alentine’s Day is like Christmas. You know you’re supposed to find it appealing. You know this is the day to shower the people you love with love. But more often than not, it feels like a marketing ploy designed to convince you that money can buy you love. Still, you know there is an art to love that takes considerable time to master.
In order to alleviate all the pressure surrounding February 14th, I advocate practicing the art of love year round. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Love yourself first. If you can’t love yourself, no one else can either. The wonderful thing about falling in love is that you get to fall for yourself in the process. Wooing another with your wit and wickedly wild ways requires you to conjure up a certain amount of charm you may have forgotten you possessed. Sure, your new love may have you “walking on air.” But if you didn’t have your own wings, you’d still be on the ground.
- Be the love you seek to find. So, you want a fiery red-head who meets you at the door dressed in nothing but cellophane? Perhaps you prefer a hunk of burning love with the soul of a poet? If you are slouching on the couch, drinking beer, and eating bonbons, how appealing do you think you are going to be to your particular vision of loveliness? If you want excitement, be exciting! If you want your partner to perform a tantalizing tango, make sure you know more than the two-step.
- Dare to be romantic. Aside from the main characters in romance novels or movies, most real people are sadly lacking in romance. This is a shame since romance is so easy to evoke. While flowers, sparkly objects, candle-lit dinners, and nights at the opera are thrilling, so is a steamy sonnet snuck in a lover’s lunch box or a single sunflower sitting next to the baby wipes. Romance is not just for the rich and famous but for the daring and original.
- Love is about expression not perfection. We are bombarded with images of the ideal and hypnotized to believe we have to be perfect to be loved. Yet what we inevitably fall for in another is his imperfections – those adorably small ears, the one-sided dimple, the slightly bowed legs. It’s our vulnerability that opens us up to love and emboldens us to express that love in our own quirky way. Of course you might want to refrain from singing “Muskrat Love” at a karaoke bar in front of people who can promote or demote you, but serenading your sweetheart in the moonlight might make her swoon.
- Clean your slate daily. Life is messy and love is tender. If little slights or unintended hurts are not cleared up on a regular basis they accumulate like compound interest. This is not something you can afford to have working against you. Do not let perceived offenses go underground and fester. If you do these grudges will undoubtedly erupt at Thanksgiving dinner in front of family and friends or at a parent-teacher conference in front of your child’s principal. Do what it takes to come clean daily.
- Make love, not war. Opposites attract – in theory. In reality, the moment you say “to–may–to” and I say “to-ma-to,” we’re ready to call the whole thing off. Most of us choose a partner precisely because they are from Mars and we are from Venus. They compliment us. They know what wines go with what foods and we know how to calculate the tip. When things gets ugly, try to recall that this is the man you defend in front of your mother or this is the woman you gave up Monday night football for. While the behavior may drive you crazy, you still love the person, yes? Some things are worth fighting for; others are worth agreeing to disagree. If you’re going to fight, fight fair. And always make up.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say. Don’t be lazy with language. We have an exquisite vocabulary at our disposal and yet we insist on using the same words time after time. Although you may be very comfortable with your “love you/love you, too” routine, you can do better. Paint word pictures or set your sentences ablaze with sizzling suggestions. Don’t say, “You look nice” when what you really mean is “You look ravishing, delicious, or sinful.” Don’t say, “What’s different about you?” when what you’re really wondering is whether his eyes always dance with devilish delight when you mention mud wrestling.
- Listen, learn, leap. Just when you think you know someone inside out, he will surprise you. Instead of being outraged, be amazed, amused, or intrigued by what may have rocked his world. We are curiously creative creatures trying to find our way in the world. It’s easier to do that when we know there are those who love and trust us even if they don’t understand us. If you love someone, drop the conditions you place on her. Then trust her enough to know she’ll do something spectacular with your unflinching support and adoration.
9. Ask for what you need. Yes, it’s uncanny that the same person who can finish your sentences cannot fathom your ever-fluctuating need for space and intimacy, freedom and security, conversation and silence, carrots and carrot cake. As nice as it would be for your loved ones to anticipate your every wish, they cannot. There is no logic in the “If he really loved me he’d know I don’t like mayo on sandwiches made with packaged turkey slices but I love it on sandwiches made with fresh turkey.” Or “If she really loved me she would know I already have a ¾ inch wrench but what I’m sorely lacking is a 5/8 inch wrench.” Assume the one you love is so smitten with you that they get light headed in your presence and can’t remember anything but how much they love you. Be gentle. Help them help you.
9½ . Laugh. Often! Need I even remind you of the importance of a sense of humor?