Updated: Feb 14
In case we've been allowed to forget today is Valentine Day aka the celebration of luuuuurve day; traditionally a time when couples run around booking expensive restaurants and buying each other gifts, chocolates, flowers, cuddly toys and mushy cards as demonstrations of affection for their romantic partners (whether their partners value these ‘tokens of love’ or not). While for younger couples this day will carry a certain level of novelty and importance, many couples in well established relationships often come to see this day as nothing but superficial commercialism; after all our love should be shown daily to those we care about in ways that have meaning for them. But I propose that Valentine’s Day can instead be spent nurturing a more conscious, creative and mindful connection with those we profess to love, and yes it can even be done via zoom! Here are 5 exercises which can be used today (or any other day) to nurture a deeper connection:
1. Love Languages
We are all different. The way we experience the world is different, we are all wired differently, and each of us differs in the ways that we like to GIVE and RECEIVE love - read that again!
So often people complain that their partner doesn’t understand them, or they feel unfulfilled in their relationships because their needs are not being met. And more often than not, their partner cannot understand what they have done wrong and will continue barking up the wrong tree until they give up or the relationship ends.
By learning to give love in ways that our partner needs/prefers to receive it, and by asking our partner to give us love in the ways that we need/prefer to receive it, we can create stronger, healthier and more fulfilling relationships. According to the book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman, there are five categories which describe how we prefer to give and receive love from others:
Words of Affirmation - hearing supportive and validating things from our partner
Acts of Service - when our partner does helpful things for us
Receiving Gifts - when our partner gives us gifts to show they are thinking of us
Quality Time - spending meaningful time with our partner
Physical Touch - being close to and physically intimate with our partner
Somebody who values quality time above all else is not going to feel loved by a partner who is working all hours to provide gifts (or pay bills!). Whereas somebody who values acts of service, is going to feel loved by a partner who cooks them a nice meal or helps out with the housework and children. Why not take the free quiz below to find out what your preferred love language is, as well as that of your partners and share the results with each other? It can provide you with insight into your partner which you were otherwise unaware of. It could also save you both time, money, arguments, the need for couples counselling and the future of your relationship (and what could be more romantic than than! lol):
2. 36 Questions to Fall in Love
Any fans of the Big Bang Theory will remember the episode where Penny and Sheldon carry out a social experiment designed to make 2 strangers fall in love after just a couple hours. The experiment involved asking each other set questions followed by 4 minutes of looking into each other’s eyes. Well, it transpires this experiment is taken from an actual study by Psychologist couple Arthur and Elaine Aron, that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the last. The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with another person, even someone we think we know well can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.
The questions are available for free on multiple links plus smartphone apps and have the ability to help enhance communication, mutual understanding, promote connection and turn what may otherwise be boring conversation into something new and fun.
3. List 101 Things You Love About Them
A beautiful gift to receive is the ability to see ourselves through the eyes of someone who loves us. So many of us have the damning inner voice of a critic that likes to sound off, often without us being fully aware of it, thanks to certain experiences in our past. To hear/read/see all the things somebody loves about us – the way we look, our personality traits, habits, quirks, the things that make us real and unique – doesn't just make us feel seen, heard and understood, but it also helps to quieten that negative inner voice, and to fully appreciate how exceptional we really are.
Creating this list for someone we love is a beautiful experience in itself, as focusing on the things we love about a person magnifies the emotion we feel for them, it triggers beautiful memories and fills us with love and gratitude for what we may sometimes take for granted. This exercise nurtures appreciation and is great for creating deeper awareness and connection.
This exercise doesn’t need to be created as a written list; it can be a montage of video clips, a poem, a song/mixtape, a photo album or collage...whatever comes from the heart! And it doesn’t have to be completed for someone we love romantically either. To create a 101 List for a close friend, valued family member or your child is a beautiful and humbling experience, no matter what day it is; it is a priceless gift for the receiver and it doesn’t need to cost a thing (except maybe a few happy tears!).
4. Couples Vision Board
While lockdowns and travel restrictions in the past 2 years have meant that many couples have had to spend more time isolated together than usual, it’s easy to fall into a rut and for life to feel like Groundhog Day. Focusing on the opportunities the future still offers can be a fun and exciting way to connect and keep spirits up; and a great way to do this is by putting together a Couple’s Vision Board!
A Vision Board is a visual representation of things that you want to bring into your experience - a collage of pictures, words, quotes etc used to inspire action. This can be as easy as talking about what you’d enjoy doing together once lockdown measures/travel restrictions ease up, places you’d like to visit, experiences you want to have, things you both want to achieve, and putting together a collage of photos representing each item, which you can both have a copy of and refer back to when life is feeling stagnant and mundane.
Joint interests and ambitions are key to maintaining a strong and healthy relationship, and any actions that can be taken now in preparation for what you both wish to manifest in future is more likely to make it a reality once life does go back to 'normal'. For some inspiration on Vision Boards check out my blog: Creating Your Vision Board for 2021 (themindfullifecoachuk.com)
5. Mindfulness and Meditation for Couples
Mindfulness practice is about pausing to observe and appreciate different aspects of life using our 5 senses. It can be applied to just about any aspect of daily life from walking, to showering, listening, eating, driving, and yes even interacting with the things and people we love. Taking time to sit in stillness and immerse ourselves in the presence of our loved one can be a beautiful bonding experience and promote a sense of intimacy. Mindfulness can be incorporated into a relationship using different techniques including:
Look into each other’s eyes for a couple of minutes and scan them from head to toe, observing and appreciating every aspect of them...even the wobbly bits!
Actively listen to our partner when they speak, without judgement, or jumping in, or thinking about what we want to say next; simply allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings and even their quietness, appreciating the sound of their voice and what they are communicating.
Smell, touch and taste each other as if for the first time, noticing what thoughts and emotions arise as you explore each other.
Try to a couple’s guided meditation together (this can be done via zoom and is a beautiful way to connect as long as you can find a recording that doesn’t make you both cringe). Check out the following for inspiration courtesy of @Farashiva, otherwise the Insight Timer app has a number of free recordings to try.
While these 5 exercises are described in the context of romantic relationships, most of them can be used to promote a sense of love and connection with just about anyone or anything (even your pets!). The spirit of Valentines Day is all about sharing love and promoting connection – sometimes the purest of love is platonic, it is the love we have for our children, the love we have for our friends and family. Some would argue that the purest love is that which we have for total strangers, which can be demonstrated through random acts of kindness, acts of charity and even prayers for those going through troubled times. So even if we’re not spending Valentines day with a romantic partner, we should remember that there is more than one kind of love which deserves to be nurtured and celebrated, and that what goes out will always return to us multiplied.
Be sure to spread a little love this Valentine’s Day xXx
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