Hey friends, let’s talk about the day at the end of this week that lots of people freak out about every year.
I don’t care about Valentine’s Day. Even the historical origins are confusing and brutal. meh.
I don’t care for mediocre chocolates in red heart-shaped boxes. I don’t care too much for cut flowers purchased at the grocery store. I don’t care about Valentine’s Day cards that say “I love you” in 5 different shades of pink.
I don’t care about any of that.
Not only is mass-produced chocolates made with child slavery and hydrogenated palm oil, but it is the below the barest of minimums. Not only can I get my favorite flowers just about any day of the week any week of the year (thanks, global capitalism), it isn’t original. It is nice and fragrant and cheerful, but it dies in a week. And not only do most Valentine’s cards reek of generic hetero-centric coupling tropes, it was probably written by someone who wasn’t paid enough for their poetic talents.
I really don’t care about any of that.
Too me, these are the barest of boring minimums and not the pathway to deeply, fulfilling, authentic, dangerous love that inspires and heals.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love love. I love lust. I love swooning and swishing and falling into the sweetness that is tender loving appreciation and adoration.
I love it with friends and lovers and comrades. I love loving someone I admire and aspire to be more like. I even love moments where I fall in love with a stranger in a chance meeting in some random location.
But I don’t think I’ll ever be about that Valentine’s Day.
So what makes personal love so good and corporate sponsored love artifacts so bad?
Intention and personalization.
While the corporate made love stuff has evolved over the years, it will never convey the authentic truth of my complex, nuanced, and so deeply personal love I have for the people I love.
When I express my love or when receive loving from someone else, I want it to be specific, intentional, and personal.
If we use the 5 love languages as (just one possible) lens to enact our love, we can express our deep appreciation and adoration for the people in our lives — not just one day a year, but forever and a day.
(If you aren’t familiar, the Love Languages are a simple framework to understand and communicate the ways that you express love and experience love from another. You can express or experience love in different ways or the same way. Lots of couples express and experience in different ways from each other, so it is incredibly important that you know yourself and your partner, so you can offer them love in the ways they need and vise versa.)
- Words of Affirmation and Appreciation: “I love you for who you are.”
“I love you. You are so caring and compassionate. I see you working hard to love me in exactly the way I want to be loved. I see you doing your art in the world, and I am so blown away with how your talent has evolved over the years I’ve known you. I am inspired by your dedication to your craft…”
“I see you going out there into the world, day after day, doing work that is hard and often thankless. I see your passion for helping (dogs, kids, community, the planet) others and it lifts me up to know that you are on this planet giving your all to make this world a better place for our kids and future generations. I am so thankful that you are in this world making your specific magic available to all who know you.”
- Physical touch
“I put fresh, clean sheets on the bed and cleaned the bedroom so we can spend some time cuddling together.”
“How would you like to be touched? I would like to touch you in whatever way will please you.”
- Quality Time
“I know you’ve been wanting to see the fashion exhibit at the art museum, so I bought us tickets and made reservations at the nearby restaurant afterward. Would you like to go together?”
“I’d love to spend some quality time with you doing something you love. What would you like?”
“I know you work hard on your feet for so many hours a day, so I’ve prepared a warm foot bath, foot massage, and a pedicure. I’ve got it all set up, so you can watch your favorite show and drink your favorite drink. What color do you want on your nails?”
“Babe, I know how hard you’ve been working at your job, with all the extra hours. Its been hard for both of us to keep up with the house at the same time. So, I’ve scheduled with a cleaning service to come in this weekend. I’ll stay here and work with them to do all the deep cleaning that we just haven’t gotten to in a long while. And for you, I also got you two tickets to the special museum exhibit that you’ve been wanting to see, so you can take a friend.”
“I saw you were running out of some of your makeup products, so I got you this gift certificate to Sephora so you can restock.”
“I bought you a 3-session pack for a series of massages with your favorite massage therapist. It includes an hour with each massage at the spa for sauna and hot tub. I know how much you love physical touch, and I’m terrible at it, and I want you to have all that you need. I love you.”
Each one of these examples is intended to communicate to you, lover, a specifically, custom-tailored expression to love to the one(s) you love for how they want to receive your love.
So, maybe your person doesn’t want the museum exhibit, they’d rather a documentary or a punk show. Maybe your person would flip their shit if you brought strangers into their home to clean up and would rather see you do the cooking and the cleaning or take the car to get an oil change.
The point here is that to love another, we each must strives to truly know the person we adore and to show that to them in their language of love, not the way that we want to be loved.
Let me unpack that point just a little further.
When I use words of affirmation, I am articulating why I think my lover is so awesome. I’m not counting the ways that they make me feel better about myself, because that takes the focus off them and directs it to me. That is kinda like sending myself a love note for all the ways I love being loved. Words of affirmation are to affirm that you know the person you love. So tell them you know them and love them.
When I offer physical touch, it isn’t to get to orgasm or to “make her cum” (which I hear a lot in this biz). It isn’t to fulfill my fantasy. It is to soothe, nurture, comfort, arouse, pleasure, or please my partner. It is touch they want, they like, they need, right now.
When I suggest quality time together, it is something my partner not only likes, but wants. Something we probably don’t do enough of together. Yes, you can have quality time watching your favorite show together, but to express your intentional and highly specific love for that person, I challenge you to search for something you probably aren’t doing each week.
In many ways, service is doing something for someone that makes their life easier — not more stressful — and it has to be relevant and specific to your person. (Don’t go messing around in my garden or water my plants and then think it is a gift of service to me.) It may be doing something that your person can absolutely do on their own, but they just haven’t been able to (like oil change in the car) or something they can’t do but it needs to be done (like taking their shoes to the repair place and paying for it). There are so many ways we can be in service to our people; what is critical is that we understand what service is useful and appreciated by them.
Gifts, in my sometimes humble opinion, are best when they are not only specific to your love but also a combination of meaningful, useful, and desired. I used to hate socks in my stocking as a kid, but now, I love them. When I get gift certificates or cash cards from relatives, I’m like “ho-hum” because they feel impersonal. But when my lover gets me a Sephora card, it feels personal because we’ve had so many conversations over the years about that store and my own complicated relationship with beauty, products, and feminine performance.
When my friend buys me a couple of books on edible landscapes or medicinal plants of my new ecosystem, I feel seen and known. I didn’t ask for these things, but they communicate to me that my person is paying attention to what I’m curious about, what I’m investing my resources in, and their gift is an active contribution to these passions of mine. But, still. Don’t fuck with my plants.
In love, it is each of our responsibility to know and communicate how we want to receive love, how we experience love from another as meaningful, tender, best. When we know this about ourselves, we can clearly communicate it to others. When we know who we are, we can then observe, understand, and actively love others more fully and authentically, and we can express our love to them in ways they can receive.
My hope for you is that you are loving yourself the way you want to be loved, you are telling people what you need and want to experience love, and you are taking action to offer love in the ways your people want to feel it.
And because we learn love together, in community, please share a few examples below of how you love to be loved — examples of you receiving something in these love languages and WHY it touched you so deeply.