When Valentine’s Day rolls around, there’s pressure to buy or do something swanky or extra-special. And for some partners this spells trouble. Whether you’re stumped on what to get your sweetheart or romantically clumsy (or clueless), these tips from two seasoned relationship experts can help!
1. Know how your partner likes to be loved.
Partners have different needs and find different things appealing. For one partner, a bouquet of flowers is a special gift. For another, flowers are meaningless but a book makes their heart skip a beat. (Honey, if you’re reading this, you know I appreciate both!)
This is where your partner’s “love frame” comes in. This term originated from psychologist George Bach, according to Bill Cloke, Ph.D, a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles for over 20 years and author of Happy Together: Creating A Lifetime of Connection, Commitment, and Intimacy. It simply refers to how you show love to your partner along with how you feel most loved.
“Knowing what your partner likes to receive when they want to feel loved can create a very special feeling because they sense that you know who they really are and love them for it,” Cloke said.
2. Make your gift personal.
“A simple handwritten note telling your partner why you’d still choose him or her if you had to do it all over again says ‘I love you’ much better than a box of candy,” said Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, psychotherapist, researcher and author of the forthcoming book Finding Love Again: Six Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.
3. Give the gift of giggling.
As long as it isn’t at your partner’s expense, a silly gift — along with a more serious one — can be a fun way to express your love, Cloke said. “I remember when a girlfriend of mine gave me a birthday gift of a small leaded glass case with marbles inside and the word replacements lettered on the top,” he said.
4. Give the gift of touch.
Touching, such as kissing, hugging and cuddling, is another great way to express your love, Orbuch said. “Even if you’re not romantic, everyone needs and responds to the loving touch of a partner,” she said.
5. Remember that money isn’t meaningful.
With all the ads and commercials about presents, there’s a lot of pressure to spend and spend big on Valentine’s Day. This might lead you to spend money you don’t have or turn you off from the holiday altogether. But remember that romance doesn’t have a price tag, Cloke said.
Instead of viewing Valentine’s Day as a wily marketing ploy, Orbuch suggested seeing it as an opportunity for quality time. And this means different things to different couples. For instance, you might want to dine out at a nice restaurant or stay in and cuddle on the couch, she said.
6. Fill a need for your partner.
“If mushy romanticism isn’t for you, think of something your partner really needs,” Orbuch said. This might be anything from getting his car detailed to replacing her tattered briefcase, she said.
7. Muse over your magical moments.
As Cloke said, “All relationships have unforgettable moments or you wouldn’t be in it.” Take the time to talk about those special moments when you were first falling in love. You can even write them down, and exchange your lists, Cloke said.
In fact, just talking with your partner for 10 minutes about any topic — aside from kids, work, finances or household chores — can boost your relationship, Orbuch said. Her long-term marriage study found that talking to your partner every day for just 10 minutes increased intimacy, bonding and happiness.