couple in bed on valentines day giving giftsAre you trying to figure out how to spend your Valentine’s Day with your loved one?

Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by options (sometimes expensive) and by pressure to create a loving/special date?

You are not alone!  This time of year, there is an added pressure to plan the ‘best-most-romantic-you-are-the-best-partner-in-the-world’ kind of date, and this can create unnecessary and unhelpful pressure on your relationship.  While planning a romantic and creative date is a nice thought, and may turn out to be a wonderful time with your partner, it may not necessarily create a deeper sense of connection or understanding of your partner and your relationship.

Using Valentines Day To Foster Connection

Now, your Valentines Day date doesn’t have to include these qualities, but if you are in a relationship where you desire to know your partner more deeply (and you desire to be more deeply known), why not consider using this weekend as a way to deepen your understanding of one another?  What I am suggesting is using intentionality in your relationship this weekend to foster connection that is meaningful and transformative for your relationship.

What do I mean by creating intention, you ask?  The Oxford Dictionary (www.oxforddictionaries.com) defines intentionality as “being deliberate or purposive.”  By using intention, I mean to consciously and purposefully create an experience with the desired effect of creating a deeper understanding of your loved one.  Be creative with what you decide to do – note that creative doesn’t need to mean costly:  Make a meal at home from scratch, get dessert or a glass of wine at a local restaurant, ditch the spa and give each other a massage at home, put on music in your living room and dance!

Whatever you decide to do, make conversation, laughter, open-mindedness, and flexibility a priority.  Even if your relationship is going through a rough patch, agree to put aside these differences for the sake of building the foundation of your relationship.  After all, when we feel we are operating from a strong base, it makes the struggles seem easier to deal with, even if the struggle itself hasn’t changed.

4 Ways To Add Intentionality This Valentines Day

Keep these ideas in mind as you practice intentional conversation on your date:

  1. Deep understanding.  Get to know the ‘inner world’ of your partner by asking questions to understand them more deeply (something as simple as ‘tell me more about that’ can go a long way).
  2. Practice listening/validation over solution-seeking or changing the topic by giving an example of a similar experience.  Go slow. This will allow your partner to feel seen/heard.
  3. Use mindfulness to be in the present-moment with your partner, noticing the moment-to-moment experiences (sights, smells, taste, touch, sound, your partner’s nonverbal communication) and practice gratitude (what are you appreciating about this date, about your partner) – communicate what you notice!
  4. Eye contact – This may sound overly simple, but is an aspect of conversation that often gets overlooked.  What do you notice in your partner’s eyes as s/he is sharing something with you? The eyes are clues to the internal workings of your partner, and when you call attention to what you see in the context of conversation and what their eyes are communicating to you, your partner will likely feel closer to you (feeling seen/heard/understood).

For conversation starters, check out these books for couples that have many exercises within their pages that can be insightful, connective (and fun too!):

  • “Wired for Love” by Stan Tatkin
  • “Hold Me Tight:  7 Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson
  • “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman

As a side note, Valentine’s Day does not need to be (and shouldn’t be) the only day that you practice intentionality in your relationship.  Why not find small ways to express your love, gratitude, and commitment to your partner daily?  Maybe you create a small daily ritual before or after work that is unique to your relationship (I once knew a couple who made it a daily evening ritual to reminisce about a memory of their past together).

Find other ways to be intentional in your relationship – dance to a song after dinner, always light a candle while you eat, make it a practice to tell a ‘high’ and a ‘low’ about your day – whatever you do, creating daily intention in your relationship communicates to each other the security and unconditional love that you have for one another.  Rather than wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day, I wish for this to be the Year of Intention!

If you’re struggling to find intentionality in your relationship, please reach out to see how couples therapy could help.

Aleisha Maunu MA LMFT LAC is a therapist in private practice in the Denver Metro area.  She works with couples and families with children of all ages.