Some people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a consumerist holiday pushed by marketers, but I like seeing milestones throughout the year; they remind me to think about changes I might undertake to make myself happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.
Sure, January 1 or my birthday is an arbitrary date, but it helps nudge me to reflect and to plan.
I use Valentine’s Day to remind me to think about ways to show more love toward the people in my life, and in particular, my husband Jamie. The fact is, research shows that married people often show more consideration to others than they do to each other. I can do better!
Our dog Barnaby is always so excited to see Jamie walk through the door—I might not be able to match that level of enthusiasm, but I do want to demonstrate my love and attention.
And I want to include efforts that are manageable, that don’t take a lot of time, energy, or money. Of course, sometimes it’s important to make a big gesture, but I think that a lot of tiny, quick gestures go a long way to showing affection.
I don’t always follow through with these intentions, but I try to…
1. Snap to attention. I find it hard to drag my attention away from my book, my phone, the newspaper, a TV show…but when Jamie talks to me, I remind myself to pay attention, and to show that I’m paying attention by putting down my book, muting the TV, or whatever.
2. Help with a chore. Sometimes, I help out when he’s doing a chore, even when it’s “his” chore. Jamie and I have a tacit agreement: the second person out of bed makes the bed. That means that he’s almost always the one making the bed. Sometimes, when I walk into the bedroom while he’s doing it, I start helping without saying a word. Or if he’s unpacking groceries, I fight my urge to skulk out of sight and instead pitch in. This shows a cooperative, helpful spirit.
3. Send fun photos and updates. Jamie loves to know what everyone’s doing, so I take photos of our daughters, Barnaby, or anything else that I think he’d like to see, and I text little notes about something that’s happening—even something like “Your package arrived.” Super-quick, and he gets a big kick out of it. (I do the same thing for our daughter Eliza when she’s away at college.)
Explain why I’m asking him to do something. Like all Questioners, he doesn’t like to be told without explanation, “Please buy a highlighter on your way home.” He needs to understand why. So I take a few extra moments to give an explanation: “Please buy a highlighter on your way home, Eleanor needs it for her homework.”
Don’t ask unnecessary questions. Many Questioners—and Jamie is very much in this camp—don’t like to answer questions, especially questions that they deem pointless. (Yes, it’s ironic that Questioners resist answering questions, but what can I say, it’s a very common pattern.) While asking questions is a popular way to start a conversation or to show that you want to connect with someone, I’ve learned to avoid this strategy with Jamie. It doesn’t open up a good conversation; it puts him on edge.
(Want to know if you’re a Questioner like Jamie—or an Upholder like me, or an Obliger, or a Rebel? Take my free, quick quiz to find out. More than 3.2 million people have taken this quiz.)
5. Respond quickly to his questions or requests. It’s so draining when people don’t answer, don’t send necessary information, say they’ll do something but then forget, and so on. Jamie is so important to me; I try to demonstrate that by being as responsive to him as possible.
6. Look for opportunities to be thoughtful. I try to remember to say, “I’m going to the drugstore, do you need anything?” “I’m going to the library, want me to pick up any books for you?”
7. Accommodate his quirks, when possible. Sometimes, a little thing matters more to Jamie than to me. For instance, when we travel (remember when people traveled?), he always wants to unpack right away. This isn’t important to me, but hey, I have to unpack sometime, so I do it right away because he cares. Also, I tend to leave items out on various counters to remind me to deal with them, and after a while, this starts to bother Jamie. He’s funny like that. So I’ve become much better about moving things along quickly, or at least putting them out of sight until I can deal with them. Bonus: this increased outer order gives me more inner calm, too.
You might think, “This all sounds good, and I wish my sweetheart would make these gestures to me!”
One truth about happiness is that we can’t change other people; we can only change ourselves. But when we change, a relationship changes, and when we change, the atmosphere of our household changes. I’ve seen that by acting in a loving way, I inspire Jamie to behave more lovingly too.
Of course, there are more significant things we can do to show love. But it’s also good to have a bunch of little gestures as well.
What easy, quick ways have you found to show love to your sweetheart?
If you’re looking for ideas to boost connection and fun in your romantic relationship, join my 30-day Relationship Challenge. Each day, you’ll receive a text message to your mobile phone, with an audio message from me, with that day’s challenge.