Over the years, we’re taught by films, books, and society at large that the way to express the gift of love on an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or other big day is to buy our partner flowers (or in old-fashioned comedies, this is how attempts were made to correct a mistake).
Who doesn’t love flowers? They smell and look fantastic. Plus, they show us that our partner was thinking of us – bonus points if they’re delivered at work, so our coworkers get to see it too.
However, flowers are fleeting. They fade and wilt over time, and so does the glow that comes from having received them. Don’t get us wrong. We’re not here to say you should never give flowers or that giving them to your partner is causing any issues.
We’re simply saying there’s a better, longer-lasting gift of love you can give your partner.
The Gift of Love: Stronger Connection
We often don’t think of gifting a better connection to our partner.
We’re much more likely to think of things like flowers, fancy feasts, or (thanks to the De Beers family) fine jewelry. Again, this does have its place, and we’re not discouraging the practice. But it’s worth highlighting again to show how entrenched these beliefs are for all of us.
If someone reminds you that you have forgotten an important milestone, where does your mind race off to? Probably one of the items mentioned above. Rarely will someone immediately think of gifting quality time to their partner which is one of the best gift of love. And that’s unfortunate because that’s what a relationship needs more often than not. Certainly more than another necklace that will sit in a box for most of the year.
But it’s important to note that we’re not talking about simply spending time together. To forge a quality connection, the time you spend together needs to be intentional and focused. Just sitting across from each other at a dinner table isn’t automatically creating a deeper bond. It’s all too easy to fall into familiar patterns and avoid more profound talks in favor of keeping the peace.
Thankfully, there are exercises you can do that will help you build a solid foundation for greater teamwork and stronger connections.
And don’t worry. These aren’t painful exercises. We’re not asking you to dredge up past failures and wade through painful memories. In fact, the activity we’re sharing with you today is the opposite. It’s taking time to reflect on your strengths and the positives you bring to your relationship.
The Gift of Love: Exercise
Every relationship must understand the unique strengths each person brings into the relationship and celebrate them for what they are. For a band to succeed, each person needs to know their role in the song and play their part. So, the drummer doesn’t (usually) play the guitar. Similarly, the best teams are composed of players who know their roles and purpose. You don’t have your star quarterback blocking on the line, or vice versa.
The gift of love exercise focuses on building a stronger team dynamic by helping you learn to play to each other’s strengths.
Begin by setting aside some quiet, uninterrupted time where you and your partner can focus on each other.
Once alone and focused on the gift of love exercise, write down three things your partner does better than you. Then, also write down why each of those three things is meaningful to you. Really take the time to think about your answers and give deeper answers if you can.
Here are some ideas of different strengths you could choose to focus on:
- Ability to plan for the future
- Exercise and fitness
- Fair fights or disagreements
- Having fun
- Making friends
- Meal planning and preparation
- Sense of humor
- Using free time
- Work ethic
Then, instead of immediately sharing your answers with each other, try to guess what the other person wrote down. What do you think they value or see in you? Answering from their perspective helps you to think about your relationship from your partner’s perspective, something we all need to take the time to do from time to time.
Next, after discussing what each of you wrote, it’s time to go another layer deeper.
Both of you write down what you think you need to do to bring out these strengths in your partner more.
Again, after writing down your answers, take some time to try and guess what your partner wrote down. Discuss your answers with each other and come up with actionable next steps that each of you can take to move forward with bringing out your partner’s best.
Doing this will pay out dividends in strengthening your relationship for years to come. Certainly longer than a dozen roses.
We’re Here to Help
If you struggle to run these exercises independently or feel like you would benefit from some outside guidance, we’re here to help. We have a team of counselors committed to helping relationships thrive available across the country. Please reach out to us with any questions, comments, or if you would like to start couples counseling.