Valentine’s Day is usually filled with chocolate, romance or candlelight dinners. These are traditional (and often, last minute 😉 ways to show love. But what do we do the rest of the time?
Here are 5 suggestions for the rest of the year (and Valentine’s too 🙂
About 10 years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. This book really rocked my world – my parents are divorced and I didn’t grow up with ideal role models when it comes to making love last … let alone work. I was one of those people with my head in the clouds about Love (yes, with a capital L)… it was something mystical, magical, like a perfect Platonic ideal that never materializes in a suitable person or real relationship. In short, nobody and no relationship was good enough. I was a serial dater and relationship-phobic in part because I didn’t really understand how love is expressed.
There are 3 main takeaways from the book that really helped me and I hope they help you.
First, there 5 primary ways to show love. Check them out, and also the handy chart below.
Use words of affirmation to show you appreciate and care about your loved one (i.e., words that are unique and specific to your loved one, not generic cliches)
Encourage and acknowledge appreciation often, leave hidden notes
Don’t Guilt-trip or blame, or make unconstructive criticism”
B) QUALITY TIME
Prioritize thoughtful, one-on-one conversations
Create special rituals together, like “together time”, coffee, walks, watching and talking about a TV series, or weekend getaways
Don’t Let distractions get in the way of one-on-one time, like using your phone. Don’t allow too much time in between “together time”
C) GIFT GIVING
Prioritize your partner in special ways, from small token gifts or treats, to bigger surprises
Thoughtful gifts and gestures, doesn’t have to be fancy! Surprise them with a card or ticket to a show, whatever your partner likes
Don’t Forget special occasions and don’t forget to show appreciation when receiving gifts
D) ACTS OF SERVICE
Show you’re partnered with them, use action phrases like “Would it help if I…” or “You pick the movie tonight!”
Share in the daily workload, take on tasks, do chores together, treat them to breakfast in bed
Don’t Prioritize other people over your spouse during “home time”, forget or fail to follow through on responsibilities or promises
E) PHYSICAL TOUCH
Use non-verbal body language and physical communication to show you care
Show affection by hugging, kissing, holding hands, rubbing neck and shoulders, physical intimacy
Don’t Neglect physical intimacy or touch for long periods
How to speak your spouce’s love language:
People usually have a preference of how to give and receive love – and sometimes they don’t match up. For example, you may find Physical Touch the most nurturing, but feel more comfortable giving Quality Time.
Here’s 2 exercises to supercharge your love life:
1) Take another look at the 5 ways of showing love and jot down your favorite ways to give and receive it. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, either. Everyday life is not Hollywood. You could recall your most nurturing relative, whose presence you always delight in. Aunt? Father? Grandmother? How do they show their love to you? Then observe yourself in action … what are the ways that you show care and concern for your loved ones, including friends and family? Is it Quality Time by meeting in person or with phone calls or Whats App? Or are you fastidious about sending birthday cards and gifts? Are you a big hugger? Write it down and get clear about your preferences for giving and receiving.
2) If you’re in a relationship, then try to figure out the top ways your partner likes to give and receive love. (If you’re not, then think about people in your life you want to build closeness and intimacy ?with.) How do they like to give love and receive affection?
What’s interesting is that much of the time, our ways of giving and receiving don’t necessarily match with our partner’s or loved one’s preferences. Try bringing this up in a conversation. Or just do a bit of gentle detective work to learn more about our partner’s or loved ones’ preferences.
Also, here are some fun games:
Finally, Takeaway #3
Take this Valentine’s and the rest of February to experiment and get out of your comfort zone. Try to match the ways you show love to your partner or loved ones’ preferred way of receiving love.
Do they like Acts of Service?
Surprise them with breakfast in bed or ask for their shopping list and offer to go shopping
Do they prefer Physical Touch?
Shower them with twice or three times the affection you are comfortable giving.
What about Gift Giving?
How about a gift certificate to the manicurist or a training session at the gym, or plan ahead for a special date night at a new restaurant.
Schedule 2 hours on the weekend and go to a park for a walk and talk. Bring some drinks and snacks to enjoy along the way and see where they take the conversation – encourage them to talk about what’s on their mind.
Get creative and leave some surprise notes this weekend in the fridge or on the coffee maker. Call in the middle of your busy day and tell them how much you appreciate them and what for (remember to make it specific 😉
The truth is that our comfort zones can end up making us uncomfortable and less happier than we deserve. We live life in the presence of others, we are dependent on our loved ones for care, support, inspiration, nurturance, and strength. If we just stay comfortable giving what we know how to give, then sometimes those around us feel less loved than they are or deserve. When feeling less loved turns into feeling ignored or underappreciated, this creates conflict and alienation, which is the opposite of feeling togetherness and community.
So this Valentine’s, let’s give the gift of empathy for others as well as self-reflection to ourselves around showing love in our important relationships. In my experience, the more I show love, the more love shows up.