims about what a healthy relationship can do for you and how to do it, read Dr. Sue Johnson’s Love Sense.)

Emily Savage, M.MFT, LMFT-Associate


Day 12 | What did January ever do to you?

We’ve all got those ticks, those natural irritants that get under our skin. Leaving the seat up or down, for example, can really set a person off. Or being forced by your straight-A kid to watch the presidential debate when Dancing with the Stars is on the next channel over. Or that plate of enchiladas doused in onions when you clearly said, “No onions.”

Yep, this world’s got it in for us.

What else pushes your buttons? The month of January? It sure seems like it. If an alien race suddenly decided to descend to Earth and observe the way we humans “go all out” in December with our holiday parties and seasonal celebrations, they might conclude that January is going to be a real you-know-what for us. Surely, January must be the worst month of the year, because we humans sure go overboard before it gets here.

But what did January ever do to us? It’s not like January is an unimportant month. For businesses, January is very important. It means recommitting to the business plan, developing new ideas to maximize on profit, and continuing to provide customers with a satisfactory product. For individuals, January means a fresh start, the kind of fresh start that the rest of the year just can’t seem to provide.

We get so wrapped up in the month of December that we forget just how solid of a month January is. January didn’t really do anything to us, but because we love to celebrate the end of things, we don’t pay much attention to what’s coming next.

When you were in school, and you just finished finals, did you immediately hit the books again? Of course not! You probably went out to celebrate with friends and family. We enjoy relaxing after a long challenge or struggle, and the end of the year, this month of December, is no different.

But January is coming, and the best way to both enjoy the end of the year and ring in the new one is to practice moderation and ease into the transition. You don’t always have to have a Mardi Gras before Lent.

Let’s instead take some time to gather perspective this December and remember all the good things that happened throughout the year both in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And in the process, let’s begin turning our attention to all the great things sure to come when our good friend January pays us his annual visit. January is coming.

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 11 | Beating the holiday blues

So this guy walks into a bar. Then another guy walks into the bar. And then another. And another. Pretty soon you’ve got a full house, and you realize what the big deal is. They’re here for the holidays.

Their heads are low. Their voices are soft. Underneath the sparkling red reindeer cutouts and glittering green garland strung above the counter, everyone here’s got the wintery blues.

Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you’re considering joining them. There’s a reason for that.

For many, this holiday season is the first one they’ll be celebrating following a loss in the family, the loss of a job, a fractured relationship, or any number of big life transitions.

From the outside looking in, the pain they must feel may be difficult to comprehend. From the inside looking out, the pain may be difficult to explain. But the holidays are here, nonetheless, and grappling with the new “normal” doesn’t have to debilitate us.

The reality is this time of year can be really difficult for a number of people for a number of reasons. This doesn’t mean that we do anything less to mark the occasion or that we stop celebrating the season altogether. It does mean that we’re mindful of others and how their experiences this past year may have deeply affected them. Compassion is critical.

If we ourselves are feeling the holiday blues, we have the opportunity to embrace our new “normal,” instead of choosing to reject it. We have the opportunity to start this new chapter of our lives on the right foot, which means it may actually be a good time to start a new tradition.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something new. It can be as spontaneous as going to the movies with friends one night to watch the worst reviewed film of the year. Or start a Christmas potluck and show the world how good you are at making green bean casserole. Just remember, it’s a tradition, and that means you’ve got to keep at it, this year and the next.

Whatever tradition you start, turn it into a bookmark to celebrate the next chapter in your life, to passionately embrace the new “normal,” and to turn those holiday blues bright red and green.

-Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 10 | The bird didn’t sh*t on you. The bird just sh*t.

“I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead, others come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m not going to name names because that would be rude. But, you and I know that there are times when our perspective warps our life.

Take the holiday party. We have high expectations when we put on an event or a dinner or a gathering or a party. We exhaust ourselves, trying to achieve a level of perfection and excellence for all the people that attend. That may not be a realistic goal, and when people step into those occasions and have a different response, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you or what you’ve done to prepare for that event.

Take the proverbial bird, carefree and excited, who sails 75 feet above your head when all of a sudden…. Holy crap! (You’re half-right…)

Really, you think that bird picked you out for this honor?

No, no. It didn’t. That is not how the bird works.

When it comes to holiday gatherings, you must know by now that people show up with their own Santa bag full of emotions, expectations, and behaviors.

Their baggage most likely will have nothing to do with you, but when we see the baggage being slung around, we do what so many others do and we believe (if not say), “When I see you do that, the story I make up in my head is that I am to blame, I’m an idiot, I’m a worthless blah, blah, blah….”

We personalize others’ stuff when they bring it to our parties or gatherings. And, if we’ve been spending too much time with Mr. Eggnog, those feelings tend to be way exaggerated.

So, when you experience or see the bird doing it’s business during the holidays—at your party or one you’re at, remember this: The bird didn’t sh*t on you, the bird just sh*t. It’s what birds do. It’s not personal.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 9 | Is this really rest?

“When you can’t wait for your ship to come in, you’ve got to row out to it.” – Greer Garson

I love Greer Garson. Not just for the wisdom she left us (may she rest in peace), but for her silky, smooth voice that comforted me when I was a kid and ready to relax a little during the holidays.

I remember plopping down in front of our sorta-color TV and listening to the soothing story-telling voice of Ms. Garson in the 1968 TV holiday classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.” You’ll remember the program if you’ve seen it because the characters were Claymation. And, don’t deny it if you’ve seen it and really liked it. It’s a classic.  And that’s just one of the many great shows and movies this time of year.

We all need rest, and the holidays seem like the ‘perfect’ time to rest. But, sometimes we make a mistake when we think, “I have to go from all that I’ve been doing to absolutely nothing and that’s going to recharge my batteries.”

No, that actually may not be the case.

There’s a lot of data in the exercise and physiology field that speaks to the value of “active recovery.”

Yes, you heard me correctly, you actually recover better from fatigue when you still keep a little bit of momentum in your life—not when you go from doing a lot to doing nothing.

I would encourage a little bit of caution when we’re tempted to totally veg for days on end. Too much of a good thing can end up putting us in a place that’s not as healthy as we would like.

What I would encourage is to make sure that your rest is restorative.

By the way, have you ever seen Elf? Let me tell you about that show…okay, another time.


Day 8 | Just keep shut your mouth

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” – Ebenezer Scrooge

Wow, they clearly left that part out of the made for TV movie. Scrooge was a little over the top, but you get the point in a hurry.

And, when it comes to family, well…families can make us crazy like nobody else can during the holidays.

There’s nothing like family—joy, sorrow, expense and generosity all rolled into one!

At the holiday season, when it comes to families, we often fall back or get pushed into old roles and patterns before we can say, “Don’t be a Scrooge!”

Try to be more aware when family is pulling or pushing you off the deep end, and I encourage you to talk to your spouse before embarking on a visit to family over the holidays.

That lovely bride of mine…I can’t tell you how many times we’ll leave some Christmas family event, and she’s like, “Why did you do that?”

And I’m like, “I don’t know, man. I do not know. I have no idea!”

Sometimes, all she has to do is just give me the look.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at her back and said, “What is wrong with me?”

(Rhetorical! Don’t answer, please).

And you know this already: Carping at each other does nothing for your marriage. Studies have proven that couples that stop complaining at each other—and actually learn to communicate well with one another—see their marital satisfaction improve.

I think I know one of the secrets to dealing with family craziness, bickering with the spouse, feeling like an idiot.

Just keep your mouth shut. Enough said.


– Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 7 | Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

“People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.”  ~Author Unknown

Yes!  That guy has it right.

“Christmas is the only time of the year in which one can sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of socks.”
– Comedian Rick Sutter

I’ll be here all week!  That’s what I’m talking about.  This can’t be a surprise, you will never be around this much sugar and butter products in your life.

Okay, you get it. Christmas is not a license for overindulgence. Whether it’s food, alcohol, spending money on gifts…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

This time of year, too many of us celebrate the substance—not the season.

We need to be mindful that food and alcohol can be easy substitutes and distractions for emotions, or for our thoughts about occasions.

Before you step into a situation where the proverbial eggnog will flow, I’d encourage you to have a goal in mind when it comes to the food you want to eat or drinks that you want to have. And be prepared to stop when you’ve achieved your goals.

I would encourage you to be mindful of the environment that you’re in. We sometimes get swept away by our surroundings or the emotions of the situation—and overindulge.  Just because your friend is on their 3rd piece of pumpkin pie does not mean you should be.  I have 2 boys in college and a handful of nephews the same ages, if I’m not careful, I will be physically ill.  I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself that I don’t have that much testosterone any more, I can’t eat like that and function well.

When we don’t have a goal in mind, sometimes we find ourselves looking back at what was to have been a joyous time and having a lot of feelings of guilt and shame and remorse.

Give yourself a plan to navigate the food and alcohol festivities of the holiday season – not because you should, but because you can. You got this.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 6 | There’s always Uber

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

One of the most popular gifts this holiday season will be a gift card for Uber.

Not the uber like in, “he’s uber famous.” But the Uber as in the app on your phone that delivers a car to your location within five to 10 minutes. It’s a taxi by phone app.

Uber is a fabulous tool during the holidays—not just to give as a gift card, but to use yourself. If you plan to go out and celebrate with some eggnog (or other alcoholic beverage), you need to have a plan. This could be a family gathering or the company holiday party or dinner with friends—whatever it is, you need to plan your race and race your plan.

A plan is especially important because sometimes emotions run high this time of year, and we sometimes move down a path of thinking that says, “I have to go and do this, and I don’t want to stay long, and I don’t have a graceful out, and I have lots of anxiety about this.” Before you know it, you’re feeling stress and tempted to over indulge to get through the anxiety.

That’s when the plan kicks in. Look at your list of pre-planned options, and on that list should be Uber.

Uber is all about planning ahead, but without a lot of hassle.

I work with some professional triathletes, and to calm their nerves we work through their individual race plan. They don’t want to suddenly become anxious in the middle of the race, feeling like all their options are closed. No, they have a list of options because they have planned to race and when they’re in the middle of it, they race their plan. And you should, too.

Anxiety decreases about the holidays when you prepare a plan to deal with the variables, especially parties. Be Uber ready.

– Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 5 | If it’s the thought that counts, why’d you spend so much money?

Just how obsessive is the American culture about buying just the right holiday gift?

I don’t know, Kevin, how obsessive are we?

We’re so obsessive that in the UK—which doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving—shoppers there have adopted our Black Friday concept. I was gobsmacked!

We’re so obsessive about shopping online that we’re setting records every year! Online shoppers in the United States will spend an estimated $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion this year and 62% from $202 billion in 2011! I’m in the wrong business!

We’re so obsessive, that the QVC shopping TV channel (“Quality, Value, Convenience”) runs in six countries—China among them—and reaches more than 235 million households! (“…act now, not much time remaining for this special…”)

Whether it’s at work, with your boss, or your employees, or it’s a mom and a dad looking at what they’re getting for kids, or it’s a husband and wife, or it’s people who are dating—well, we like to buy things for them.

But time out. If it’s the thought that counts during the holidays, what are we asking our gifts to do? Sometimes we ask gifts to do things they can’t do.

Before you spend the money on a present, do a little self check. Am I asking this gift to repair a relationship? Am I asking it to bring us closer? When we ask gifts to do more than they can, we might be heading down a bad road, open for all manner of disappointed and resentment. If you’re not sure what that looks like, it usually starts with “That’s the last time I will ever…Well, see if I ever…., Did you see her, she didn’t even….”

But if my gift is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings about a particular relationship, then it might just be the perfect way to thoughtfully communicate the thought.

Bottom line: If it’s the thought that counts this holiday season, let’s be mindful. You might just save a little money…and some obsessive, compulsive tendencies when it comes to shopping!

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360