How about celebrating a special kind of Valentine's Day all year long?
Relationship research tells us that spoken appreciation is one of the keys to healthy relationships. Other kinds of appreciation are great, too, (such as loving touch or lending a hand with a chore) but spoken appreciation is highly valued and easy to do. We've developed a technique we call Conscious Verbal Valentines. We've seen them work wonders in any kind of relationship.
Speaking personally, we give each other Conscious Verbal Valentines all year long. We believe it's one of the main reasons we're more in love now than even when we first got together 29 years ago. Conscious Verbal Valentines are not just for lovers, either. You can give them at work, to children, other family members and friends.
Here's how to do it:
•Choose the recipient of your Conscious Valentine. It could be your mate, a good friend, a family member or co-worker.
•Think of something you really appreciate and value about the person. (Hints: What's one special quality this person adds to your life? What would you really miss if this person were not in your life?) Rehearse it in your mind a few times until you've got it honed down to the simple, heartfelt essentials. Make it a simple sentence you can say with ease in ten seconds. For example, you can say, "I appreciate the way you love me" and still have plenty of time in your ten seconds to say "And how beautiful you always look."
(Hint: Pick a time when the person looks receptive and isn't busy with another activity.)
Here are a few examples, from our own relationship and from our work with couples:
•Kathlyn: "I saw Gay sitting at his computer, lost in thought about a writing project he was working on. I came close to him and said, 'Thank you so much for all the time you spend working on our books. I appreciate how clear and graceful your writing is.' He beamed all over."
• Gay: "I came up beside Kathlyn in the kitchen and said, "I really appreciate the way you love and care for Lucy (our cat.) I've learned so much from seeing how you hold her and communicate with her." (I didn't grow up around cats, so I wasn't even sure how to pet one until I met Kathlyn. Now, I've become a devoted 'cat-person.')
•A couple in our office:
Kathlyn: "Jamie, what's one thing you really appreciate about Chris? Something you can't imagine living without now?
Jamie: "The way Chris stays calm and cool in any kind of crisis situation."
Kathlyn: "Great. Now tell Chris that clearly and simply."
Jamie (turning to look into Chris' eyes): "You stay so calm and think so clearly under pressure. I'm so grateful to you for that." (Her eyes mist as she says this.)
Chris: "Thank you. (taking a deep breath) Wow!"
It's as simple as that! Marriage researcher John Gottman discovered that thriving relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive appreciation to negative comments. We tell our couples to start there but not stop there. Why not aim for a 500-1 ratio in your relationship?
Get more information on this and other relationship tools by writing to a special email address we've set up for Huffington Post readers: firstname.lastname@example.org