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The art of connection with loved ones

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14 WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU
• Write your partner a love poem.
• Create a photo album and give it to your partner
• Make a playlist for your partner and upload it on their phone/iPod.
• Start a journal to write in as a couple.
• Clean out and detail your partner’s car.
• Place fresh sheets on the bed (maybe brand new ones).
• Write the story of how you met and give it to your loved one.
• Give your beloved a hand or foot massage.
• Pick a trait that you love about your partner and tell them or write about it for them.
• Create an awesome dance playlist and invite them to have a private dance-off with you.
• Buy your partner a special gift that speaks their unique language.
• Create a sign with loving thoughts and put it up in your partner’s home work area.
• Dress up for your partner and pay attention to every detail.
• Splurge and spend a night in a beautiful hotel, B&B or place of importance to both of you.

I never paid much attention to Chanel No. 5. Apparently, my husband did because I received it for a gift one year. It became one of those gifts that sit on the shelf for a long time. He finally asked me about it. I hesitated, then decided to tell the truth. “I don’t like the scent, but I love the thought behind it.”
We all get the message – Valentine’s Day is coming. The stores and ads make sure we remember, imploring us to get that perfect gift to express our love and devotion.  We may carefully select a card, a dozen long-stemmed red roses, a box of Godiva chocolates, perhaps even a diamond necklace or an Apple watch if the budget allows for it, and say job well done.
We present this gift to our partner with the hope a clear message will be delivered. That message may be “I am so glad you are in my life” or “I’ve been waiting so long for someone like you,” or it may be “I’m sorry I’ve been so distracted/grumpy/nasty lately.” Either way, many of us use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to get a gift that sends the right message.
The problem lies not in getting the right gift; it lies in hitting the mark that fosters connection. Connections happen when you know another deeply and metaphorically speak the right language. We’ve all been there – there being the giver of Chanel No. 5. We want to convey an expression of love, commitment, appreciation, gratitude. And sometimes we get it wrong.
What’s important is knowing how to use the language of love that most speaks to your partner. A wonderful resource for any couple is “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman. According to Chapman, “We must be willing to learn our spouse’s (partner’s) love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”  If you are speaking a language that is not native to your partner, you might both feel exasperated at not being able to communicate. Not only does he offer guidelines for how to understand your partner’s love language. The book can also help you get clear about your own. This knowledge is fundamental in knowing how to express a clear message of love and be assured that it will be heard.
Here are the five love languages that Chapman has identified based on years of research: Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; Receiving Gifts; Acts of Service; and Physical Touch.
It’s easy to see how simple it can be to get it wrong, especially if you and your partner haven’t ever discussed your differences in communicating. The challenge is to keep trying, knowing that a meaningful, intimate relationship will always take more work than we expect. It’s important to bear in mind that every relationship experiences connection, disconnection and reconnection, over and over. We do not sustain closeness – we pursue it. And if we give up, we lose the opportunity to deepen our awareness of more subtle openings to truly learn how to love and be vulnerable.
In collaboration with Marie Bartczak, and in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, we have included 14 ways you can demonstrate your love, gratitude, commitment and desire for your partner. Notice the ones that speak to you and think about what might resonate with your partner. Above all, have fun and be creative!
Partnership is work, but it also opens us to the possibility for play, joy, security and a deep sense of intimacy and connection. Don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day just once a year. The more often we pay attention to details, the greater the rewards. Whether it’s Chanel No. 5 or a gift that’s a perfect ten, it’s the desire for connection that speaks the loudest.
Monica Erdosh, LCSW and Marie Bartczak, LMFT are both in private practice in Auburn and offer counseling services including depth relationship work. Reach Erdosh at 530-889-0530 or through her website at MonicaErdosh.com. Reach Bartczak, at 530-886-0964 or MarieBartczakTherapy.com