Valentine’s Day is one of my least favorite times of year. There, I said it. A holiday that has evolved from one celebrating a long dead saint to what it is today – showing our loved ones how much we love each other by how much we spend on them. Oh, yes, consumerism rears its ugly head again.
The price of flowers goes up exponentially, jewelry sales skyrocket, and it’s impossible to get a table at your favorite restaurant. And while all that may be great for the economy, if you’re going into debt just to impress someone (even if it’s your spouse), there’s something wrong. (Feel free to check out more of our thoughts on financial freedom here.)
Facing Loneliness on Valentine’s Day
And if consumerism wasn’t a good enough reason to dislike February 14, how about depression? How can someone enjoy a holiday that brings so much sadness and longing to others? To some, the loneliness that Valentine’s Day imbues can be detrimental to their mental health. And according to statistics, suicide rates increase between February 13 and 15. (Please, if you’re depressed or thinking of hurting yourself, call your doctor, your local crisis line, or 9-1-1. As a sufferer of mental illness myself, I know how difficult it is to ask for help. But I also know that with the proper care, mental illness does not need to be a lifelong burden.)
Why Write a Post About Valentine’s Day?
Here’s the thing, Valentine’s Day is not actually the problem. Our ideas surrounding it are. If we were to change our philosophy on consumerism and relationships, the stigma around Valentine’s Day and the loneliness it can bring would start to disappear. If we treat all our relationships with the respect and attention they deserve, every day could be Valentine’s Day. We wouldn’t need a day out of the year just to show someone they’re special, because they would know so every day.
And so, without further ado, here are our strategies for making each day Valentine’s Day.
Strategy #1 – Communication
When Gaby and I need to talk about something, we head out for a drive. Family drives are one of our favorite things to do – head out down the country roads, see what wildlife we can spot, and have a heart-to-heart. It’s not unheard of for us to be gone for two or three hours at a time.
We prefer to do our talking in the car because no matter how heated things might get, it’s impossible to walk away. We’ve always had our best conversations in a vehicle. One of my favorite memories of working in Calgary was the drive to and from work. Gaby and I carpooled, so every morning, we’d leave the house, usually grab coffee at Timmie’s (Tim Hortons), and chat all the way to work.
Strategy #2 – Showing Love
I read a book during our first few months of marriage that I would recommend to any couple – married or not. It’s called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.
The theory behind “The 5 Love Languages” is that we have an emotional tank that needs to be full for us to feel loved. Everyone gives and receives love in different ways, and what works for one person may not work for another. Gaby and I have two different primary love languages, and our relationship thrives when we speak to each other’s hearts. Full love tanks make for happy spouses, and happy spouses make for happy marriages! (Gary Chapman also has a book entitled “The 5 Love Languages of Children” which I would absolutely recommend to any parent. It speaks about how to keep our kids love tanks full as well.)
Strategy #3 – Priorities
Another way that we keep our marriage strong is by making each other a priority – yes, even above the kids. We love our children very much, but we’re careful to make sure that they come in second to our relationship. Because one day, they will grow up, leave home, get married and have families of their own. Who will we be left with when that time comes? We want a marriage that will survive past our children’s growing years, and for that to happen, we need to put each other first.
Strategy #4 – Marriage Isn’t 50-50
I read an article a few years ago that showed up in my Facebook feed from the Huffington Post, “The Myth of a 50-50 Marriage”. Think about it – if each person is only putting 50% into their marriage, there are going to be struggles and arguments. And if you’re keeping score or doing “tit-for-tat” as Gaby and I call it, troubles will abound. This is something that we struggle with, especially when it comes to the mundane, such as, “I did the dishes last night, it’s your turn!” and “It’s your turn to change the poopy diaper – I already did one this morning!”. When the tit-for-tat starts to happen, we become roommates instead of a married couple. Our marriage is a lot happier when we give 100% every day and work until the jobs are done together.
Strategy #5 – Forgiveness
The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines forgive as “to give up resentment of or claim to requital”. Forgiving is an intentional act of letting go of bitterness and anger towards a person or an act that was committed. Forgiveness can occur whether there’s an apology or not.
It’s been said that you should never go to bed angry. While this strategy doesn’t always work, Gaby and I try to resolve our issues in a timely fashion. And we try not to bottle in our emotions, know that we’ll feel better once the argument is resolved. (If things are getting to the point where one person wants to walk away from the “discussion”, see strategy #1. Get in the car and drive until the issues are resolved, or you’ve at least concluded to agree to disagree.) Holding on to anger and bitterness only brings the same arguments around and around, because if there’s still anger, it means that those discussions were never resolved.
**DISCLAIMER: We are not relationship experts. If you are in an abusive relationship (physical, mental, or emotional), seek help immediately. Talk to someone you trust, get a counselor involved, or if the situation warrants it, call the local authorities. Forgiveness does not mean that the abuse should be allowed to continue.
Not Just for Married Couples
All relationships take work. Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Children, Friends. These strategies, which work great for us in our marriage, are not just limited to married couples. Whether the relationship is romantic, platonic, or familial, it still needs communication, compromise, and forgiveness to work. If you’re in a relationship just for the benefits that you can get from it, the relationship won’t last. Neither will it last if you’re the only one doing the giving. Relationships work best when both parties give their everything. And when relationships are at their best, every day will seem like Valentine’s Day.
Every relationship is different, and what works for us may not work for others. How do you keep your marriage strong? Drop us a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
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