Recently, I learned the hard way that even when we think we’re clearly expressing our love, messages aren’t always received properly. My husband and I wound up in marriage counseling, struggling to discover why we felt like we’d both been living in different marriages for the past decade. Hadn’t we been continually showing our love for one another? Where had we gone wrong? Luckily, we found what works for us and are constantly trying to better our communication.
So what’s this got to do with Valentine’s Day?
I know, I know: one day per year doesn’t matter. Love should be shown all year ‘round. A forced commercial holiday isn’t sincere. But hear me out because I think your family could use a little lovin’ this February 14th.
I’ve just finished reading Gary Chapman’s The Five Languages of Love and I want to share some of the points that resonated greatly with me. Chapman’s theory is that there are five “languages” of love; five different ways people tend to feel and demonstrate love. Those are: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts and quality time. And they’re not just important for those we’re romantically involved with, but also to our children.
If you take the quiz on Chapman’s site, you may be surprised when comparing your results to those of your partner. Try it with your kids and take a look at the results—chances are, you all put value in different languages.
These results are important because they give you insight in the most effective ways to not just communicate love, but to strengthen confidence, self-esteem and how to show your loved ones just how valued they really are. If you’re speaking English to someone who only understands Mandarin, most of your messages can’t be delivered. Sure, some hand signals and facials expressions can help convey the general idea, but the true meanings will be lost. Speaking the same language is imperative to effective human communications.
Again: what’s this got to do with Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day matters because if you truly want to communicate your love to your family, you’ll do it in the way they need to feel it. For many, that’s through thoughtful gifts and quality time, and aren’t those the very things that represent Valentine’s Day? It’s not about a cheap box of chocolates or an overpriced card—it’s about the thought that goes into a handmade card from your child, or a special blend of tea you know your partner loves. It’s about setting aside time for a meal together, distraction-free. It’s about showing your loved ones they’re important enough to enjoy the frivolity of a day like Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day matters because it’s a pause button on our busy lives when we can listen to our families and fill their emotional buckets in the ways they need them filled.
In our family, we all value Chapman’s five languages differently. I’m big on words of affirmation, while my husband values acts of service. My daughter needs quality time and my son needs physical touch. If we know how to communicate these things effectively, we can see that yes, this is just one day a year, but it’s the perfect one to truly demonstrate our love in a focused way.
We don’t exclude our kids from Valentine’s Day because for us, love is about them, too. It’s important to us to show them how important they are. We show them love all year long, of course: we protect them, we provide for them, we do fun things together. But on Valentine’s Day, we take the time to step back and really honour that love.
It’s easy to resent the commercialism and cheese-factor of Valentine’s Day, but at the heart of it, there’s plenty of room to define it for ourselves and embrace the intimate ways we can tighten our family bonds.