So, it’s Valentine’s Day. The holiday is notoriously demonized, and I can’t say that I’m a super-fan myself (I typically begrudge any days that dictates that I’m supposed to be doing or buying or recognizing something specific). That said, I do believe that taking intentional time to show love and gratitude for your people is an important and worthwhile exercise, any day of the year. Below are five different ways that individuals can demonstrate love for one another, based on their personal preferences and style of giving/receiving love. The 5 “love languages” described below are based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.”
Words of Affirmation
The very verbal among us know how great it feels to be told that we are doing a good job, that we are appreciated, or that we are special and beautiful. I have a client who likes to tell her partner that she wants him to acknowledge her, and to do it “effusively.” Individuals that appreciate words of affirmation glow when receiving thoughtful notes and words of gentle encouragement. “I love you” goes a long way, of course, but how about using specifics like “I’m so grateful for how you took care of the laundry today” or “Your humor really adds so much light to my day.” Tell the verbal people in your life that you care about them, do it often, and be specific.
Gifts don’t have to mean a diamond necklace or an expensive vacation. Gift-giving at its best is thoughtful, personalized, and, in my opinion, small. A handmade card or favorite cookie recipe speaks louder than a generic, more costly gift. My friend Lee is masterful at thoughtful gift-giving, choosing a homemade mix of music or a book of poems with a message inside. To my mind, the very best gifts are cheap or free, and say something unique about your relationship with that person.
Acts of Service
The subject of a million snarky memes about marriage, acts of service makes the argument that it is sexier to vaccuum the mud room than to book a romantic weekend getaway. For individuals that appreciate acts of service, saying “I love you” is nice, but saying “I cleaned out the litter box” is better. Take something off of their plate that they were not expecting, and individuals that respond to acts of service will feel appreciated, loved, and well cared-for.
Quality time usually does not mean sitting in the same room together looking at the same TV screen, or eating at the same dinner table trying not to check your phone. Quality time is as much about doing something together as it is about being together, and engaging with one another intentionally and meaningfully. This can translate to a long Skype conversation, a picnic in a park, or simply a day scheduled just to be with one another. The point is to focus on each other without distractions, and demonstrate that your person is well worth your undivided time and attention.
Physical touch isn’t just about sex. It includes sex, but also a whole slew of other things. Affectionate touch, like hugs, kisses, squeezing a hand, or putting an arm around someone, all go a long way to build intimacy without ever going to a sexual place. Phyical touch is very important for humans to feel connected, and goes a long way to alleviate loneliness. For the huggers in your life, obliging them with a heartfelt embrace says “We are connected, you are important to me, you are loved.”
There are a countless ways to demonstrate love and gratitude for your people on all 365 days of the year. Intentionally showing you care in a way that your partner, friend, or family member personally understands and appreciates goes a long way to foster a deep and meaningful connection.