February is the month of love.
For many women, it’s a time for our partners to shower us with gifts. And it’s a time for us to show our partners how much we love them. However, the perception out there is that Valentine’s Day is more for the women. It’s all about the romance. We have expectations about what we want from our partners and how we want them to show us how much we are appreciated, valued and loved.
I recently read a post by E-Harmony and it said Valentine’s Day to women is the Super Bowl to men. Research also shows that men spend more money on Valentine’s Day than women. Is this one-sided? Is this gender stereotyping? I think so. Here’s why I believe it is and why that perception must go – particularly for stepcouples.
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love? That’s the challenge.
We have entered a partnership. Typically, partnership implies equality. Why then, is the burden largely placed on our men to prove their love for us? Do they not deserve to be recognized, appreciated, valued and loved?
So, in this post I challenge YOU to take the initiative and plan something for your spouse. What should that look like?
I’ve written about “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman before. Essentially, Chapman wrote that everyone has a preference for how they show and prefer to receive love. The love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. If your partner likes to hear you sing his praises or loves to hear compliments; his love language is words of affirmation. If your partner would rather go out with you than with his buddies in his limited spare time then his love language is quality time. If your partner likes it when you bring home a gift after your business trip out of town; his love language is receiving gifts. Physical touch isn’t necessarily sex but it can be. Even a caress on the back of his arm while you cook dinner is simple yet speaks volumes to a man whose love language is physical touch. That being said, there are primary love language preferences but that doesn’t mean you should stick to the popular one. Being diverse and creative is also good for the heart and soul.
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love? That’s the challenge. It requires effort by both partners. And sometimes, you might have to lead by example. You don’t have to spend lots of time or money trying to fill your partner’s love bucket. Sexy texts work. Here’s a bit of advice on that first though…check to make sure your partner isn’t sitting by his boss in a business meeting first. Yes, that advice comes from first hand experience. Give him a coupon book for date ideas at home or in your community for quality time. Coupons for a massage for the physical touch or coupons to take a few of his chores on for acts of service can kill a few birds with one stone. Gifts can also be cheap, so just stock up on cinnamon hearts, Hershey kisses, or any of his favourite snacks or treats. Sometimes the smallest gestures, just knowing you’re thinking of him, makes a big difference. Filling his love tank then boomerangs back to you and it becomes a very, very positive feedback loop.
But, truthfully where should you start? Loving yourself is foundational. If you are valuing yourself and therefore investing in your well being by taking care of yourself, you rely less on outside validation to fulfil you. That’s not to say that you don’t need to be shown love and appreciation, but the need for others to do so becomes less. Self-affirmation and self-acceptance is potent and should never be underestimated. And when you feel good about yourself, the love naturally flows to others around you.
And why is this so important for stepcouples? Stepcouples face more stressors that are unique only to stepfamilies. High conflict exes, monetary strains, and parenting conflicts create more intense and more complicated stressors. With divorce rates much higher for second – and then third-time marriages the intentional effort has to be more and more often. Much more. So, go and get inspired and be creative.
Let your love flow and be your guide. Tap into those warm vibes and see where it takes you…and your partner.
Ali Wilks has a BA in Psychology and a MSc in Human Ecology specializing in Family Studies. She is also a certified stepfamily coach and the owner and founder of Step by Step Mom – a stepfamily/stepmom coaching business. Her other job is with Children’s Services, since 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a trainer on Edmonton’s Caregiver Training Unit teaching classes on building skills, providing advocacy and support for foster, kinship and adoptive parents. These classes include building the essential skills in raising nonbiological children from the foster care system who present with special needs. Ali is a stepmother of 3 adult children (with a couple of grandkids too) and the birthmother of 2 beautiful girls.