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  • J.A.Willoughby

GETTING YOUR HEART ON Observations of Valentine's Day

Okay, now that I’ve got your attention and hopefully a little intended laughter, let’s get serious about The Day on which the calendars say we should love each other, or at least profess to publicly – Valentine’s Day.

I was asked once by a friend to give him some pointers on a relationship. My first thought was, “I am honored that you would think enough of me to ask for such personal advice.” What came out of my mouth was, ”That's cool that you asked me that, but I don’t give that kind of advice to friends. It can backfire. Besides, it's something you build - not something you just get.” I learned that over the years. I have observed things (in and outside of our own relationship) that work and things that don’t. This is NOT advice, but it is a litany, or a "laundry list", (more appropriately for the married ones among us), of some of the things I’ve learned.

No two relationships are alike. Our day-to-day routines and micro-managed personal and work-related activities are all dependent on the intrinsic interactions between each of us - what works for some may not work for others.

I do believe, however, there can and should be universal "blankets" with which we should wrap around each other to become part of a larger invisible cloak; laid layer upon layer over time, until you see and feel that your mate or partner is guarded and loved with the effort that each of you put into them. The fabric of one of those blankets is Respect, its thread tested in strength by an ever-present self-imposed inversion interrogative: "How would I feel if he or she did that?"

Another fabric is made of Protection. Not necessarily the physical kind, which is assumed you would always keep each other safe from mental and physical abuse, but the emotional one – “landmines”. Landmines may be present in a relationship without ever realizing they have been planted.

Landmines can be little bits of subjects in conversation that one or the other finds irritating but may be passed over, ignored at the time and subsequently overlooked. Over time, those subjects (or personal quirks) can be stepped on again and again making the "ground" above (your tolerance) thinner and thinner over their lengthy buried condition. And then one day one explodes, and sets off a chain reaction. You have a full-blown argument whose memory or effect could be far-reaching. I've found it is best to defuse those mines as soon as they are recognized: "Wait, I didn't know that you felt that way about that. Now that I know, it won't come up again." Or “It really annoys me when you____.” Landmines defused and tossed aside, a potential blow up eliminated.

You can see where I’m going with this. And although I believe there should be very basic universally applied “blankets” in all relationships, )(moral, ethical and kind behavior toward each other) everyone will also create ones that are custom woven just for them and their lives together.

In our married relationship we have sometimes celebrated The Day in a new restaurant, with food and beverage that may have been uncommon to our everyday dining experience (and therefore expensive and a real treat for us). We have also had home-cooked favorite meals in the privacy of our own home. We’ve exchanged a few cards over the years but they never really get the words exactly right for the life we share. Besides, someone else wrote them. And when you imagine millions of other people looking at the same card you realize that The Day (151 million cards) is second only to Christmas (1.6 billion cards) with regards to sales, not counting classroom exchanges, according to Hallmark. That’s a lot of impersonal commercialism that doesn’t specifically define these two people living under the same roof.

Instead, we look to The Day as Every Day. One of our blankets is called “consideration”. It has been woven with a common fabric made up of threads and stitches of the little things that add up over time. The making of each other’s life a little less stressful by doing things for each other; by taking the time to listen (understandingly and patiently), especially to ‘rants’ or venting related to the outside world - that tends to tighten your world by casting the "demons" out and not at each other; more time for each other by helping with errands, the “honey do” lists); creating surprises by doing the unexpected (that shows they are not out of mind during your day); not worrying that being low on funds will “ruin” The World's Designated Day Of Love by not going out or buying presents - because you know you are both wrapped in all those emotional blankets you made for each other Every Day you’ve been together - and you can never put a price on that.

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