Improving Valentine’s Day


“In the absence of consistent small gestures,the grand gesture falls flat quickly.” J.K. Post

There’s good news and bad news about Valentine’s Day.

The good news is you really don’t have to do much on February 14th to make your significant other feel loved, honored, and special.  And by “not much,” I honestly mean “barely anything.”

The bad news is you need to do plenty of “little things” the remaining 364 days of the year if you want your relationship to thrive.

Sure, you won’t lose points if you show up with flowers, chocolate, or jewelry on Friday, but if you haven’t been making small, regular deposits in your relationship, then your efforts will fall flat.

The secret is knowing WHAT to do in those lesser, but significant moments.

Are you a student of your spouse or love interest? Do you know what makes them feel valued and appreciated?

Here’s a hint, just because YOU like gifts, doesn’t mean your spouse does.  While YOU may want a long, carefully-crafted love note, your love may not appreciate the gesture.

True story.

People are wired differently and what makes you feel loved could be very different from what makes your spouse feel loved.

Gary Chapman wrote a fantastic book on this topic, The Five Love Languages, where he explains how we have a tendency to “give” the kind of love we like to “receive,” and, in doing so, we often miss what matters to the other person.

It’s like speaking Greek to someone whose native tongue is German; you’re bound to have miscommunication.

You should pick up the book and read for yourself, but in a nutshell, Chapman describes the five languages as:

Acts of Service

This individual feels loved when someone is doing something nice for them like washing the car, unloading the dishwasher, or hanging shelves.  Yes.  People like this exist (I happen to be one of them!)

Words of Affirmation

Love expressed with words that are encouraging and uplifting is the language this person wants to hear.

Physical Touch

This person feels loved with physical touch and wants to snuggle, hold hands, or get a literal pat on the back.

Quality Time

For some, wanting your undivided attention and then getting it makes them feel loved!


OK – some people really, really feel loved with gifts, so you BETTER not show up empty-handed on Friday! (This is the most foreign language to me!)

Which language do you speak?  Chapman says most of us are bilingual – thriving in two languages (so THAT’S awesome).  In case it’s not obvious which language is yours, go through a quick process of elimination and ask yourself, “which language could your spouse overlook and you would still feel loved?”

For instance, I don’t need Billy to be showering me with gifts, hugging on me, or telling me how much he appreciates me.  Though those behaviors are certainly nice, I would still feel loved if ALL he did was schedule “us” time (thus Date Night’s supreme importance) and surprise me with an occasional full tank of gas and a tidy home.

However much I relate to this type of love, those aren’t the kinds of behaviors that land significantly with Billy.  He doesn’t need my undivided attention, or acts of service.  What makes him feel loved are thoughtful, affirming words and time curled up on the couch.

So the key to small gestures is to make sure the gestures speak your spouse's language.   You have a few days to figure out what they speak, then tailor your Friday actions appropriately.

For instance, if your spouse is a Words of Affirmation person, take time to write a meaningful card.

If you’re with an Acts of Service person, don’t just make the dinner, clean the kitchen, dust the room, and sweep the floors!!

Give a backrub to your Physical Touch person, and, by all means, buy a gift for your Gift person!

As for me, and my need for Quality Time, give me a high five on Friday and make a dinner date for a NON-Valentine’s night out.  (I endorse time-shifting holidays to avoid the crowds!!)

Finally, don't play coy and make your spouse guess what makes you feel celebrated.  Communicate!  If you don't want gifts, let them off the hook and tell them you'd rather order Chinese food and watch Sleepless in Seattle (or Back to the Future, as the case may be).