Five Entirely Free Gifts to Give Your Valentine
Author: Bo Stern | www.sheology.co | @bolovesjoe
If I’m honest, I’m a little nervous about posting this. I don’t love talking about my relationship - it’s very precious and personal to me. However, I’ve run into so many good women (and men!) who are in boring marriages with a really good spouse. Time and to-do lists have doused the flame of romance and desire like a sneaker wave on the Oregon coast (and those sneaker waves are FIERCE, I tell you!) I’m absolutely not judging - I lived it, too. Steve and I experienced the effects of that wave somewhere around year five, I think. Now, as I’m dating the second time around, it’s so much easier for me to see exactly how we let go of some of the things that made our love really beautiful and passionate. I can see how we let other people, obligations and hobbies become more important than each other. And most of all, I can see how we stopped treating the thrilling things that made us fall in love as essentials and started viewing them as optional.
I remember thinking: If only we had money for a romantic getaway or a second honeymoon or better house or nicer date nights or a cook, maid and nanny or fill-in-the-blank. But now that I’m older, I’m realizing the most valuable ingredients of a romantic relationship don’t cost any money at all; they cost time, intention, humility and effort - but not money. And I love being a girlfriend.
Does romance feel scarce in your relationship? Here are five things you can start doing immediately and they won’t cost you a dime.
Kiss for six seconds (or longer - I won’t stop you! - but six seconds has been proven to be the length of time a couple needs for a significant connection.) I’ve talked with SO MANY women and have found that while making out is usually the joy of dating, it can quickly become a lost artifact in marriage. Get it back! Kissing is fun! Marriage therapists recommend kissing for six seconds whenever you leave one another or reunite…I’ve found it to be a wonderful relationship core value. (Sorry to the ten kids who probably do not enjoy knowing these things.) For some really interesting reading on this, check out this article at the Gottman Institute.
Ask significant questions. Not “Did you pay the cable bill?” but “How are you feeling about your life right now?” “Are you happy?” “What would you love to do for fun in the next six months?” “What is the best Christmas gift you ever received?” I ask my beloved tons of questions because I don’t know all the answers yet - we’ve only been together two years. But I’m determined to NEVER assume I know all there is to know about him. Your sweetheart is a universe of emotions, thoughts, dreams, experiences and fears. Ask questions like you’d like to know what you don’t know. Here’s a list of forty fun questions.
Look him in the eyes and smile every time he enters the room. Eye contact is powerful. Stop what you’re doing. Stop the chatter of your children (or just ignore it) and focus entirely on him. Your kids can be second fiddle for a minute - in fact, every time you make them wait for your attention while you focus on your husband, he feels important and they see a living, breathing example of a healthy relationship. My mom still hangs up on me if my dad is calling her and I couldn’t love her more for that.
Touch him. Rub his neck. Put your hand on his leg. Hold his hand. Being warmly affectionate in front of the rest of the world - even just for a few seconds - sends the message, “I am yours and you are mine and I am glad.” Here’s a great article from the New York Times on the power of physical affection in marriage.
Keep a record of Why’s - 1 Corinthians 13 says, “love keeps no record of wrongs” so when I started dating Cliff, I decided to start keeping a record of why’s (or “rights”)….the reasons I find him so compelling and attractive and smart and good. The reasons I feel he’s so right for me. I write in my Why journal on the regular and I read it even more. It reinforces how lucky I am to be loved by someone like him. It reminds me why fighting through differences and logistics is worth it. I initially wrote it just for myself, but one year I tore the pages out and sent them to him for Christmas. Even if you never show your husband the list, just making it will impact your thoughts toward him and will make numbers 1-4 on the list easier to do.
Hey girlfriend, you got this! Go get him!
PS: Because I’ve been posting publicly for a lot of years, I anticipate that I will need to say: 1) I understand that not every partner is going to respond immediately or even at all. I know that makes it risky, but I still think it’s right to try. 2) I understand that some issues in relationships cannot be solved by romance. I still think it’s good to add it. 3) I understand that some women are dating or married to truly unkind men. I don’t have the answer for that. But I love you.