With Valentine's Day coming up and all of the in-your-face gifts that accompany the day, it's hard not to start feeling brainwashed into thinking that love means giving your partner (or potential partner) something red and either soft or yummy on this one particular day. I'm sure the perfect gift for some is red and soft (or yummy), but love has many languages and should be given a moment of thought when selecting a gift.
When I pause to think about what I could buy, create, curate, or facilitate as a gift for my Valentine it comes down to something that either expresses a feeling between us or something that facilitates less stress in our lives so that the true gift becomes about more quality time together.
Stress in a relationship is a serious mood killer. Did you know that when the body releases cortisol (the "stress" hormone) it releases throughout the body for 90 seconds? After that it's all in our hands. We can continue to escalate the situation, or find a way to move forward. When two people are stressed out, the road taken is often escalation.
One trigger in my relationship was our dogs. Our two beautiful, fun, loving dogs that also have some pretty bad habits. Last Spring we finally put both of our dogs through a training...and it was the best decision. Training dogs is as much about training yourself, so even though they're not 100% perfect yet, we now know how to handle the situations so instead of escalating, we have the tools to move forward after our 90 second cortisol release. We used Indi at Positive Outcomes Dog Training. This is a very nontraditional V-day gift, but so worth it if you and your loved one has times when your good time is ruined by your pups stubborn behaviors.
Another thing we did last Spring was paint our kitchen. When we bought the house all of the walls were one solid color that was not that exciting. We chose an avocado green that feels warm and gold when the sun shines in and deepens as the sun dips below the ridge. Being in the kitchen makes me so happy now. We're about to bring in Mark from Allen ProPaint to do a living orange in the living room. Changing the color of walls can be a simple task with the help of someone who knows the art and transforms the experience of a space. Even a place that harbors old feelings of a valley in the relationship can be brought to life with a fresh color.
Or maybe you're looking for something more intimate. My Valentine and I love to create rituals with each other. Rituals are really nice because you can start to create a mood and just like muscle memory each time you return to that place you feel the same and it comes easy. Did anyone else enjoy Francis and Claire's intimate conversations over a shared cigarette in House of Cards as much as I did? Since I'm not a cigarette smoker but enjoy the closeness that comes with sharing I found a different version of smokes to share on these clear nights. They come from Fat of the Land Apothecary and she carries different blends of herb that contain no tobacco. I don't recommend this to anyone who has been a smoker as I'm sure it's triggering and would totally spoil the intent. Rituals are easy to come by though and can range from making and having tea together, playing rock-paper-scissors for who gets the last of something, or cheering on each other's morning rounds of pull-ups. Get creative!
Handmade cards. This is one of my favorites to both give and receive. I usually draw mine with ink or colored pencil, but I've received cards made from construction paper and all kinds of other really creative ways. One thing that I love about it is that it's truly a gift for two. The creator gets to spend a few minutes with their creative energy, bringing something into existence for their loved one.
A gift certificate for a massage is wonderful because it's a little more traditional, but it also reduces cortisol levels within the first 10 minutes. Massage has a reputation for being a luxury because it's luxurious, but it offers much more to the mental and physical health and happiness of the receiver. This time is so special, and especially cherished by people who live with pain or care for elders or little ones. Hit me up for a handmade gift certificate!
My remaining suggestion is to take a run together. Not runners? You don't have to invest in fancy sneakers or vow to run a half marathon by 2017. A gentle jog through one of our many parks or through town is really all you need for this kind of gift. It gets you two outside together, endorphin's pumping. The only thing sexier than endorphin's is Adam Driver doing anything and he's probably already got plans.
So whatever you do, traditional or not, let it be from the heart and with intention to deepen your connection or facilitate an environment for great things to grow.