Happy Valentine’s Day!
You grumbled, didn’t you? Grimaced. You’re not falling for that garbage, right? I mean, it’s a made-up observance meant to sell chocolate and roses. You don’t need a Hallmark holiday to remind you to show your partner that your love, support and attraction are as white-hot as they were when you first met. Right?
Except you probably do.
The truth is this folks: If you’ve been married for more years than you can count on one hand, and especially if you have kids, I guarantee you are not doing the work of reminding your spouse that he (or she) still owns your heart.
Remember those early days of your relationship? When to go a day without seeing each other made your heart feel wrung out? When if you weren’t holding hands you felt incomplete, as if you were missing a piece of your own soul? When entire conversations centered on these four words: love, happy, you, me? When you could hardly get your clothes off fast enough?
Remember? Now contrast it to now. If your situation is anything like mine, you’re lucky if you remember to kiss each other goodbye (or have any desire to) in between rushing to and from work and piano lessons and pediatrician appointments. Your hands are clasped around the pudgy, doughy palms of children you still can’t trust not to dart into the street. And your daily communication is more likely to include “Bring home milk” than “Guess what I’m wearing?”
I’ve been married for 15 years and I have two kids, ages 6 and 9. When my husband walks through the door in the evening, he is ambushed. My hallway looks like a miniaturized moshpit — the kids jump on top of him, uttering a chorus of adoring phrases, while the dog barks and tries to get in on the action. Meanwhile, I stand back and wait. I’m admittedly jealous. The stories of my day will wait until after the kids are in bed, and at that point I can only hope that the two of us aren’t too exhausted to maintain a conversation (it’s happened) let alone anything that requires physical exertion.
Which is why we need Valentine’s Day. We need a reminder to stop, think, and remember what brought us to this place. To do that requires slowing down; that’s what Valentine’s Day gives us the excuse to do.
Here’s an exercise: Think of that moment when you first knew that life would be incomplete unless this person were in it. Relive it in your mind. How did you feel when you looked at him? When he looked at you? When you touched?
I have several moments like this. When I walked down the aisle and our eyes met and he mouthed, “You look dynamite” — the perfect words to melt away all my worries about “to have and to hold” and “until death do you part.” And years earlier, sitting on an airplane and looking out the window to unexpectedly see him standing at the window at my gate, watching, waiting until we taxied down the runway.
Now what can you do to recreate that feeling? It doesn’t require shopping or spending a lot of money. For my husband and me, we postpone our dinner until after the kids have gone to bed. We uncork a bottle of wine and light some candles. No TV. And then, we’ll give each other the greatest gift that a double-income, two-kids, one-dog couple can give each other — our time.
I talk; he listens. He talks; I listen. It’s an uninterrupted conversation, which is a rarity when you live with kids whose jockeying for attention can put the White House press corps to shame. We take a minute to remember why we decided to intertwine our two lives in the first place.
Do you need a specific holiday to remember to do this? No. These quiet, just-the-two-of-you moments can be arranged anytime. But are they? Too often the answer is no. And that’s why I appreciate Valentine’s Day. It’s a reminder that I am not just a mother, daughter and business owner, but a wife and best friend, too. It makes me pause and reflect about what is working in my relationship, and what isn’t, and to give it the attention it needs to make sure it flourishes rather than withers.
Maybe you’ll plan a quiet dinner like we do, or maybe it’s even simpler than that: A romantic or saucy text in the middle of the workday or a heart-felt note stuck in his wallet. Whichever you choose to do, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to reconnect. And if your evening goes the way mine usually does, I’m sure you won’t be sorry.