Valentine’s Day (V-Day) is on the horizon. Some of us have special plans for next Thursday, February 14, including dinner reservations, a fun night out, or an overnight stay at a romantic hotel. Others have splurged on special gifts such as jewelry, and have plans in the works for a dream vacation or maybe even a new car. And still others are keeping it simple with just a box of candy, flowers, something for his man-cave or something for her meditation space.
But V-Day isn’t just about the mushy, romantic side of being in a relationship—or giving presents. It’s an opportunity to change things up by opening your heart and giving each other the full measure of your love.
Here are 12 ways to deepen your relationship by giving . . . of yourself.
1. Make a list of 25 things you love about your significant other. It could be a quality you appreciate or admire, a way he or she shows love for you, or anything else that stirs your emotions. Print your list on a colorful piece of paper and give it to him or her.
2. Write down all the ways you’d like to rededicate yourself to the success of your relationship. Print it out and read it aloud.
3. Give your partner a list stating “25 ways you can bring out the best in me.” Provide all the keys, passcodes, and answers to opening your heart, much like you would when giving an open-book test.
4. Make a list of “10 conversations we need to have to strengthen our relationship and deepen our commitment.” Set up a weekly schedule for having each discussion. To best ensure successful communication; and build trust, safety, and confidence in your ability to talk things through, please go slowly, check your defenses at the door, be a great listener, show compassion and understanding, and remain humble and honest.
5. Block out a few hours to explore in detail what you would like to have happen in 2019 and 2020. Begin with “In my perfect world . . .” and go through everything you can think of, including the time you spend together and issues relating to health, work, travel, finances, home, etc.).
6. Beginning this V-Day, get into the habit of sharing your feelings with each other on a regular basis. Putting everything out on the table where you can “process” it and deepen your mutual understanding is crucial. Avoiding unsettling issues might be easier in the short term, but the debt will eventually come due. Nothing is more important than staying ahead of the pain curve by bringing things up instead of hiding, denying, repressing, and avoiding them. Making it safe for the other person to talk openly without the fear of running into a wall of defensiveness, insecurity, excuses, and/or justifications is key. Listen to each other, and reveal your innermost feelings and desires. This means no judgment, sarcasm, brooding, and/or hijacking an issue from the other.
7. Starting this V-Day, begin to use daily check-ins to stay connected. Check-ins represent the connective tissue in every good relationship. Airing out the day’s “best and worst” and “high and low” moments opens up fresh avenues of communication. Like a line of credit, you’ll know it’s there to fall back on and tap into when you need it. Plus, it’s more effective than mind-reading.
Assuming that your partner knows how you feel or what you want is a recipe for disaster. Open communication provides a safe and familiar place for you to reconnect and ask for what you need.
8. Since all relationships are works in progress, make time over your romantic V-Day dinner to discuss how you can make continual improvements. Things don’t have to be perfect in order to be great. Neither do either of you. Growth and improvement come from getting to know each other better, setting new boundaries, solidifying new agreements, discovering new horizons, and continuing to make time for your relationship. Strong partnerships require a strong work ethic; as well as a willingness to learn, change, grow, sacrifice, repair, forgive, and renew.
9. Rededicate yourself this V-Day to mastering the art of humble forgiveness. We’re all going to screw up, regress, fall short, and have lapses in our sensitivity to our partners, so we’d better learn how to apologize and forgive. Giving ourselves and each other second chances, where appropriate, can be a blessing—an opportunity to heal and a platform from which to reach new heights.
10. Schedule play dates after V-Day. Making time to frolic and explore new avenues is essential to invigorating your relationship. Whether it’s sitting out on the deck at sunset; or going to concerts, plays, or lectures, relationships need fun and light-heartedness to thrive. Pushing the “Refresh” button can be as simple as cooking a delicious dinner together, sleeping late on the weekend, volunteering together, setting aside a date night, taking salsa lessons, hiking a beautiful mountain trail, or going on a fun (spontaneous or planned) travel adventure.
11. Don’t force romance just because it’s V-Day. The timing may not be right. You may not be in a relationship. Or the feeling might not be there to do anything on this list. And that’s OK. There are times when we have suffered a loss, a setback, or rough stretch, when it’s just best to unplug and recuperate.
12. It’s sometimes OK to just be the giver, or the receiver, on V-Day. Things are not always balanced in our relationships. One of you may be hurting and the giving is one-sided. Being stubborn, staunchly self-reliant, and used to taking care of ourselves, it may take practice for us to become gracious receivers. Some of us are still learning how to sit still and allow ourselves to be nurtured. And if you’re used to being the receiver in your relationship, you may have to practice selfless giving, the art of being in service to your partner expecting nothing in return..
Love alone doesn’t make for a successful relationship. Couples who operate with a clear standard of care, trust, humility and integrity grow and flourish. Putting the other person’s well-being right up there with our own builds trust and confidence. Relationships are mysterious propositions. Each one is different. Allowing yours to become everything you want it to be means making sacrifices and communicating openly. At the core of every good relationship, there are two works in progress—ready to learn while improving themselves and each other.
Make your relationship your priority this V-Day by choosing a few things from this list and actually doing them. Share this blog with your partner, and perhaps get help from a coach or counselor, if necessary. Becoming a beloved companion and life partner may not be easy, but it can be an investment that pays huge dividends in this lifetime.