Love isn’t the same thing as romance. Romance is one way to express love – but we can express love in so many other ways, too.
Love isn’t just a feeling. It’s not just an emotion. Love is a commitment to putting your partner at the top of your priority list. Love is intimacy at every level.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are four powerful ways to keep the flame burning with your partner every day of the year.
1. Weekly date night
This one is especially difficult for parents of young kids – but it’s also the most effective way to keep the spark alive.
Dedicate one night a week to just the two of you. Get a babysitter or send your kids to a sleepover at Grandma’s. For really young kids, you can have date night after they go to bed. The point is to have a couple hours a week to dedicate to your relationship – and only to your relationship.
This is not time to pay bills or go over your schedule for the week. Put your smartphone away. Tell your friends and family that date night is off-limits to plans or visits. Tell your boss the same thing. Date night is time to focus on your partner.
Date night doesn’t have to be a big production. It can be as simple as going out to a movie or cooking a meal together. Do something you both love to do, or trade off if you have different interests. Take turns planning it. Just make it fun.
You’ll begin to look forward to this night each week. It’s the one night when your only responsibility is your partner, and that can be both freeing and refreshing. This, of course, improves the partnership because you begin to associate those good feelings with being with your partner.
So you get an improved partnership and a night off from “responsibility” each week. Win-win!
2. Respectful communication
In our modern culture, most of us are not taught how to argue effectively and respectfully before we get into serious relationships. This lack of communication skills can make any relationship a battleground.
Agree on a set of communication rules with your partner that you can both follow. When you play by the same rules, communication becomes easier – even when you’re discussing a difficult topic.
Here are the rules that my husband and I follow:
- Do not interrupt.
- Do not raise your voice or use curse words.
- Do not walk away in the middle of the discussion.
- If the discussion is getting heated, politely ask for a break to cool down and come back to it 10 minutes later.
- Agree to disagree when necessary.
Sometimes one of us breaks a rule – so an unspoken rule #6 comes into play: forgive and try again. Most of the time, though, we successfully follow these rules and get through an argument with our relationship – and our dignity – intact.
A marriage counselor can provide you with a set of communication tools if you and your partner are having trouble coming up with your own. There is no shame in getting counseling when you need it. We all need an unbiased third party to guide us through from time to time.
Once you have set your communication ground- rules with your partner and both of you are in the groove with them, you’ll find your communication is much more powerful. You will both be able to be honest with each other without fear of defensiveness or retribution. The lines of communication will open wide, and your relationship will become stronger with every argument.
3. Random acts of kindness
Each year, February 14 puts everyone on high alert. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, romance is brought front-and-center – and scrutinized. Let’s do something different 365 days a year.
Let’s just be thoughtful.
Bring home your partner’s favorite smoothie. Cook Brussels sprouts – even though you hate them – because your partner finds them delicious. Wash the dishes when it’s not your turn. Take lunch to your partner at work one day.
Don’t expect reciprocation. But when it happens (and it will), be openly appreciative.
Small acts of kindness are the most powerful. These are the acts that show your partner that you really love them – not just one day of the year, but year-round.
4. Love every day
There are lots of articles out there that share tips on how to be romantic on Valentine’s Day. You’ll find aphrodisiac recipes, articles on partner yoga, even posts on green gift-giving right here on the Gaiam Life blog. These are fantastic ideas – I highly recommend getting romantic on Valentine’s Day.
Keeping that spark alive year-round requires more forethought, and more selfless action. Putting your partner first is not something that comes naturally to many of us – but it is something we are all capable of teaching ourselves, and repeating until it becomes second nature.
Dedicate one night a week to your partner, communicate respectfully and commit to performing random acts of kindness. Your relationship will thank you for it.