Valentine’s Day – the day where hearts, flowers, red roses, cards, loving words and novelty chocolates intermingle with expectation, excitement, hope and romance. From school children to couples of inestimable age and longevity, there is the excitement of a declaration of love.
St Valentine, allegedly, sitting in prison awaiting his death at the hands of Emperor Claudius for daring to keep marrying couples despite an edict against it, in 1st Century BC, would have had no idea that his letter to the prison guard’s daughter on the day of his death, signed Your Valentine, could possibly spark the longings and hopes for many around the world so many centuries later.
Today Valentine’s Day is a way to say out loud how we feel about the ones we love or want to love! For couples already together it is an opportunity to show our on-going affection. For others further into a relationship, it may be a chance to reassure our loved ones, that despite the difficulties, we do still love each other.
Women, in particular, seem to put great store in receiving a token of our partner’s love and attention. Men only need to surf the internet to get a plethora of helpful hints from what to cook –aphrodisiac foods like rocket, oysters and dark chocolate; where to eat; what to buy (red shoes!) and more.
But perhaps of more meaning is the actual words that should go in the card.
Though many of us might resist the commercial nature of February 14, the focus on love and cherishing our loved one is still a good one.
As a relationship therapist who often works with couples considering separation, I applaud any opportunity to talk about our love for each other. It is so easy, in the midst of children, jobs, financial worries, extended family issues, personal goals, to forget how our partner can support us to get through our daily lives.
The couple relationship is the secure foundation for any of the dramas of day to day life. But it’s also often the easiest to neglect. If you are in a relationship, use this opportunity and take time today to nurture the most important person in your life.
Here are three tips that might make this your best Valentine’s Day ever and remember, you don’t have to only do these on this day!
- Remember to focus on feelings. If you are giving a gift or card, really think about your partner and write your appreciation of them. It may be things they do, qualities you see in them, physical characteristics, or fun things you do together. Fill the card with all the things you love about them, what touches you. Look past your struggles and difficulties together or any conflicts and hurts, to what holds the two of you together, and write about that!
- Do it anyway. Many men and some women find it difficult to give gifts, not because they don’t want to, but because of the fear of getting it wrong. The intention is there, but the will to carry it out gets stymied. I know because I am one of these people. I have had to learn the hard way to give gifts and breathe. I’ve learned that it’s the act of giving the gift, even if it doesn’t quite hit the spot, that is often cherished.
- Make your relationship your number one priority. All relationships require work, just like a healthy body or mind. Listen to your partner, get curious about them, plan a fun trip together or decide to spend an hour or two today or this weekend, just the two of you.
If you feel the spark has gone this Valentine’s Day, as we often can do, look for help. Maybe get a kick start with a few hours of counselling with a specialist relationship counsellor or do a couples workshop together. On average couples seek help seven years too late. Statistics show that at least 50 per cent of relationships are in difficulty. Even those that are going along fine can be enhanced. There has been a lot of research into what makes relationships work in the last decade.
Valentine’s Day signifies the importance of love and relationship. Consolidate your relationship, remember to laugh and love and share fun times with your partner. This could be the biggest gift you give your children, your extended family, your job, and each other!
Brenda Rawlings is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Workshop Presenter and Dean of the Imago Relationships International Institute. www.relationships.co.nz