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Parent + Partner Love: Modeling Intimacy and Romance is a Gift to your Children

BY DR. DAN

Last week I was in the kitchen with my oldest while she was doing her homework.

She looked up and said, “What are you getting mom for Valentine’s Day?” I realized my daughter was telling me something. It was code for my wife got me a present and I better get on it.

Ugh! Valentine’s Day is next week?! Being someone who generally focuses on one week at a time, it snuck up on me as it always does. But did she really get me a present? We often don’t exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day, but sometimes we do.

“Ugh!” What am I going to get her? When am I going to do it so she doesn’t know? What should I get her that she will like? What is Valentine’s Day all about anyway?

What do you remember about Valentine’s Day as a child? Probably making cards for people in your class? Signing cards for some of your classmates or everyone in your class depending on your teacher’s rules? Writing special messages to someone who you had a crush on? Getting a special card from someone you like? Stressing that you will not get many cards from classmates?

Looking back, I don’t think I ever knew what this day was really about except candied hearts and pink, red, and purple cards. As a teen, I remember a lot of pressure to get a present for your crush or girlfriend/boyfriend.

Fast forward to adulthood. Has anything changed? Is it a day to show love and appreciation for your partner or spouse? Pressure to buy a present and get a card that says something mushy? A bitter reminder that you are in a relationship that doesn’t have the love or caring that it once did?

Is Valentine’s Day an obligation or an opportunity?

I decided to look up the history of Valentine’s Day and, like most things, there are a few different versions. What is clear though is Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love and romance. What I learned, and what I think is really cool, is that Valentine’s “greetings” date back to the Middle Ages ― the first documented written Valentine was in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Now that is love and romance!

Last week I was meeting with a 3rd grade client and her mother. We are working on taking risks. Last year she hand-made every card for every classmate (a rule in her class). She was disappointed that others didn’t take the time to appreciate her cards.

This year she is nervous about making a special card for the boy she has a crush on in her school. She wants him to know she likes him, but doesn’t want to be embarrassed or rejected. She decided she is willing to take a risk and give him a special Valentine. We prepared for different scenarios. She is willing to do something special for him and see what happens. Now that is sweetness!

So is Valentine’s Day an obligation or an opportunity? I say it’s an opportunity. If you are in a loving relationship, it is an opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your partner. If you feel like your relationship is lacking romance, it is an opportunity to create romance by writing a personal card or poem. You can plan a fun or romantic date or night away. You can harness your old (or younger) energy and playfulness. You can create a romantic environment. You can do this!

If you are in a relationship that is difficult and feels like it is lacking love, this is an opportunity. Like my brave client, it is an opportunity for you to go out on a limb and risk rejection by showing you care. You can take a risk and remind your partner of what you once had together and what you want again. You can be romantic and loving. You can take the first step. You can ignite the low flame. You can do this!

Perhaps equally important, and a tremendous motivator, is to consider what you are showing your children about love and romance. Remember, our kids are watching everything. You are modeling for your kids how to be in an intimate relationship. You are modeling how to show love (or not).

They notice when we take our partner for granted and when we do something special. Even though Valentine’s Day has largely become another Hallmark Holiday (apparently 150 million cards will be given, the next highest card extravaganza next to Christmas), it is an opportunity to show love and romance. St. Valentine is giving you this opportunity!

One of my greatest pleasures is to see our kids’ faces and hear their responses when they see my wife and I kiss, hug, and hold hands. They make faces, noises, and comments – and they are always smiling when they do.

It may be tough for them to watch, but I know they love that we love each other and show each other love. I challenge you to move past the obligation of this day of love and romance and do something meaningful for your partner – something romantic and loving. Do it for yourself. Do it for your partner. Do it for your kids. Take a risk, and then keep doing it everyday. It’s good for everyone.

This piece first appeared on Huffington Post in February. Photo credit: PIXABAY.

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