Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a day of candy, flowers, and greeting cards…or that’s what we tend to think of anyway because we’re a nation of chocoholics and grown-up big kids who still like stuffed animals. What would we associate Valentine’s Day with if instead we viewed it as a day to show love to our loved ones?
Here are a few tips to remember to make Valentine’s Day truly a day of love.
Remember everyone loves differently
Perhaps if we really viewed Valentine’s Day as a day of true love we would think less of clichés and more of the many different ways to show love. Each person in our life is different and unique and because of this they each have different love needs. This is the same concept behind the idea that in order to parent each of our kids the same we need to parent them differently.
I love Gary Chapman’s love languages. He hypothesizes that some people feel love through acts of service or words while others appreciate gifts or time or touch. Often we’re a mixture.
Tip number 1: this Valentine’s Day let’s make a goal to show love in a way that each individual will appreciate. Perhaps our spouse would appreciate an experience spending time together (like a scenic drive) while our grandma would be grateful for a shoveled walkway and a plate of cookies.
Romance is created by us; it isn’t magic dust
I’ll admit, I am a sucker for chick lit and romantic comedies. Perhaps the greatest downfall of this is that sometimes we are led to believe that romance should be magical, spontaneous, and instant. Instead, romance often has a healthy dose of planning, hard work, and sacrifice involved.
Going along with this, it takes two to tango. It’s not either partner’s responsibility to create all the romance. Rather, both should put effort into creating moments that are memorable and meaningful to each other.
So, tip number 2 is to go out and create the special night that you want. Love isn’t just a noun (like love potion). It’s also a verb, meaning it takes action and effort.
Romance sometimes requires spelling it out
It would be awesome if every loving moment was a surprise and our spouse or partner could mind-read and know exactly what we need. As I’m sure every couple that’s been dating longer than 3 days knows, this isn’t always the case.
Tip number 3: let’s blow away the myth that romance has to be a surprise and instead communicate that we would really appreciate some roses or a massage. Yes, it might feel awkward at first and perhaps we even feel initially gypped out of the magical rom-com feel. But, that’s okay. In the long run I believe we’ll have better, stronger, and more romantic relationships. Remember, our partner isn’t a mind reader, romance often needs to be communicated, and our partner may show love in completely different ways than we do.
Love is not self-serving
It has often been said that true love means putting someone’s needs above your own. How true this is yet how hard it is to master! Try thinking about someone who is an awesome example to you of loving others. I’ll bet he or she is constantly helping others feel happier whether it’s through kind words, big hugs, or serving them.
A committed relationship means that a lot of thoughtfulness, consideration, and even sacrifice will be present. That’s a good thing. How many divorces could have been avoided if we as a people were more committed to helping others instead of leaving if we weren’t having fun or feeling good? I love the principle that marriage should be a covenant with a higher purpose, not a contract that we can get out of if we aren’t enjoying it as much as we thought. Now, I’m not saying that love should be like hunger strikes in order to achieve a higher purpose. How awful would that be? Most of the time we will feel happy and fulfilled when we give and receive true love. But, let’s remember that we all have hard days and disagreements and let’s try a little harder to be selfless. Charity and service are key components of love.
Tip number 4: seriously consider this Valentine’s Day is how we can show love instead of focusing on our top pick for dinner and eying what jewelry we secretly hope he’ll pick out.
Just a little caveat: being self-less does NOT mean that we let others walk all over us. Of course we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and there are some things that we should never compromise on. But, by and large I believe we would have happier marriages and relationships if we focused on loving others first instead of being loved first.
Not all love is romantic
Romantic love is only one very small portion of love. This Valentine’s Day let’s remember all the different kinds of love we want to celebrate: the love for our friends and neighbors, for our parents and children, even love for the larger community. There are so many different people who could use some extra love this Valentine’s Day. Tip number 5: think about someone else you could express your love and gratitude to today.
Certainly, non-romantic love also feeds into romantic love. Not every day is a candle-lit dinner. But, when I take time to “smell the roses” I realize how grateful I am for many of the small, common-place and even mundane things that my husband does. In the end, this makes me even more attracted to him.
I recognize that a huge percentage of adults don’t have a significant someone in their life. Perhaps Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to remember two things. Tip 6.0: Treat yourself with love and compassion. Whether you are single or in a relationship, taking good care of yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually is vitally important. Check out our post on self-compassion here- Dr. Neff’s research is amazing! Or, check out another post on self-acceptance here: Dr. Brown’s research is also incredible.
Tip 6.1: Remember many people love you, even if you can’t feel it at the moment or aren’t in a relationship. Perhaps today is a great day to do different mental exercises to try to push past any negatives and remember the good people in your life who love you. Like I said above, not all love is romantic. Like I’m saying below, gratitude is an important part of our love life.
Tip number 7: Last but certainly not least, be grateful for all the love you feel in your life. If we open our eyes I think our hearts will be warmed by both the small and large acts of love in our life. Let’s express our thanks to others for the help, support, and love they give to us.