There is a lot of talk of romance and relationships at this time of year isn’t there? I usually aim for submitting a piece here or somewhere online about Valentine’s Day before the actual day – kinda missed the boat on that one this year!
But actually, to be honest, I think I did that on purpose… subconsciously at least. Because I see Valentine’s Day as having too great a potential for acting as a glossing over, a box ticking exercise much like some of the other Hallmark Days we celebrate. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE a bit of slushy mushy romance! My hubby got me a stone from my favourite beach and painted a heart on it and that was me gone weak! Utterly!
Maybe it’s my age, maybe more so it’s my job … but what I’m very conscious of this year is that the quality of romantic relationships seems to be suffering greatly and it’s hard to quantify what exactly is going wrong for so many of us. There are lots of suspects, some might say scapegoats, like work-life balance for starters. We’ve gone a bit work mad haven’t we? We’re so available – too available – in so many ways, thanks to technology – a second suspect. Then there’s so much to distract us, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, everything is just so.. noisy.
And judgey. #Ugh
And what we’re distracted by is so shiny and sparkly and well-formed thanks to photoshop, post-production editing and our collective obsession with literally unattainable physical beauty. Far too many of us feel rubbish about ourselves and so we can’t quite believe that someone else might love and accept us – seeing as we don’t ourselves. Not that we talk about that part. Which I understand of course, being vulnerable is difficult, and not considered sexy. Even though it is really. Because it’s being real – and underneath it all what we crave is safety and authenticity in order to feel happy.
We are so available to other people that we are ironically unavailable to ourselves and those with whom we share our personal lives. We have become lonely.
We retreat into the other worlds, and medicate ourselves with whatever’s on the screen or whatever drug/ drink/ food we believe will soothe us. But the basics – what about them?
A journalist asked me recently to give her a quick 20 Questions list for “recharging” a relationship. That was a challenge – these quick fire things can often go wrong for me because I don’t consider them for a very long time as I do with most other things – especially if there’s a journalist involved. But then that’s often revealing too, and so today when I sat down to write this I remembered that list and resurrected and edited down the text I sent her.
I thought I’d share them here because some of them surprised this journalist, some surprised me! So they may surprise you:
- What do you pay attention to first thing in the morning – Facebook or your partner’s face?
- Who do you greet/ touch /talk to with more enthusiasm – your pet or your partner?
- When is the last time you laughed together? Do you need to do that more?
- When is the last time you looked into each others’ eyes for more than a second. Do you need to do that more?
- When’s the last time you asked your partner how they are and waited to hear the full answer? When’s the last time you answered honestly when your partner asked you how you are?
- Do you argue so that you win, or so that the relationship wins? Are you willing to reconsider how you argue if it’s the former?
- Can you identify unhelpful patterns – like, what keeps coming up in arguments or even minor irritations? What might your own role be in that?
- When did you last tell your partner what you find attractive about them?
A startling amount of people in a recent survey showed revealed that many of us haven’t been told we’re attractive in years. Even by a partner.
- What is your happiest memory of life with your partner last year? (Does your partner know that?)
- What is the most painful memory – is there anything unfinished that you need to celebrate, vent or seek reassurance for?
I am not a love guru… I have NO doubt that there are seasoned couples out there who could add plenty to this list of questions. After all, we are all still learning and we’d do well to look to each other more for advice rather than for comparison and judgement.
One of the best weddings I ever attended was a quaker wedding. There was a period of time where older couples stood and gave advice – not at all in a preachy way, rather in a gentle ‘here’s what worked for us, it might for you’ way. It was gorgeous. There was a real sense of permission to be aware that life is not a series of rosy Valentine’s Days. It days, thousands of them if we’re lucky, and some won’t be pretty.
I’m fortunate to be in a position where I am in daily receipt daily life lessons from my clients. Not many people can say that their work environment is a rich and generous vein of life experience from other people. That’s where the 20 quick-fire questions came from. They are things that I know (personally and professionally) we let slide, and they’re simple ways to keep connections real and safe. It’s easier now than ever to take each other for granted.
And it’s magic when we don’t take things for granted.
So here’s my belated Valentine’s Greeting – if you’re lucky enough to have a partner whom you love and who loves you, may you see each other. And may inhabit, and experience every precious moment you have together – even the tough ones!
Pic Credits: Self and Pixabay
Here’s an older one I wrote a couple of years ago on a similar topic if this felt relevant.