Valentine’s Day has become less of a celebration of adoration and more of a way for greeting card companies to sell stuffed bears with heart shaped eyes. If you’re a cynic, or a realist, this arbitrary show of affection once a year feels as fake as the plastic roses that invade supermarkets this time of year. Yet, despite what Hallmark might suggest, the origins of Valentine’s Day are actually less about boxes of chocolate and more about “love”.
As charming as the cards, poems, dinners, flowers, gadgets, jewelry and perfume are, you don’t need to purchase things to show someone that you love them. Your wallet and relationship will feel much healthier if you stop worrying about “what special thing to do on Valentine’s” and start thinking about the little everyday ways to show you care.
Love experts and relationships scientists, Drs. Julie and John Gottman, have known for years that small gestures – done, noticed, received and thanked – play a huge role in daily connectedness with our partners. Their research with couples tells us that very simple things such as eye contact with our partners, especially when they are talking with us makes our body have a physiological response. This bodily response helps us to be closer emotionally. Being closer emotionally and feeling loved go hand-in-glove (or even Cupid-in-nappy).
And, eye contact isn’t the only easy way to show loved ones that we love, appreciate and enjoy them. Smiling can go a long way and it makes you and your partner feel nice.
Kisses and touching doesn’t have to be reserved for the dim light of the bedroom, an affectionate kiss on the lips – which is defined as more than a dry puckered peck and less than open mouthed wrestling – is a nice way to say “I love you.” Even a brief and simple shoulder, neck or foot rub is nice, and we aren’t talking oils and lit candles here, although that can be very good too.
From a young age we are taught small niceties; hello, goodbye, please and thank you, but suddenly forget them when we become used to someone’s presence. These little polite gestures can make your loved one feel appreciated.
Make meeting at the end of the day a big deal, just for a few minutes stop what you are doing and hug, kiss, ask each other how you are and then give each other space if you then need it. Connect during the day, every day, no matter how busy you each are. Make sure you respond if your partner reaches out to connect with you – text or email back. Even if you feel you have nothing to say.
Sometimes one partner can feel like they are always left to do a certain job. Let your partner know that you can help out by doing a job when it needs doing, as well thanking your partner when they have done a job.
Share special memories and spend some quiet time flicking through photos together, making nice comments. Pass on compliments from other people, as well as complimenting your partner. Notice them and appreciate being noticed. Be considerate.
You might be thinking “yeah all that stuff is easy but I don’t want to do it when they’re not putting in any effort”… how do you know your partner isn’t feeling the exact same way?
It can be really helpful when people’s thinking just shifts a little. It is important to recognise that what we put in to our relationships helps to create what the relationship is, so if you are “putting in” something that is negative you need to take note of this. Remember, no two people are going to have the same experience as any other two. A “relationship” is what two individuals bring when they come together and the dynamic between them is “their relationship”.
Philosopher and relationship commentator, Alain de Botton in a School of Life YouTube clip highlights that a marriage or committed couple relationship is very much like a business agreement. In the business of love there is much to do; tasks, accomplishments, goals (daily, monthly, yearly), growth, cut back and ongoing effort, along with communication, negotiation and celebration.
Our Couple Connect course helps couples at all stages of their relationship to “fine tune” their connection and communication in their relationship. Many couples find attending one of our couple courses particularly beneficial in setting aside time for the relationship, focusing on it, putting effort in and being assisted to do this with structure.
Couple Connect will be offered four times throughout this year with the first course starting next week on 21 February. In the second half of the year we will be running our very popular six week course, Building Better Relationships which goes further into couple relationship dynamics.