February is the month when love is in the air. It is the perfect opportunity to take pause and let those you love know that you care about them. Even if you're what I call "romantically challenged" -- you can't remember your first date with your partner, or you think Valentine's Day is an excellent time to get started on your taxes -- I have a handful of easy ways to make your love partner very happy this Valentine's Day.
Don't worry! It doesn't involve anything with heart-shaped stickers, a pound of high-calorie chocolates or a dozen (expensive) long-stemmed roses. Valentine's Day is not, in my mind, a day for commercialized tokens of love and affection. It's a day you set aside each year to reassure your partner that you value, notice, desire and care about him or her.
When you make your partner feel important and valued, it is easy to reciprocate, and they feel happy in that relationship. That is one of the findings from my landmark study of marriage, which has been following 373 couples since 1986. Also, men crave this affirmation or attention more than women, because women typically get it from people other than their partners. When men don't get it, they become distressed. But regardless of gender, on Valentine's Day, take a few minutes to tell your love partner that he or she is important to you.
There are countless ways to tell your partner you love him or her. You're handsome. You're sexy. You're my favorite cook. You're a great kisser. You're so much fun. You're a riot. You're the best dad/mom. You're brilliant. The bottom line: Your choice of words, and how you deliver them, is critical to your partner's feeling connected and satisfied in the relationship. Look into your partner's eyes while holding his or her hand and then deliver the heartfelt statement. This engages more of the senses and intensifies the effect of your words. The more often you do this (don't wait for Valentine's Day!), the closer the two of you will feel.
Meanwhile, on Valentine's Day there's no need for you to buy an expensive gift. Instead, go to the store and buy a card, or simply fold a piece of white printer paper in quarters. On the inside, write one of the phrases below. These are five simple statements that will make your partner feel loved, cared for, noticed and valued:
- "I love you even more now than when we first met." This tells your partner you are still interested and gives him or her a sense of hopefulness, reassurance and security.
- "You are my best friend/the best lover/the best partner." This tells your spouse that you notice who your spouse really is and do not take him or her for granted.
- "I would still choose you." Every partner needs to hear these words on occasion. They are affirming, nurturing, and appreciative. It is also a reminder that you are renewing your commitment in this relationship.
- "Let's plan _____ [a vacation, a date, getting pregnant]." This says you want your partner in your future, and he or she is your top priority. It also says that you and your partner are a team and that you are committed to the relationship!
- "I've really noticed that you have _____ [been helping more around the house, been working really hard these past several weeks, been helping your mother through rough times, etc.]." This shows you are paying attention to the particulars of your partner's life and that he or she matters. It also says to your partner, "You are not invisible to me and I do not take you for granted.
See? That wasn't so hard. And if you're feeling really inspired, go ahead and decorate the envelope with some heart-shaped stickers!