I really love Valentine’s Day. I like the simple things about the day — reading through the Valentine’s Day cards to find just the right one, sending my children small things they will enjoy to remind them that they are loved, a text message from my husband or children at random times during the day just saying “I love you.”
When I really stop to think about it, the things I like most about Valentine’s Day are the very same things I should be doing the day after Valentine’s Day — and the day after that and the day after that. How we behave in the days after Valentine’s Day demonstrates whether or not we mean it when we say “I love you.”
The romance and passion that we celebrate on Valentine’s Day are wonderful and exciting, but too often we lose sight of what really matters in relationships. We focus on the flowers and lose sight of the respect that healthy relationships demand. We search for the sparkly gift and forget that trust and faithfulness are key. We swoon when they play “our song” but struggle to find a sustainable melody of mutuality and commitment. We want to have — and to be — that “special someone,” but sometimes we lose our individuality and self-esteem along the way.
What if we understood Valentine’s Day not as the one day to show our love, but as a reminder to show love to our partner every day? What if, the day after Valentine’s Day, we sat down with our partner and reviewed our relationship to see if it really was what we both wanted? A regular reminder to review our relationship would help all of us be more intentional about how we treat our partners and how we want our partners to treat us.
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Below is a quick checklist to get started. Give yourself and your partner a big, red heart each time you can answer “yes” to the question, “Do you and your partner ...”:
• have fun together more often than not?
• always feel safe with each other?
• trust each other?
• support each other’s individual goals in life?
• respect each other’s opinions, even when they are different?
• solve conflicts without putting the other down or making threats?
• both apologize when you are wrong?
• have equal decision-making power about what you do in your relationship?
• each have some privacy that is respected by the other?
• communicate about sex, if your relationship is sexual?
• allow each other “space” when you need it?
• always treat each other with respect?
February is not only the month of Valentine’s Day, but it is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. February is a great time to talk with teens you know about what a healthy relationship looks like. There are lots of great resources available to get the conversations started (ccwrc.org, loveisrespect.org, teendvmonth.org/2015). As we all know, however, the most valuable lesson your teen will get about relationships is the one they learn by watching yours. So take those lessons beyond Valentine’s Day and into the months and weeks after, for yourself, for your partner, and for the children and teens you love.