I live with four boys. Three of them I gave birth to and one I actually chose to live with, [sigh] God bless them. Valentine’s Day is normally a very special time in our home, marked by its absence of red hearts and balloons.
This time last year, I woke up with the warm and fuzzy feeling that only a woman living amongst so many boys could have. Rest assured, by the evening it had all but gone. My Valentine’s Day was, needless to say, chocolate-less, flower-less and practically love-less (kind of like a bad cake).
In fact I spent most of it around girls.
But here’s the thing: it was a great day. It was actually a day filled with love, not in the romantic kind of way but in the lift-me-up and help-me-soar kind of way. My day was all about empathy and understanding and trust and fun and laughter.
So what is the recipe for maintaining a loving, healthy relationship? After many years of mixed results, I have come up with my own, very simple formula:
A big cup of listening: and by listening, I mean active listening, non-judgmental. Just be there. But be there, not anywhere else.
A dollop of space: although we normally like to be around the people we love often, everyone needs their space—to think, to dream or to just simply breathe.
A tablespoon of understanding: nothing beats empathy when it comes to maintaining healthy relationships. “I understand. I know how you feel.” These are sentences that shift the focus from you to the other person. Even if you do not know how they feel, or do not understand, be honest but show you care. “I don’t understand how that feels but I imagine it must be (adjective here).”
Mix all ingredients with a smile and add a pinch of self-love. Et voilà!
Oh yes, self-love, that all-important ingredient. One of the most important ingredients in a recipe for love is giving rather than taking. Giving importance, giving time, giving understanding, giving attention, giving ear-time, rather than taking. How do you that? Simple. By extending yourself the same privileges. Give yourself importance, give yourself time, give yourself understanding and attention and ear-time. Do something for yourself, for your own good, everyday. And then once you’ve done that, you’re ready to give.
So back to that famous Valentine’s Day last year: that night I went to bed praying that all my girlfriends stay healthy, happy and safe and that all the boys in my life, and in theirs, never taste a chocolate heart again!
Oh yes, and a few devilish thoughts every now and again, you know, just to maintain the balance 😉