Love is in the air. It is hard to miss the oversized cards, bright red inflatable hearts and beautifully packaged chocolates occupying pride of place at the front of shopping aisles. Or the stunning displays of red roses, jewellery and fragrance gift sets. All of which herald the onset of St Valentine’s Day.
Everywhere we look we are bombarded with reminders of this much publicised day which celebrates love and romance. Millions of people all over the world will splash out on special presents in the lead-up to Saturday in a traditional display of love and affection on this the most romantic day in the calendar.
Restaurants, cafes and public houses will be filled with couples keen to celebrate their relationships and publicly mark the joy of togetherness. Intimate candle lit dinners, weekends away or romantic surprises are the order of the day.
But what if your resources do not stretch to elaborate tokens of appreciation? Or you are against the idea in principle of forking out cash on Valentine’s gifts just because everyone else appears to be doing it? (beware of this characteristic in a potential suitor as it may be a ploy to disguise their inner scrooge! ). Will you feel left out as the rest of the world parties til dawn, swept away on a tide of love and romance?
And what alternative gifts can you give to make Saturday memorable, convey your feelings and enrich the life of the receiver?
Here are some ideas for “money can’t buy” gifts which will help smooth the path of true love:-
1. Be an active listener. It is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship yet it is one area in which many of us fall down. We are increasingly living life in the fast lane with growing demands on our time and numerous distractions deflecting us from what is important and worthwhile. We often take our nearest and dearest for granted, sometimes being just a bit player in their lives. Little wonder then that we fail to connect on a meaningful level with them. Listening is not only a powerful tool to enable us discover what is going on in their lives it also represents a valuable commitment to the relationship. It enables people to feel valued and respected. People open up when listened to, they share and confide. You can improve your listening skills by not interrupting and being attentive to non-verbal clues, such as facial expression and posture. Paying attention to what your loved one is not saying is as important as being attentive to his/her spoken words.
2. Nourish your relationship. Flowers wither and die without water, so do relationships, if they do not receive sufficient love, care, and commitment. If you want 2015 to be the year in which your relationship flourishes then be sure to put it at the top of your agenda. Kindness and understanding will help nurture your union as will patience and forgiveness. Be sure to invest time and energy in your partnership. Ensure you have quality time together, nights out, occasions to re-connect.
3. Have realistic expectations. You may have been swept off your feet by Prince or Princess Charming who is the answer to your dreams. However, it is important to be realistic and not expect the object of your love to be at your side all the time and fulfill your every need. Nobody can be all things to all people. Ensure your life is well balanced, stay in contact with your friends and make time for them in your busy and exciting new schedule. Keep up your interests, too.
4. Learn to love yourself. Nurture your body, mind and soul. Appreciate who you are and what you have achieved. Celebrate all your successes and efforts, how you have overcome shortcomings and the great way you have played the challenging hand you may have been dealt in life. A good sense of self is crucial in order to lead a healthy and happy life. It is also a valuable gift to bring to any relationship so set about developing yours if you have not done so already. Respect yourself and others will follow your lead. Michael Hardiman, a counselling psychologist who practises in Galway, recommends drawing up a self-care programme. This should involve taking part in activities which promote healthy growth and development in body and mind.
He points out that people with low self-worth are inclined to live life with little or no proper care for themselves. “In general, a selfcare programme will involve treating oneself with respect and behaving in ways that promote fulfilment and happiness. When faced with any decision a useful rule of thumb is to regularly ask the question, ‘If I love and respect myself in this situation what will I do?’”.
5. Do not settle for second best. The start of a new year is the perfect time to re-assess your relationships and consider if they are enriching your life. You may have niggling doubts about whether your current partner is the one for you but may find it hard to put your finger on what exactly is wrong. Be alert and follow your instinct. If there are more downs than ups in the relationship and it is making you feel unhappy and angst-ridden on a regular basis ask yourself if now is when you should call time on your union. If the relationship is mostly good and you feel it enhances the quality of your life then commit to smoothing out the few remaining creases.
While you are doing all this reflecting look inside yourself too and discover ways in which you can be a better friend to your partner or spouse. Be honest with yourself and be prepared to change.
6. Keep an eye on your anger. It is an instinctive response to feeling threatened and mobilises the body’s resources to defend itself, to attack. It is a powerful emotion which is neither good nor bad, according to local psychotherapist Norman Warden. It is what you do with it that counts.
Productive anger can motivate us to take action to defend ourselves or others, to deal with conflict or change something of major concern.
“The constructive expression of anger is an important way of resolving conflict through naming how we feel,” says Mr Warden, “When we know how to express anger in a way that is constructive it can lead to positive and beneficial outcomes, motivating us to solve problems.”.
However, unproductive anger, which is inappropriate to the circumstances, can adversely affect our thoughts, actions and relationships. When angry it is harder to think clearly and evaluate opinions. We act more on impulse without considering the consequences of our behaviour. If your relationship is characterised by unproductive angry outbursts be aware that it can inflame already heightened feelings and can be used as a licence to hurt others.