Valentine’s Day is upon us. Love is in the air. Every store I go to has at least one special display of merchandise in red and pink with heart shapes all over it.

Some items claimed that it is THE gift to demonstrate your love to your spouse, and some went as far as saying that their gift will actually grow the love between a couple.

Now if only, it were that easy!

Romantic love is more complex than I had anticipated. It is not a one time declaration, but constant effort to stay in love, and hopefully grow that love.

After my marriage, I soon learned that this is not going to be as easy I as thought it would be.

What I am going to share today are the lessons about love that I have learned along the way in my marriage. These have brought me and my husband closer to each other, and made our relationship even stronger.

I would love to hear in the comments what your experiences have taught you. After all, every marriage is different and nourishes on different requirements.

Let’s get started!

1. Vocalization of love:

Just loving somebody is not enough contrary to what many people argue.

Growing up in India, I always got the idea that love – especially between husband and wife – is not something to be displayed – definitely not in public. I never heard my parents saying “I love you” to each other or even to us or other relatives in so many words. Of course, their actions, body language etc. indicated that.

Now that I am married, I do feel that saying “I love you” to your spouse or a partner forms a different kind of bond between the two.

But more importantly, when you are in the habit of vocalizing your love, in those brief seconds you suddenly become aware and hence grateful for having that person in your life. In those short moments, you acknowledge what is very easy to take for granted.

Many of us can probably live knowing that the person loves us even if they did not make it a point to say it in so many words. But let’s face it. We all have a need for reassurance; some more so than others. When you tell your loved ones, “I love you”, it does brighten up their day even if it just happens at a sub-conscious level.

So take some time today to talk to your loved ones, and let them know that you do love them. I promise, they may be surprised that you said so but they will be very happy, and so will you!

2. Understanding the language of love

There is this book called “The 5 love languages” written by Gary Chapman. I have not read it but I came across this graphic on Pinterest which gives a great summary of the concept.

We talked about vocalizing the love earlier. But despite understanding and agreeing with the benefits of it, some people just do not have it in their personalities to express their love by talking about it. We have all seen these people, and some of us may even be that person. What do we do in such a case?

Try to understand how they express love. Some people do things for you, some may give you hugs and kisses, some may discuss their secret dreams with you and only you. We all express love through a variety of behaviors. Understanding what is your language vs. your spouse’s or partner’s language provides so much clarity on many acts that can be misunderstood – or at least not given the credit that they deserve.

When I love somebody, I discuss thoughts, deep philosophy with them. That’s how I develop a connection. My husband, on the other hand, perceives love through activities done together such as hiking, swimming and watching TV.

Early on in our marriage we always conflicted as to what to do on a free evening. He wanted to go out, and I wanted to sit at home chatting. It was not until we both came across this concept of languages of love that we realized why we favored certain activities over others.

It was also at that time that we decided from now on, it will be a good mixture of both of our ways. Now I enjoy hiking with him more than I ever did before because I know the reason why he wants to do it. Similarly, he does not mind me humoring him with my crazy ideas while sipping a cup of hot tea.

We do not look at this change as a compromise, but as an adjustment we willingly do for the company and happiness of each other. That perspective makes a huge difference in keeping that love alive.

So now observe a bit more, and see what your and your spouse’s languages of love are. Once you find them, make it a point to express your love for them in a way they will understand.

At the same time, communicate clearly with them what they can do to express their love to you. There is no fun in keeping it secret, and hoping that they would find it eventually.

3. Loving your own self:

This final aspect of love is so counter-intuitive that it is easy to be missed.

When you are thinking about a relationship, you instantly think about loving the other person. Loving yourself seems very selfish.

But I have realized that it is, in fact, the most important part of the balanced equation. If you do not have it in you, how are you going to give it to others? 

Loving yourself means accepting yourself just the way you are; Accepting  your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, quirks, and needs. You must be aware of what you need to keep you positive and giving.

You may have a lot of love to give to others. But unless you are in a place of happiness, comfort, and peace, you cannot share it fully.

Many women, and especially mothers, are guilty of this. They sacrifice their “me time” for their children. They do not take time to pause and think about their current career situation. They let go of spending time with their girlfriends because now they have to go to that office party for their boss.

In countless such situations, you are putting others’ needs in front of your own. While that feels noble, there comes a time when you get burned out. Before you realize, the real “you” gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the routine. And that “you” is neither attractive to your spouse, nor is it a good role model for your children.

It is at that time, that you start wondering if you are even the person that you wanted to be. You start disliking what your life has become. Even the most special bond of marriage feels like a chore.

So before you get to that level, just understand that you need to slow down from time to time. You need to take breaks from your routine, and do something that makes you feel rejuvenated. Do something every day because it makes YOU happy – even if it is only for 10 minutes.

Just as a car needs fuel to keep moving, humans need fulfillment to live their best life. If you take time to be happy, fulfilled, and loved, you will have an unlimited reservoir of the same to offer to others. You will be a source of strength, inspiration, and compassion for people in your life. You will be a more effective member of your family, profession, and this world.

Take some time today to just pause for 5 minutes and see what is it that makes you truly happy and relaxed. Then plan on doing that every single day. For starters, just schedule some “me time” on this Valentine’s Day – bring out that long lost hobby, go for walk in the woods, get a massage, read a book. Whatever your mind is craving, give it! See how relaxed you feel after that.

Then you can say you are all set to spread that love to your spouse!
In conclusion, loving your life partner is work worth the effort. Make conscious effort to communicate your love. Show it in the way they understand it. And don’t forget to recharge your reservoir of love by loving yourself just as much as your love your spouse.

Do let me know in the comments what you have learned about love from your marriage or relationship. That might just be the advice a couple needs to take their love to the next level.

Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day!