It's Valentine's Day. A day of love and romance and sharing and caring. Right? Well not for everyone. Some people hate valentine's day. But, if you love to love then read on.
To romance or, not to romance on valentine's day is a raging debate if you are in a relationship. Every couple has their own view on whether they love to celebrate valentine's day, or its just a garbage commercial excuse for businesses to feed off the vulnerable.
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Well I used to be someone who loved to celebrate any and every occasion. Birthdays, anniversaries, valentine's day, Christmas, New Year, Halloween, Diwali etc. However, over time I lost that enthusiasm and started to believe like others that it's all a bunch of nonsense. So what changed?
We all do, or do not do things, based on the effort required to do it. Coming up with ideas is a lot more difficult than actually doing something. The basic truth is that we all want to love and be loved. We all want to make our loved ones feel special and receive love to make us feel special. We all want to come up with interesting ways to wow our partners and we want to be wowed too. So what stops us? Effort! or the lack of it.
Falling in love may be easy but staying in love is not. It takes effort.
I have rarely seen a happy couple who does not make the effort to stay happy. Lazy love is not only dull and boring, it's detrimental to any longterm relationship.
Picture this :
Lana (name changed to protect client confidentiality) had been married for 10 years. Her husband always made excuses for why he did not want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or any other festival or holiday. He said he loved her everyday and did not feel the need to prove his love on these days. He argued that this public display of affection was done by those who really did not love each other, but needed to keep up appearances and he didn't need to do that, because he really loved her and everyday was valentine's day for him. His other excuse was that it was so difficult to make her happy and surprise her, as she had everything and she was not easy to shop for. If she argued with him, he turned the tables and shouted back "If you are so romantic and you love me so much, why don't you come up with an idea and plan something". These are all signs of lazy love, on both sides. One partner cannot come up with an idea and so always makes excuses for his lack of effort and the other partner believes she is entitled to the romance because "men should be romantic".
We all want effortless love, effortless success, effortless happiness, but it rarely comes our way. Wouldn't it be better instead to put in the effort and increase the odds of getting what we want? Well the answer is obviously yes. But "wouldn't effort take the magic out of the relationship?" is a question I am often asked by my clients. I always reply by asking another question "Is the lack of effort bringing any magic?"
Before you roll your eyes at me, or try to stop reading any further, let me tell you about the 2 types of effort - Upstream effort and Downstream effort.
Imagine you are paddling a boat; if you are going upstream against a strong current, chances are no matter how hard you try, you will either move ahead very slowly, stay in the same place, or be pushed back. However, if you were to paddle downstream along with the current, with very little effort, you would not only move forward, but move at a much faster speed than your paddling effort.
So here are 5 downstream effort ideas you can use to turn your relationship from Lazy Love to Lasting Love (and what better day to start than Valentine's day but any other day works just as well) :
1. Be Aware
In all longterm relationships, we tend to dismiss each other's needs over time. Being aware of the little things your partner likes, can not only bring you two closer, but is also a sure shot way to keep your relationship dynamic and thriving. Being aware sounds easy but it is one of the first things you stop doing when you get into the rhythm of a longterm relationship. Remember that time when you first fell in love and you noticed everything about your partner, their likes and dislikes, and did everything to make them happy; whether it was going to their favorite restaurants or watching movies they loved (but you secretly hated), or doing your hair a certain way because they liked it, or listening to them talk about things you knew nothing about; you get the drift. Well what you were doing was being aware of their likes and dislikes and giving them your full attention. Now that you have been together for several years, you may think you know everything there is to know about them and so you stop being aware. In fact, you may believe you know them better than they know themselves and that is the biggest sign that you have stopped listening to them and are acting and reacting according to what you know, rather than what they are telling you. Just listening to them, will change the way you interact with them. Listening is an essential skill. If you listen to someone close to your heart, and you’re willing to invest some effort into making them slightly happier — it’s a true reflection of how much you care and love them.
2. Little things matter
You can always improve someone’s life a little bit. If they complain about their computer not working - spend some time helping them fix it. If they have been talking about a movie they wanted to watch, - surprise them one night by setting time aside and watch it with them. If you see them struggling with something at work or a misunderstanding with a friend - be a good listener and allow them to share. If they are craving a special meal - make it for them, or if you can't cook, then order it one night and share the meal with them. There are countless things you are able to do positively to transform their lives.
3. Words Count
We all love to hear words of affirmation and love. I have heard many of my clients complain about not hearing words of affirmation from their partners and when questioned if they give their partners words of love and affirmation, they realize that they don't do it either. Treating your relationship as a living, breathing organism that needs constant attention and nurturing will not only make it stronger, but also deeper and more meaningful. I have never heard anyone complain about receiving too many positive words or too much appreciation. Telling your partner how much they mean to you, is appreciated at any stage of your relationship, not just in the beginning.
4. Don't make excuses
If you find yourself telling your partner why you cannot do things for them rather than focussing on what you can do, you may be making excuses. Energy flows where attention goes. If you are focussing on not doing things rather than focussing on how to do them, your mind will come up with excuses rather than solutions. Finding ways to talk about solutions rather than problems creates an environment of support, rather than blame. Telling your partner how you intend to solve the issue shows your commitment to the relationship and your intention to love and support them through tough times.
5. Focus on your partner
This is such a simple statement but you would be surprised to know how many people talk about what they want and need from their partner, never realizing there are two people in the relationship. Go back to the beginning of your relationship when you didn't care where you went, or what you ate or what activity you engaged in, as long as it was with each other. You cared about whether your partner was happy and you probably didn't insist on doing something, if it caused them pain. At some point in the relationship, especially longterm relationships, the focus tends to turn back to ourselves. It's all about what we want, how hurt we are, how we have been wronged and taken for granted. If you find yourself in this situation, chances are your relationship is struggling. In order to get it back on track, try focussing on your partner's needs rather than your own. That's what brought you together and that is what will keep you together.
Just because you love each other and are there for each other through the tough times, does not mean you do not have to do the little things. It's the daily small things and acts of love that strengthen your love and commitment to each other.
Love is not meant to hurt and neither is it natural to be unhappy or miserable in longterm relationships. It's a fallacy that if you have been together for many years, the magic runs out and even though you love each other, you have to learn to live with your expectations not being met. In fact, lowering your expectations and compromising seems to be a common mantra for living in harmony.
If you want to bring the spark back into your relationship, ask yourself, what effort are you willing to make to help your relationship thrive rather than just survive. We reap the benefits of what we sow and it's important to understand that sowing the seed is the beginning of the process, not the end. In order for the relationship to grow with deep roots, a tall trunk and strong branches, you need to nurture it after sowing the seed. If everyday is a day of love, why not celebrate it when you have the chance.
Happy Valentine's Day Everyone. Have a day full of love and set the stage for what the rest of the year will be for your relationship.
Until next time,
Kanchan ‘celebrating love’ Kulkarni
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