This week romance and love are taking on a redder hue than usual! Hallmark and the local florist appreciate it. So do all of us valentines.
Showing that we like each other fuels our relationships. Instead of taking the other for granted, we take the effort to be aware of the other, to notice. (Ever watch the eyes of a couple in love? They’re always looking at each other!) We listen, we touch. We give flowers, chocolates.
Don’t follow the husband who told his wife: “I said I loved you the day we got married, and if I change my mind I’ll tell you.” Compliment each other—the more specific the better. Recount some strength or typical act in the other that is satisfying, that makes you want to be with him or her.
Much good magic happens when we affirm someone and tell them we like them. First, they like us more. All of us enjoy being around those who like us, who appreciate us. Second, when we affirm another, now we like them more. We live with whichever aspect of the people around us we choose to emphasize. Third, when we affirm another, they tend to repeat the behavior we affirmed!
Not all days, though, is the red glow in relationships from valentines and roses. Sometimes it’s anger. What about the days when the warmth of love is replaced with feelings of frustration or bitterness?
Loss of closeness is a signal that there is something in the relationship that needs attention. Give it attention. Be assertive; tell the other what your needs are. As Jesus instructed, “if your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” (Matt. 18:15).
Often when we try to be assertive, we demand that the other change their actions. Or we make statements judging their motives and personality traits. Both of those tend to provoke argument or defensiveness in the other.
But there is a way to be assertive that does not provoke a negative response: we can describe our feelings and pain at the other’s behavior. “When you do…, this is what happens to me.” “I feel… when you… because….” Look at the good magic that happens when we describe our feelings. First, the other can’t argue about our description of our feelings because we are the expert on that. Second, we have given the other an opportunity to feel our pain, to empathize with us. Third, often when we ask or demand that a person change their behavior, they resist; whereas when they see why they should change, they do. And we’ve weathered another crisis on our way to being valentines forever.
In this fallen world, some relationships are so stuck in destructive responses to each other that the above practices of affirming the other or describing our pain fail to work their magic. But in most relationships the magic can be there for the trying. It sure has in mine! Here’s to you, Karen: my favorite person to be with and favorite consultant. One loved by our kids, grand-kids, the Sunday School children, the women’s groups you lead—and most of all by me.