Valentine’s Day is this Friday and it is easily one of the most marketed, commercialized holidays out there. I was in Walmart the other day and the amount of Valentine’s balloons in there scared me a little bit. Any second I knew we’d all be a part of a real life scene from up and the store would start to lift off the ground. Do that many people really want a balloon to say I love you? Or chocolate for that matter?
When I was in my training for Counseling Psychology, I met with several couples having relationship issues. The #1 root of their problems wasn’t lack of balloons or celebration on Valentine’s Day, it was poor communication. Now that my husband and I have been married for almost 10 years I can totally see how anyone can let their marriage fall prey to the hustle and bustle of every day life. There are a million reasons for this:
We have to get to work on time.
We have to get the kids to school.
We have to make dinner.
We have ballgames, dance practice, (fill in the blank and multiply by 3)
Your spouse works late hours.
Your spouse travels.
He never even notices what I do around the house or with the kids.
She doesn’t understand how stressful my job is.
He doesn’t appreciate how hard I work for our family.
She doesn’t appreciate how hard I work for our family.
At what point during the survival of the day are you stopping to gush your undying love and affection for each other? It is tough. About mid way through our marriage, especially after we had 2 boys to run after, I found myself missing my husband. We saw each other every day, we slept in the same bed but I still missed him. How can this even happen? It’s easy. We weren’t making time to celebrate our marriage.
Stay with me here. I know some of you aren’t gushy and you are happy as a clam with exactly the way things are in your marriage – if that’s you, I love that. Contentment in your circumstances goes a long way toward happiness. But, if you are like me in any way, let me share with you some things we did to get the excitement back into our relationship.
1) We started leaving each other notes. Sometimes saying things, especially if it has been a long time since you have, can feel awkward. Writing them down is somehow easier yet just as powerful. We continue this to this day. I never tire of a note from my husband. Ever. It makes me smile, it sends me the message that I was worth his time and on his mind. It uplifts me and I try to do the same for him. This doesn’t have to be a full on love letter each time (although it definitely can be) a simple – I will miss you today or a text saying you are thinking of them goes a long way in rekindling that excitement you had in the beginning.
2) We made time to date each other. With a small baby we were not going to be going out on an actual date alone any time soon, it just wasn’t happening. I was tired and our finances were beyond tight so we could not afford a night out or a sitter. Here’s where we had to get creative. After our boys went to bed on a Friday night, we would have dinner or snacks alone, watch a movie while sitting close, play phase 10 and laugh together. Oh the laughter. Never underestimate the power of laughing together. Laughter breaks down walls and increases endorphins – win/win. Remember, it’s not about the money you spend or the “things” you do. What matters is that you are showing the other person “You are worth my time. I like to be with you”.
3) Talk more. During the day make it a point to talk often. If your spouse works a lot or is in a lot of meetings, have them check in with you. If that’s not an option make sure you are spending the time you have together actually together. What does this mean? Putting your phone down, turning off the TV or involving both parents in taking care of the kids. My husband is my very best friend and everything is better when I do it with him.
I’m thankful I have a receptive, compassionate husband. When I went to him and told him how I was feeling, he responded immediately. Now? It’s just second nature to share every single part of our day with each other. We are like two news analysts as soon as he walks in the door at night sharing every single point of our day and I’m so thankful, i wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, instead of spending a ton of money on balloons, chocolates or stuffed animals this Friday, here is my suggested activity for this Valentine’s Day no matter where you are in your relationship. Start working on it now and share with each other at some point Friday:
Have each of you write down 3 things you love about the other person. It can be anything and really take your time to think about it. You may write down something about your spouse they have no idea you notice or appreciate and vice versa. This is not just for people who are struggling or feel like they’ve lost a little of their relationship. My husband and I do this every anniversary and Valentine’s Day and it’s fun to watch them change as the years go by. When were you last sad because someone told you something they love and appreciate about you? Me either.
Next, and this one is tough, ask your spouse one thing you can do to help show them you love them in the coming days/months/year? This one is always tough for me because my first reaction is always defensive. But, then I remember that it takes two people to give to make a relationship work. If I want my husband to take my concerns seriously, I have to do the same for him.
Last, give each other grace. It is really hard for some people to openly express their love or affection. Now, this does not mean they are excused or don’t have to work on that but it does mean we can be patient and extend them grace in the waiting time. Pray for your spouse, pray for your marriage and be an active participant in the constant building up of each other. Try to see the effort from your spouse and never, ever compare them to someone else or another marriage (I promise it is never as perfect as it seems). They are yours and you are theirs. Celebrate your marriage.
(If this is a sensitive subject for you, please hear my heart. I’m not suggesting you aren’t already trying all of these things or that your marriage is flawed. If you are a place where nothing you are trying is helping please don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to reach out and seek couples or individual counseling. You are not alone.)