Before the shelves were even cleared of the remaining Christmas decorations, stores began filling them with candy-filled hearts, stuffed animals with flourishes of red and pink and giant cards professing “I love you”. There are a few minor updates to these familiar gifts but they still look almost exactly the same as they have for many years. Merchandisers place them front and center in their stores so we don’t forget to get something for that special someone to supposedly signify our love. We don’t have to put a lot of thought into what we are giving; it’s right there in front of us packaged in red and white.
The interesting thing is that I have yet to meet the person who would tell me that receiving one of these annual gifts has been a turning point for their marriage. I have never heard of how a heart-shaped box of chocolate turned the tide in a failing marriage or how a stuffed animal has broken down walls that have been building for years. I am not opposed to giving these types of gifts on this special day. My wife and I usually exchange cards and we have exchanged stuffed animals or other things to signify something important, but these must be the icing on a much larger cake. These are not the things that make your marriage great. They are the things that signify the strength of a marriage not the afterthought of a relationship.
If you want to give a great gift on Valentine’s Day this year, let me offer a few suggestions that will have much longer lasting effects than a teddy bear or chocolate. They will build a foundation for you that will make the bears and chocolates more appreciated, not resented. This is not a comprehensive list, but it is a great start to building a long lasting marriage. Here are four you can start with.
This seems so simple, but it’s not. Everyone wants to be accepted, especially in the covenant of marriage. The problem is that we tend to spend our entire marriage trying to change our spouse. We use words like train or tolerate which do not signify acceptance. I am not talking about accepting things that are destructive like adultery, abuse or addiction, but rather accepting things that annoy us to the point of argument when in hindsight realize they don’t really matter that much. Each of us is unique. None of us are perfect. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to find fault. It requires intention to be accepting. The greatest marriages are the ones that focus on the good qualities of their spouses, not the flaws that all of us have. Focus is the key to acceptance.
I have yet to meet the couple who said they communicate too much. Isn’t it amazing the lengths we go to to communicate with our co-workers, friends and other family members while assuming our spouse knows everything we feel or experience? A project at work and no stone is left unturned. A decision at home and we assume they will be fine with whatever. No marriage over-communicates (especially on important things). The majority of marriages could stand more. Hopes. Dreams. Desires. Parenting. Finances. Set aside time each day to have conversations. Carve out time from your schedule when there are important decisions to be made. Communicate daily about the normal things of life. Marriage is your most important earthly relationship. Communication signifies that to the other person.
We are often present but rarely attentive. There are so many things that distract us; from children to televisions to smart phones. Our bodies are in proximity but our attention has been taken away. Our spouse wants our attention, not just our presence. They want to know they are more important than anything else around. I must admit that this is a danger area for me. I can look right past someone talking to me if something else grabs my attention. It is a terrible trait and one that I have to really work at to overcome. I know this is annoying at times, but it is especially annoying to my wife. As technology advances and the pace of the world moves faster, there will continue to be things that seek to grab our attention much like the front of the store displays with their candy hearts and stuffed animals. If we aren’t careful, we will go in the store, get a bear and leave without what we really came for. The same can be true in our marriage. If we do not focus on the thing that is most important, we may leave with a novelty and forget the very thing we needed the most.
Every woman reading this is saying “of course this is what a man would say”. Yes, this can include physical touch. Physical affection is critical in marriage. However, affection is much broader than that. We talk a lot about love languages, but speaking our spouses love language is a form of affection. My wife would rather I take out the trash or change a light bulb than to hug her tightly. Acts of service are her love language. It is affection for her. Speak the language your spouse needs. Show them the affection they need. I am convinced that if you don’t, someone else will.
These are just a few gifts you could give your marriage this Valentine’s Day, but often we need the most help giving these intangible gifts.
So, if you need a little help in this department…
Are you going to grab the last Teddy Bear on the shelf, or a generic card from the store, and hope that it is enough?
You’d better not.
If you could give them a gift that would deepen your bond with each other, inject more passion into your relationship, show them how deeply you care about them, and could improve your marriage for years to come, would you?
To celebrate valentine’s day, I am cutting the cost of the course by 50% AND, throwing in these some additional bonuses:
- 6+ hours of additional bonus video teaching
- A free copy of my book The 4 keys to a Successful Marriage
- Early bird access to a destination marriage retreat I am hosting in the Fall (Space is extremely limited and when we open this to the public spots will go fast!)
You can get all of this for less than the cost of a nice Valentine’s Day dinner (but you should do that too)!