Posted on February 12, 2014 by Marla Keller and Ariel Minter
Whether you have zero plans, or have already made reservations and hidden the heart-shaped box full of chocolates from your partner (or maybe yourself?), you are well aware that the holiday of romantic celebration exists and is fast approaching.
Let’s consider unpacking some pieces of ourselves that we keep under wraps, and focus on experiencing a more positive Valentine’s Day this year.
Valentine’s Day Presents: 4 Things to Give Each Other
1. Reasonable Expectations
In our culture, it seems like women automatically assume that the male is in charge of being spontaneously romantic. However the reality is that, most of the time, I have to help my partner find his keys. This doesn’t mean he isn’t romantic in his own wonderful ways. It simply means that I know I can’t keep my dreams to myself and hope to come home to a fully cooked 5-star meal, lit candles, and rose petals leading to the bedroom.
If you want to go out to a nice dinner, tell your partner. Ask for what you want and then ask them what they would like to do as well. Compromise is great, but you have to be clear if you intend on having a good time. You can’t expect your partner to plan the picture-perfect Valentine’s night out without being direct. You also have to manage what the initial expectations are.
Is it reasonable to even expect that your partner wants to get wrangled into the whole idea of Valentine’s Day? Maybe they hate it, and dread the very thought of February 14th approaching each year. Let’s face it – you probably weren’t your partner’s first lover, and there is a lot of body memory attached to our actual experiences. What does that mean? Well, our bodies actually remember when we have felt the sensory impact of trauma.
For example, if one of your major relationships ended around Valentine’s Day, you are likely to experience the same feelings you had when that event took place. This can mean anything from depression to anxiety, or even anger. It is important to identify these reactions and to be aware of them. Not only will this allow you to prepare for seemingly random bad moods, it will also help your partner to understand why you find it difficult to be enthusiastic about wrapping romance around a holiday.
The great thing about body memory is that it is retrainable. You’ll want to be sure your partner is aware of it, so you can both work to build positive body memories.
2. Our Best Selves
When you are first attracted to someone, you put the best version of yourself forward. You give them the benefit of the doubt, choosing to see their most admirable traits, while ignoring their seemingly unimportant quirks. And they do the same.
You overlook the way they chew when eating a salad – it somehow becomes charming. They ignore that you check your phone and take pictures of your food. It’s endearing, even cute right? Fast forward a few months and – as much as you love this person – you swear you can hear them chewing from the other side of the house. They can hardly stand your phone and how dare you take a picture of those gluten-free pancakes. You forget to be the best version of yourself. And they do, too.
Listen: there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to being a normal human being who doesn’t always remember to chew with their mouth shut behind closed doors. However, there is a difference between being comfortable to be around someone and letting your ugly twin take over like a bad remake of The Body Snatchers.
Did you know there is a scientific reason why you slowly turn into the ugly version of yourself? Neurologically (a fancy word for your nervous system, specifically the brain in this case) when you are in the courting phase of a relationship, you actually end up using all four quadrants of your brain, which causes your body to expend a ton of energy. As time goes on, your body goes back to reserving the most energy possible.
Essentially, when you become comfortable around someone, you go back to using one or two quadrants of your brain, depending on the task. So there is an actual reason why you and your partner don’t behave the same as you did when you first met. It is extremely important to be aware of this, and treat your partner as your soul mate rather than your roommate. Even if you are only using one quadrant of your brain, you can still choose to be the best version of yourself.
Remember why you fell in love? Remember how you fell in love? You fell in love because that person motivated you to be the very best version of yourself. They fell in love with you for the same reasons. Don’t lose that. Choose to be kind regardless of how loudly they crunch on their salad. Remember why you overlooked that in the first place. The best way to get back to the best version of you is to decide to do it –you will be astonished the way your partner responds.
3. Forgotten Feelings
If you think you’ve checked all the relationship boxes with your partner and can now can hit cruise control, think again. There is no such thing as a truly happy relationship if you choose to check out of it. People are messy and screwed up. They can’t be fixed with one dose of therapy or a self-help book. When you choose to be in a relationship with someone, it is never about perfection, and it is always about progress.
There are many small things you can remember to do every day to make sure you eliminate as much pain as possible. One practiced method is to take a Feeling Inventory. If you consciously take an inventory of your feelings (I recommend using our Passion Provoker’s Feeling Wheel App), you will gain awareness and relief, and also be giving yourself permission to live in the moment. You can guarantee a deeper level of intimacy with your partner.
Sharing your Feeling Inventories with your partner allows you to be present to each other. It’s work, but it only adds up to perhaps 1% of your day and will grow the intimacy in your coupleship (private connection with your partner) exponentially. This is a simple process: you simply pick three times during the day to write down three core feelings; like happy, angry, anxious, excited, etc. You can do this only for yourself, or you can do this with your partner. Create and share goals with your mate: What can we accomplish before next Valentine’s Day? What do we want to achieve together?
Simply touching each other positively is a proven attribute of happy couples. One thing you can do every day with your partner is to hug each other for 20 seconds. The best way to maximize a boost in oxytocin (the ‘bonding’ chemical released in the brain) is to do so without a sexual expectation. When you hug with only the simple intention to touch and support your partner, this literally creates a physical bond.
Creating more oxytocin is what allows your relationship to gain more emotional depth. For more information on how you can build Oxytocin, I recommend reading The Chemistry of Connection by Susan Kuchinskas.
In order to release broken expectations, ugly selves, and the idea that a cruise control relationship is a good idea, the first thing you’ll need to do is forgive. Grieve lost expectations so you can build new ones. Let yourself off the hook if you sometimes give in to your ugly twin. Look into the negative body memories you may have from the past. Allow yourself to express old emotions in order to make room for new ones.
Ultimately, forgiveness is the key to true happiness. Yes, it is occasionally uncomfortable. And yes, it requires quite a bit of work. That said, there aren’t many things that real forgiveness won’t cure when it comes to emotional baggage and trauma. It may seem like that’s too good to be true, or that forgiveness being the answer is just too simple.
The thing about unpacking these sorts of Valentine’s boxes is you can only take out of them what has already been put inside them. You get exactly what you have given. It’s not always easy. It takes time and real effort to sift through all the junk so you can get to the good stuff.