Saturday, February 11, 2012

Give a Meaningful Gift this Valentine's Day

We all want to find that perfect Valentine's gift.  We hope to convey those inexpressible feelings that we have.  This time of year, we are lead to believe that if we fail to do so, we will be inadequate.  Somehow that means out relationship is doomed to failure.

 According to the Forest Institute of professional psychology, the divorce rate for first marriages is 50%. The divorce rate is even higher for second in third marriages; being 67% and 74% respectively. There are several possible conclusions we can draw from this. The first of which is that only half of marriages are bound by a firm commitment. Or perhaps the successful partnerships were clearer on what they needed from a spouse prior to getting married (see my previous blog, "First Find Love Within Yourself”). I prefer to believe however, that most unsuccessful marriages fail due to a lack of relational skills - the divorce rates for second and third marriages bear this out. So then, what skills are necessary to nourish a healthy relationship?

Perhaps the most important skill for people to have any successful partnership is empathy-the ability to see oneself in others. Empathy is at the heart of tolerance and forgiveness. It is also at the heart of appreciation; as it is the Valentine’s season it is this virtue that I wish to emphasize.

Over the past several decades Valentine's Day has become increasingly commercialized. It seems as though, as each year passes, we are led to believe that our appreciation for our loved ones can only be demonstrated by the purchase of seasonal consumables. We are bombarded by the message that, "your affection can only be expressed through giving your loved-one our extravagant box of chocolates, $100 bouquet, or diamond ring." But do these purchases really show our love, or do they merely demonstrate our propensity to spend? Some might argue that the poor man who picks up a second job in order to afford to take his wife out to dinner demonstrates a higher level of love than the rich man who blindly charges a diamond necklace to his debit card. To me this poor man demonstrates a deeper level of appreciation, because he is sacrificing more of himself in order to create and share an emotionally impactful experience. It is very likely that he is given more thought to what his partner would appreciate. By emphasizing the wants and needs of his wife, the poor man has related to her on a much deeper level.

Surely appreciation entails more than the giving of material objects. Indeed, the giving of gifts without the sense of appreciation behind them, seems hollow and manipulative. And if your appreciation is genuine, then no gift is necessary. When we cultivate gratitude towards others within our heart, it beams outwards. It reflects in our facial expressions and body language. It shines through our actions. It fills our words with genuine emotion.

How then can we cultivate an attitude of gratitude? By actively recognizing the positive traits of others, by praising others for their actions, and by openly demonstrating our love we cultivate a deeper appreciation within ourselves. Allow yourself to "gush" with emotion when you think about your loved ones. Feel love through your whole body and let it exude from you. Do this as many times as the day will allow. You will soon feel a deeper appreciation of your loved one-perhaps more importantly, so will your loved one.

And now that you have a deeper appreciation, you will be in a better place to anticipate your lover's needs and wants. Instead of merely giving your special-someone a meaningless gift, you can create a shared experience that will be as unique, and special, as the one you love.