Love…Actually

Some mindful advice on love—just in time for Valentines Day. 

Illustration by Gavin Potenza

Okay, so you’re not into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. But with $18 billion spent every February on flowers, chocolates, gifts, and restaurants in the United States, somebody is.

So why not use the occasion to really celebrate love?

Here are a few ways to say “I love you” during this heart-stamped month that don’t require a credit card.

Listen—really listen—to your partner. That means giving them your openminded, genuinely interested attention, according to mindful communication experts Hope Martin and David Rome. Take the time to fully absorb what they’re saying. Body language, word choice, tone of voice—you’ll be amazed at what you may have been missing.

Offer your full presence when you’re together. Don’t look at your phone. Resist the usual complaining about work. Slipping onto autopilot—a you-dothis/ I-do-that dynamic—is no fun and can erode any relationship, says Marsha Lucas, a neuropsychologist and the author of Rewire Your Brain for Love.

Value the little things your partner does for you—and do some in return. Relationship coach Josh Wise suggests that couples take it a step further: discuss the kindnesses you receive and how that makes you feel.

Empathy. It’s a necessary ingredient for healthier relationships of all kinds. According to psychologist Ronald Siegel in The Mindfulness Solution, “When we can actually be with someone and empathize with his or her experience, even when it’s painful, the relationship deepens.”

This article also appeared in the February 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.

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