Well, love it or hate it, friends, but Valentine’s Day is upon us. For some of us, this is an easy holiday to scoff at or ignore. For others, this day matters quite a lot. Me? I think I fall somewhere in the middle.
On the one hand, I think the expectations and stress of “doing it right” can really set us up to feel hurt, disappointed or feel as though we’ve failed. I really dislike that piece of the holiday the most.
Not to mention, many say that Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday. And they’re not wrong. There’s a reason roses and chocolates in red heart boxes are suddenly everywhere. (And thank goodness for Netflix, so we can avoid all those diamond jewelry commercials!)
But, what I think is really cool about Valentine’s Day is that it gives us a little nudge to celebrate the love we have in our lives--whether it’s romantic love or familial love or friendly love or even self love. It’s a reminder to pay attention and be intentional. Granted, we really should be doing this every single day of the year, but Valentine’s Day is as good an excuse as any to just start. And if you can make it a habit, even better!
As Julie & John Gottman of the Gottman Institute say, “Small things often.” Grand gestures of romance and adoration are great, but what’s really going to make your marriage last is in what you do most of the time, not once in a while. Love is a practice.
Of course, romance gets a little tricky when you have young kids or a new baby in the mix.
Sometimes that makes our old pre-baby styles of expression a bit harder to pull off. Suddenly a three-course meal at a four-star restaurant gets a little out of reach when you can’t secure a sitter, for example. A romantic weekend getaway without the kids? Sure sounds nice, but if the stress of pulling it off outweighs the short-term bliss, then it might have to wait till the kids are older or the money surplus is there.
Parenthood has a way of pushing us to reconsider our priorities. But that doesn’t mean that romantic love should be scratched off your list.
I’m not a fan of lower expectations--you don’t deserve less love after all. Our expectations just need to adapt. That means bending in new directions or changing shape, not cutting back.
I like to think of it instead like a garden. (If you have a brown thumb, bear with me! You’ll get the gist.)
If you’re someone who loves to garden, but you suddenly have less time or money or energy to devote to your beloved garden, don’t water it once and then cross your fingers. And definitely don’t stop gardening altogether!
Instead, maybe you plant fruits and vegetables instead of exotic flowers because they’ll feed you more. Maybe you plant things that require less water or sun because you know what will thrive here. Maybe you reshape or transplant the garden to make it more accessible to you. Maybe you bring your garden indoors so you can enjoy it more often. Maybe you boost it with some compost or fertilizer now and then.
The point is: Don’t neglect your love. Find new ways to nurture and shape it and it will continue to feed you in more nourishing ways.
So, back to Valentine’s Day. How can we apply the concept of “small things often” and adapting to our ever-changing needs as parenting couples to nurture the love we have with our partners?
I promise you can do it without the added pressure or spending a penny.
Here are some easy, free, thoughtful ideas (no hearts or cupids required!):
Send a sweet text to your partner to give them an emotional lift.
Get off work 30 minutes early just to spend a little extra time at home or to run a helpful errand for your partner.
Light dinner candles or use the good china at dinner. Make the everyday special--because it is.
Wear something that makes you feel good about yourself. Believe it or not, this will change the way you show up for others.
Lay out a blanket and have a picnic on the living room floor. Kids especially love this one, but honestly, it can be pretty romantic for late-night dinners after the baby is down for the night too.
Draw your partner a bath. (Options to leave him/her alone to recharge or keep him/her company in a more relaxed atmosphere.)
Tuck a sweet or sexy handwritten love note in their coat or pants pocket. Who wouldn’t love that?
Use a dry-erase marker or grease pencil on the bathroom tile or mirror to write a sexy or confidence-boosting note to your partner for them to find later.
Keep the TV off for an hour and try asking each other my Couples Conversation Starter questions (grab yours for free from the button below). You might be surprised by what you learn about each other!
Or, if you still really like the traditional Valentine’s type of celebration, you could opt to pick a different day this month to celebrate your relationship to avoid the overbooked restaurants and the pressure to “do it right” on Valentine’s Day.
Giving your presence and really seeing your partner is really what it’s about. All we ever really have is right now.
If Valentine’s Day is the thing we need to remind us to show up for our partners here and now, I’m on board with that. Whether or not you choose to celebrate the holiday, I’m wishing you a deeply fulfilling connection with your partner today and always. (And if your relationship “garden” needs a boost, couples therapy or a relationship workshop might be just the fertilizer your relationship needs.)
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? What will you do to today to nurture your connection with your partner? Spill it in the comments!
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