Valentine’s season reminds us of the value of relationships—and not just romantic ones. Not only do sweethearts profess their admiration and affection for each other, but so do parents to their children, children to their teachers, friends to friends, and so on. In a rare creative moment, I once wrote a love letter using strategically placed candy hearts to share my thoughts. Bingo!
At the same time, Valentine’s Day can expose our vulnerability to these conflicting priorities: relationships versus things. While our society has progressed in many respects over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we’ve regressed in terms of relational health and depth. Sadly, with the distractions of technology and busyness, it seems to be getting worse.
Have you thought about what you really value in life? What are you communicating about your priorities to the ones you love—whether intentionally or unintentionally?
Relationships are enduring—things are not. The way we communicate this to our loved ones lies in how we prioritize our time, attention, and money. You can use the following list as either a self-check or a to-do list. Either way, we hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for communicating your love to others:
1. Be fully in the moment. When you’re with someone, be completely engaged (not on your phone, your Facebook, your Instagram, your Candy Crush game, etc.)
2. Keep family and close friends at the top of your priority list in terms of time, energy, etc. Don’t just give them leftovers. They’ll notice, even if they don’t mention it.
3. Focus on the important, not the urgent. Sometimes maturity and experience are the best teachers on this lesson, but the sooner it’s learned, the better! Our tasks may seem urgent, but our relationships should take priority. This is especially important when our children want or need to talk.
4. Tune in to their uniqueness. Gifts, experiences, and expressions engender different responses from each of us. What uniquely means the most to them? Customize your giving wherever possible and you’ll surely hit the mark.
5. Express appreciation regularly. Be grateful for the people in your life and tell them how much you appreciate them. You don’t always have to communicate with outward displays of affection. Sometimes simple actions, like saying, “I appreciate you,” packing a family member’s favorite lunch (with a note in it), or doing an unasked favor can be just as meaningful.
6. Praise them in front of other people. Say something nice about them when they are in earshot. You will help build their self worth and indirectly communicate how much you value them. (Great parenting pointer!)
7. Set aside time and money for special occasions and gifts. This may be harder for those whose “love” languages are not gift giving or quality time. But for those who really need these things in order to feel loved and appreciated, they mean the world.
8. Forgive offenses quickly and let them go. After all, you’d want your loved ones to do the same for you, right? Related, pick your battles carefully and when arguments do arise, keep your cool.
It pays to examine how we prioritize our time, energy, and finances to build strong relationships with family and friends. Do you the people you love know you care? How so?