For years, people have asked me to write a Valentine’s Day post. I never have.
There are already a million list articles about Valentine’s Day gifts. Every unique date idea and DIY present has been covered.
I’ve felt uninspired to write about this specific day because its theme doesn’t always focus on the right values. It often equates your level of dedication and love to your partner to how much you’re willing to spend on material things.
While it’s sweet to spoil someone you care about, I wish this day served as a reminder for something much more meaningful.
I want your Valentine’s Day to be about giving your full attention, interest, and time to your loved ones. I guarantee that your presence is way more important to them than any present you could give.
And we could all use a little more practice being present.
Attention is the world’s hottest commodity. Everyone and everything is fighting for it: marketers, your phone, your friends, your internal thoughts, the news, and social media.
Our attention spans dwindle every year. I feel it myself: I absolutely regret watching shows or movies that weren’t worth my time. In the past, I’d just say, “that sucked” and it would be the end of it. Now, I have smart friends who can’t even sit through 10 minutes of a great film because it’s not stimulating enough.
When we’re hanging out with people, we’re not actually there.
We’re checking our new snapchat. We’re half-listening to other people talk while waiting to say what we have queued up. We’re trailing off in our heads about our own problems and plans.
And we think that other people don’t notice or care. But they do. You can feel it when someone isn’t fully present with you. You can also feel it when they ARE — it’s a special experience.
That’s why we pay for therapists to sit and listen to us. It’s why women tell men they wish they would just listen without always trying to solve the problem. It’s why men who pay for prostitutes often just want the “girlfriend experience” of having someone lie next to them.
And it’s the secret to charismatic people – they make you feel like you’re the only person in the room.
We’re so plugged in. But deep down we all want someone to be so engaged by us that we become their #1 priority. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes.
Here’s how you can practice presence this Valentine’s Day with your loved ones:
- Consider leaving your phone at home. Or at least turn it off. Just the process of not having it available makes you so much more likely to let go of it. To let go of that need to incessantly check every message or update and instead be committed to the person you’re with. I’ve learned that if I don’t look at my phone for an hour, the world doesn’t end.
- Don’t rush. Clear your schedule so you’re not thinking about what else you have to do. Give yourself ample time to have a long experience together. Sit and talk without powering through dinner to get the check. Lose yourself in the conversation. Spend as much time at each activity as needed and go with the flow.
- Make time to just talk. Going bowling, watching a movie, or checking out an exhibit is all good fun. But set aside a designated chunk of time when you’re both not focused on anything external. We too often use those avenues to be together without actually having to pay attention to one another. Consciously create a space where you’re focused on only having a meaningful conversation.
- Maintain consistent eye contact while they talk. Breaking eye contact and looking around the room tells people you’re distracted. Even if you are listening, they can’t tell because you don’t look like it. That alone can make people hold back and remain aloof because they feel like you aren’t fully appreciating their conversation.
Ask about their day and really want to know the details. Most of us have been guilty of this: a loved one tells you about their day and you tune in just enough so when asked if you’re listening, you pass the test. You need to start giving a shit about their day — even for a few minutes.
I want you to not only listen but to understand I want you to know exactly how they felt that day. Ask about what was exciting for them, what was funny, what was tough, and figure out if they need to be comforted. A few min
Talk less and ask more — especially if you’re usually the talkative one. Put 60%+ of the conversation on your partner. Use open-ended questions where they have to elaborate, express their feelings, or share stories.
Listen intently and keep encouraging them to open up through enthusiasm and deeper questions. You can even tell them tonight is all about pampering them and letting them talk about whatever they want.
Stop waiting to say what you want to say. Think of how frustrating it must be for the other person when they know you’re only waiting for your turn to talk. They can see it in your eyes and when they pause, you finally get to say what you wanted (no matter how off-topic it is.) To them, you didn’t care about hearing them out.
Instead of getting caught up in this, just slow down. Focus on the sound of their voice or feel your toes in your shoes. Keep yourself grounded, in the moment, and out of your head. I may even suggest intentionally not saying what you were planning at all if it gets you to let go of that need to overtake the conversation.
Touch, kiss, and hug…a lot. Make intimate moments last for more than a couple seconds.
A lot of couples get so comfortable with their routines they lose the physical passion they once had. They only kiss briefly as greetings or when sex is about to happen. Instead, why not just hold your partner for a few minutes or kiss them passionately without the prospect of sex? Make your only goal to feel more connected to them.
Sit close against them. Hold their hand when they’re sharing something personal. Remind them how much you’re there with them in mind and body.
Call someone else you care about but haven’t spoken to lately. I like the Finnish interpretation of Valentine’s Day, Friendship Day. They celebrate their love for friends, romantic partners, and relatives. I’m sure there’s someone else in your life that you could use a little more of your attention.
Tell them you missed them and wanted to hear whatever’s going on in their life. Ask them if there’s anything you can help with. Suggest something fun you want to do with them and invite them out. Show them how you’re present with them even when you’re not with them in person. I promise you’ll make their day.
Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to be present with those who matter most. But what if you used this day as a launching pad to practice giving your full attention…every day?
People would start to feel like each day spent with you is a special occasion.