This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day. As a relationship therapist and coach, you might think I’d love this holiday, but not so much. Why might I have mixed feelings about the holiday focused on love, and romance and fancy date nights?
Generally speaking, this holiday tends to do a couple of things wrong in my book. First, it puts way too much pressure on one day, including making any singletons feel like total misfits or losers.
Second, it tends to create the illusion that what makes the relationship great is candy, flowers and overly expensive dinners. It reinforces the notion that it’s all about that night and going overboard there can counter-act 364 days of not really paying attention.
This year, I am going to give you some REAL tips for celebrating the love you have for your partner. (And, singles, you do still totally matter on February 14th!)
- Make your partner’s favorite dinner at home and spend the time talking about all your favorite moments in the relationship. Spend time digging into why those moments mattered to each of you.
- Make a commitment to a date-night at a minimum of once a month and stick to the rule of not talking about the kids or work. If you can make it every two weeks, that’s even better. Date night can be creatively done in-home if necessary. If you are celebrating your love, why stick to one night a year; make it 12 to 24 instead!
- Each day create a gratitude journal about your partner. Find a minimum of 3 things you appreciate or are grateful for in your partner and spend 5 minutes actually telling him or her at the end of each day. Actually vocalizing your appreciation and gratitude every day goes a long way to increasing the connection.
- Take a trip down memory lane and remember when you first fell in love. Do you remember the first time you realized it? Share with each other your memories from that time and what it meant to you to love each other.
- Update your “Love Maps” (Psychologist John Gottman’s term for knowing all about your partner). Unless you are still in early dating, you likely haven’t been keeping up with all the little details. People change. Do you still know your partner’s favorite movie or song? How about something on their bucket list of dreams that hasn’t happened yet?
- The next time you argue, stop whatever you are doing to be “right” and see if there might be more than one right way. Try to really hear what your partner is saying and feeling before you try to change their mind to your viewpoint.
- Put together a photo book of your favorite photos of your time together. Write something on each page letting your partner know what was awesome about that time or experience for you. Think about including some unexpected photos, maybe even a time that seemed challenging but turned out to really grow your relationship.
- Contact a local nursery and arrange to buy a tree, to be delivered and planted in an appropriate season. Use that tree as a living symbol of your commitment to “water” and grow your relationship.
- Find something from the recent past (think about 1-2 weeks) where maybe you could have been a better partner. Bring it up in a sincere apology, letting your partner know you understand what went wrong and how you plan to do it better next time. Was your other half particularly patient when you were crabby or a bit of a pain? Say thank you for the patience and willingness to let you get back up after you fall down as you let them know you’re working on better.
- Make a commitment to have a weekly “family meeting”. Use this time to talk through the up-coming week, making sure you are each aware of everyone’s schedule. Make sure to write in a little time to just catch up on your week and how the other is doing. Is there something important or stressful or exciting coming up in the week? Write it down if you have to and follow up after it’s happened to let your beloved know it matters to you too.
In short, don’t just mark off one day in February to really show your honey that he or she is number one in your book. Say the words but also BE the love that makes the difference. Flowers are lovely. Do you know which are your partner’s favorites? Get those once in awhile throughout the year. Chances are they are more cost effective on dates other than Feb. 14th and they might mean more then too!