It’s Valentine’s Day again, the one day of the year specifically dedicated to lovers. And in the true tradition of Valentine’s Day, restaurants are booked out, florists are run off their feet and chocolate retailers are emptying their shelves.
Valentine’s day is a time when lovers make the effort, take the time and invest the energy and money to celebrate their relationship(s). And this is wonderful. But as a sex and relationships specialist, I can’t help wonder if Valentine’s Day is the only time in a whole year that lovers show their love, appreciation and gratitude towards their partner. I work with countless couples who for many various and complicated reasons are struggling in their romantic relationship. And what I’ve noticed is that all too often the relationship has been neglected; expressions of love disappear, there is no longer time to connect, disappointment, resentment and anger build. Slowly but surely the relationship is put at risk.
Clearly, working with couples in understanding their difficulties and resolving them is the first step to healing a hurting relationship. But I’ve also discovered that an essential part of the process includes teaching my clients to get into the habit of expressing gratitude, love and appreciation for their relationship, for their partner and in general for their lives. What I mean is to incorporate communication of their love and celebration of the positives into their daily lives…sort of like celebrating Valentine’s Day every day! You could even try this approach for a month. We could call it the “Valentine’s Month Challenge.
Now, if you’re struggling to think of enough ways you could possibly show love towards your partner everyday for 28 days, don’t worry, help is at hand. A great place to start is by understanding your partner’s “love language”, as explained by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages. In essence, there are five fundamental ways of expressing love that we understand, connect with and respond positively to. Most us have a primary love language and a secondary love language but we might also respond equally to all five love languages. Here they are. Take some time to reflect on which languages both you your partner understand and respond to.
Quality Time- Receiving a partner’s attention means I feel loved and valued.
Receiving Gifts- When I receive a gift I know I am truly loved.
Acts of service- When my partner does something for me, I know they really care.
Words of Affirmation- Hearing “I love you” means a lot to me. I need to partner to verbally communicate their love and appreciation for me.
Physical Touch- When my partner touches me in the right ways and at the right times, I know that I am loved.
Why not try asking your partner which love language they prefer? You could even write each other a list of your preferred love expressions. This way there is no space for confusion or misinterpretation. You can entitle your list: “I feel loved and valued when…”
By expressing love, appreciation and gratitude towards your partner on a regular basis you are constantly reminding them (and yourself!) of how important they are to you. You strengthen your loving bond and perpetuate a cycle of mutual love exchanging, in-turn creating more good, warm, fuzzy, loving feelings. And instead of taking advantage of one day a year to express how you feel to the one you love, you’ll be turning your daily grind into a love fest.
Reference: Chapman, G. D. (2010). The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Northfield Pub.