For people who are single, of course February 14th can provide an unwanted reminder of that fact. And for people in relationships that they find neither meaningful nor enjoyable, the external imposition of a day devoted entirely to their relationship can be both unwanted and unappreciated.
But even for people in long-term, committed, loving relationships, Valentine’s Day can unfortunately come to be seen as a meaningless requirement, a hoop to be jumped through once a year. Buying flowers and chocolates and a nice card go into the calendar much in the same way as changing the laundry, doing the dishes, and taking out the trash.
But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day to be dreaded. Instead, this Valentine’s Day can serve as a beautiful reminder not only to show love on February 14th, but 365 days a year.
The Dangers of Relationships by Rote
Consider the anniversary: The simple reminder of one’s wedding (or first date) can potentially reveal just how different the relationship is today than it was in the past. Annual reminders of this sort can reveal how the passion that marked the beginning of a relationship can fizzle into the meaninglessness of “just going through the motions.”
And it’s undoubtedly true that a couple’s perspective on the type of “rote” events such as Valentine’s Day undoubtedly changes with the age and stage of the relationship. Younger couples may feel horrified at the thought that their love could ever cool to the degree that they would resent the idea of giving a Valentine’s Day gift. Older couples may laugh at the thought that a mere trifle represents intimacy.
But regardless of the stage of development of a relationship, it’s certainly true that all human beings of all ages are governed largely by the principles of habit. Most all people have habits that govern their work life, their family life, their personal life, and, too often, their relationships. Falling into habits with your partner can sometimes be the first step down the road to a relationship by rote.
The five love languages are as follows:
- Gift-Giving: Participating in a spirit of giving that culminates in visible, tangible symbols of love
- Acts of Service: Doing things for your significant other that you know will make them feel loved
- Words of Affirmation: Building up our partner with compliments and words of appreciation
- Quality Time: Giving your undivided attention and showering the other with the gift of time
- Physical Touch: Deeper than mere sexuality, any physical contact done in love or support
The main idea behind these five love languages is that each of us both possess a primary (and secondary) language in which we prefer to receive love, and we also possess a primary and secondary language in which we prefer to give love. The ability to communicate our love to another person – and to receive that same communication from them – depends largely on how well these love languages coincide.
There are two important reasons to either learn about or remember the five love languages. First, and most broadly, it reminds us of how all people are different. When we remember that other people may not give or receive love in the way that we prefer to give or receive love, it awakens our sense of empathy, and brings us out of our own biased perspective.
Secondly, a reminder about the five love languages helps keep it fresh in our minds just how many ways there is to show love. Perhaps quality time is the language by which we generally communicate love: But in a season of intense busyness, it’s possible that we may need to downshift into a love language that we don’t find quite so intuitive, such as acts or service or giving gifts.
What You Can Do to Show Love 365 Days a Year
With the framework of the five love languages awakening us to the experience of love outside our perspective and reminding us of just how many ways there are to be able to show love to someone, the task of trying to keep your expression of love from being limited just to February 14th is already halfway accomplished.
Because among the many things that love is to different people, one of the most important to remember is that love is a discipline. Love is a skill and a habit that takes discipline and hard work just as much as love is a pleasurable emotional state. If the choice to love one’s partner feels eternally imposed – be it because of Valentine’s Day or any other reason – then it’s likely our priorities were completely out of whack to begin with.
Psychological titan William James, in his essay on Habit, wrote the following inspirational advice: “Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test.”
While many people might not think it “heroic” to try to and show love to one’s partner “every day or two,” it’s likely that their partner would. So this Valentine’s Day, make the commitment to show love to your partner 365 days a year. Ultimately, this could be the very thing that makes the relationship stand the test of time after all.
Chapman, G. (2015). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. Northfield Publishing.
James, W., & Richardson, R. D. (2010). The Heart of William James. Harvard University Press.