Let's do it differently this Valentine's Day
I see Valentine’s Day as a primarily commercial enterprise. Yes, it can be an excuse to pay more attention to your relationship or to make more of an effort to seek a relationship. But it can also be an excuse to wallow in self-pity if you aren’t in an intimate relationship. It might also be that you're aromantic and find the whole thing a farcical waste of time and feel happy in your skin alone.
Every year, people rush off to buy red roses, perfume or aftershave, book restaurants on chaotically packed restaurant nights, stay in overly priced hotel rooms, buy theatre tickets or jewellery. They buy cards with prewritten sentiments because they struggle to find their own words and buy chocolates for partners who are desperate to lose weight.
What interests me as a therapist and what I suggest we all consider is that (more often than not) people actually want time with their partner over all these other choices. This is fully present, active listening time - not time in front of the TV or sitting on the sofa each looking at their own phones or other screens.
How can we show affection to our loved ones?
Gary Chapman talks about five love languages. He describes the concept that we like to give and receive love and affection in different ways.
Trouble can start when one partner likes to show their love in one way and their partner likes to receive in another. This can be worked on but not if it is never discussed and one partner carries on assuming their partner is happy and feels loved when presented with a freshly baked cake, when actually what they want is to have a bath run from them and their partner sit on the side and listen to an account of their day.
I invite us all this Valentine’s Day to consider this concept of time and what that means to us and think about a different way of spending it together with a partner or a friend. I created an exercise to complement intimate sensate focus exercises and clients really enjoy it. This is to ‘gift’ a sensual experience to their partner that is not sexual.
So, taking each of the five senses, a partner chooses an experience for each sense to share. For example, I had a client who shared her Grandmother’s favourite sweet, a raspberry ruffle, with her partner as her taste option. For smell, it might be a scented flower of particular meaning to you. It could also be a part of your partner’s body. You may travel to show them a tree in the park for the sense of sight, or to a concert for your hearing sense. It might be small objects at home, really anything of meaning to you.
Anyway, give it a go with your chosen person and try it with clients if you think it might be useful. Let’s be creative and not go with the trite red roses this year; go with time and attention.