In case a worldwide pandemic has allowed us to forget, this Sunday is Valentine’s Day... celebrated all around the world as the international day of Luuurve. Whilst typically shunned by singletons - who in my humble opinion should have an international day dedicated to celebrating their single status and freedom - the 14th of February is traditionally a time when couples run around booking romantic 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. And while for many this tradition will almost certainly continue despite national lockdown, thanks to online shopping and supermarket meal deals, for others who are unable to meet due to social distancing Valentine’s Day may feel like it has been cancelled (the horror!). But it does not have to be...in fact, this Valentine’s Day could be spent nurturing a more conscious, creative and mindful connection, and yes it can even be done via zoom!
5 Bonding Exercises 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. So often people complain that their partner doesn’t understand them, or they feel unfulfilled in their relationships because their core needs are not being met. And more often than not, the 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 few of 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 during the day, 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. Additionally, where attention goes energy flows - so the more we focus our time and attentions on things we love about someone, we will start to notice more things to love about them. This exercise nurtures appreciation and is great for creating deeper awareness and connection.
Note this exercise doesn’t need to be created as a written list; it can be a montage of video clips, a poem, a song, 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 for a few happy tears!
4. Couples Vision Board
While lockdowns in the past 12 months have meant that many couples are spending more time together than usual, it’s very easy to fall into a rut and for life to feel like Groundhog Day given that we can no longer go out, socialise, do fun activities and build new memories together, all of which are needed to promote healthy bonding. And then there are couples who aren’t able to spend any time together due to travel restrictions and social distancing, which puts an additional strain on those relationships – sadly distance doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder!
Focusing on the opportunities the future will eventually offer can be a fun and exciting way to connect and keep spirits up. A great way to do this is by putting together a Couple’s Vision Board! This can be as easy as talking about what you’d enjoy doing together once lockdown measures 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 in 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 start to go back to something resembling 'normal'. For some inspiration on Vision Boards check out my December blog.
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 (this sadly cannot be done via zoom but maybe it’s something that can be added to your Couples Vision Board? lol)
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. So even if we’re not spending Valentines day with your romantic partner, we should remember that there is more than one kind of love which deserves to be nurtured and celebrated...so be sure to spread a little love this Valentine’s Day.
Don’t forget to click on the little heart below if you enjoyed the read and feel free to share on your social media or with anyone you think would enjoy it.