Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Invest in experiences, not more stuff

They like signposts at Rum Point!

Find your next adventure.

Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays and other gift-giving holidays often have us wondering, “What would our spouse most want to receive?” At least within our budget. Sadly, most of us can’t recall the vast majority of gifts we have given or received. Ads bombard us with the message that the more we buy, the happier we will be. But there’s a better way. Research shows that spending on experiences rather than on things brings the most happiness.

The gift of travel is a great way to make lasting memories. My memories of fancy dinners in expensive restaurants pale in comparison to a long-ago simple Parisian picnic with my husband featuring baguettes, cheese and wine. Beach memories are another favorite. Having toes in the sand seems to lower stress levels and increase playfulness. I smile when I think of our beach rental houses with kids and not much on the agenda. Although it was more than 20 years ago, lounging in a hammock in Hawaii is the image I conjure when I need to relax.

Many people think they can’t afford to travel. Yet they spend hundreds of dollars each holiday on gifts that are soon forgotten. Many airlines offer credit cards that allow you to gain frequent flyer miles for spending a minimum amount. We have used them to take two overseas adventures for four people. Adventures can also be found much closer to home, such as in state parks where lodging and camping are very reasonable.

Travel allows us to try new things together—food, cultures, activities, adventures. Experiencing new things has been shown in research to be good for keeping our marriages strong.Whether your idea of fun is a pub crawl or foodie tour, learning to surf, reading a new book together, or taking dance classes, find something you’re willing to try.

Things don’t always go as planned when traveling, but these hiccups create challenges we can overcome together and become part of the memories we can laugh at later, like the very “rustic” lodge we stayed in while white water rafting with friends, or the seafood beach picnic that attracted hundreds of seagulls. Vacations (with kids or as a couple) allow us to have large chunks of time to focus on one another and away from our many screens and devices. Travel helps us experience nature in new ways and relax our minds and bodies away from the daily stresses of life.

Planning a trip takes time and effort, but from looking forward to the trip to the positive memories left behind, it’s worth the effort and creates more lasting happiness than buying more things. Forbes magazine suggests investing in experiences, such as dining out, a trip to the spa, or buying things for other people are a better investment in long-term happiness than buying things for ourselves.  Going to a concert instead of buying a new outfit, or choosing to rent a boat instead of buying one are examples of investing well in experiences.

“Nine times out of 10 you’re much better spending money on experiences and other people than on yourself. You’re much more likely to have genuine, fulfilling happiness as a result.”–Forbes contributor Ilya Pozin

What are the trips or experiences do you remember most with your spouse? What is your favorite travel memory?

This bracelet helps me remember my trip to Maui with sand from the Hawaiian island!
bracelet

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

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Why this may be the most important week of the year for your marriage

heart of seaweed  morguefileDo you think it’s a coincidence that National Marriage Week (Feb 7-14) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 9-15) overlap this year? If it is a coincidence, it’s a happy coincidence and a reminder that daily acts of kindness are essential to a happy marriage.

I prefer the term “deliberate acts of kindness” rather than “random” ones, because if we are not deliberate about acts of kindness, they just don’t happen. Even if you want to turn your acts of kindness toward random people, you still have to be deliberate about it don’t you? Otherwise you’ll get distracted by your busy day and your “top priorities”. Your spouse deserves your special efforts both to be kind and to do kind things for them. Make a list of three small acts of kindness you can do for your sweetheart this week. Then, later brainstorm things you can do on a monthly basis. (Read Researchers say successful marriages come down to kindness.)

While we are on the subject of February holidays, Valentine’s Day is the most obvious. Even if you wanted to forget it, the flood of red and pink hearts at the grocery store will be an overt reminder. But don’t let the singles have all the fun. Remember it’s an opportunity to communicate your love, and it doesn’t have to be celebrated on Feb. 14th.

Rather than thinking about these separate holidays as items to be checked off a list with gifts to buy and actions to take, think of February as a time to take stock of your marriage and determine if romance, kindness and thoughtfulness are a part of your usual week. How were the holidays for your family? Are you spending time together each day, with a larger block of time each week, such as a date night? Is your home a happy place for your family to be? I know I often worry more about getting everything done than making sure I have positive interactions.

Talk about these things with your spouse. Discuss ideas for making things better, but don’t place blame.

If you’re having a night at home for Valentine’s Day, consider reading your marriage vows or looking at your wedding pictures. Similar to a company reviewing their mission statement; it might help you stay on track and recall your promises. (Check out Do you wish Valentine’s Day never existed?)

If you haven’t had much time together, ask yourselves if you could make a marriage retreat or weekend getaway a reality. For those with children at home, is there a family member or close friend who could manage them for a night or two? Offer to do the same for them if they have children.

Be as deliberate and non-random in your marriage as you possibly can, being generous in your time and thoughtfulness throughout the year.

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise.” –Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

What’s your great love story?

oldtime photo morguefileThe holiday that celebrates love is just around the corner, and I know it stresses many of you out. Instead of stress, I hope it’s a time to remind you and your partner how lucky you are to have found one another and to have made the choice to love each other. Maybe it’s also a good time to share your love story.

Have you told your kids or grandkids the story of how you met, or your first date, or how you proposed? Even if they roll their eyes, they’ll be glad to know. You might even write it down for future generations, or pass along your letters from your dating days. Don’t think that story has to be perfect; every great story has twists and turns.

The genealogy site, Crestleaf, is requesting your great love stories leading up to Valentine’s Day. They asked me to let you know about it, so I’m passing it along. “One of the best things about conducting family history research is recording the incredible stories you get to hear from older family members; what their lives were like back in the day, how they endured the struggles of the Great Depression and how they managed to find (and keep) true love through it all,” says the site. “In this day and age, where divorce is more common than not, our grandparents and other older family members have chosen to keep those unbreakable vows and work through all the hard times resulting in lifetime love with their partners. And those heartwarming stories about how they fell in love with each other are what give the rest of us hope that we will find a love that will last until the very end.” Visit here for the submissions details.

If you don’t feel like telling or sharing your story, consider looking back at old photos with your sweetheart, remembering the days when you fell in love, or when your grown kids were babies. You won’t transport your heart to the feelings you held back then, but you might feel a great appreciation for the life that has come between your falling in love and today.

Let Valentine’s Day be a day to share your love story and your appreciation for each other.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Do you wish Valentine’s Day never existed?

100_0323aEvery year I hear from people who find the pressure of Valentine’s Day can make it a negative holiday. Others choose to ignore it because it’s a “Hallmark holiday.” Whether you go all out with dinner reservations and chocolate, or stay at home and don’t even share cards, there is no correct way for couples to celebrate.

I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine was robbed in her home on Valentine’s Day many years ago. Her husband knows that she detests any mention of the holiday and wants no gifts or celebration of any kind. It is simply a reminder of the worst kind. Her husband is welcome to choose another day to bring her flowers, but this is not the right day.

Others I know would find it offensive if their spouse did not make at least an effort to be romantic or buy a gift. They may or may not spell out their expectations, but they are there nonetheless. (Please don’t expect your spouse to read your mind.)

Frequently, wives seem to act as if Valentine’s Day is a day for them—they should be showered with spa days, chocolate and flowers, and an ornate card, perhaps with dinner waiting for them. Yet these women aren’t making the same effort for their husbands, perhaps because he doesn’t care about the day. It should be a day for both partners to enjoy.

If you are wondering what to do, think about your spouse’s true preferences. Would he or she rather have dinner at home, or choose a different day to celebrate? Would she rather have you write a love letter or poem instead of getting a gift? Would he rather go to the movies than have a complicated dress-up date? If your wishes are different from your spouse’s, consider celebrating the way your spouse wants to celebrate this week and then pick another day to celebrate the way you wish.

The most important aspect of celebrating is that neither is doing it out of obligation. If there is negativity or a sense of obligation, it’s not a benefit to your relationship. Just look at it as a reminder to look at each other the way you did when you first fell in love and to keep those fires burning.

For more, read Tried-and-true Valentine’s Gift Ideas, or How to have a special Valentine’s Day.

It’s also National Marriage Week, so please give your marriage some extra love and attention, and help support married couples around you.

Movie ticket Giveaway!
Fandango Movie Crush contacted me and offered to give a pair of tickets to one lucky reader. Leave a comment if you want to qualify for the drawing, which I will hold on Feb. 13th. This may help you plan the perfect Valentine’s movie night. As an added bonus, you’ll get a pair of love songs from Amazon MP3 with Fandango tickets purchased between January 28 – February 18 – talk about feeling the love! For more information on the latest movies, along with the latest trailers and ticketing options nationwide, please visit Fandango’s “Movie Crush” at http://www.fandango.com/moviecrush.

Relationships & Personality Study
Dr. Amani Elalayli, a social psychology professor at Eastern Washington University is conducting research on the factors associated with more satisfying relationships. They are looking for adults currently in a committed relationship. At the end of the study, he will tell you some of the results of our studies thus far so that you can learn something new about the psychology of relationships! This online survey should only take roughly 15 minutes. If you are willing to do our anonymous survey, please click on this study link. By clicking the link, you are confirming that you are at least 18 years old. Please be sure you have some privacy when completing the study, and that your relationship partner is not present. https://qtrial.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1NCYgul2jANExeJ

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Do You Have the Valentine’s Day Blues?

This morning, I got up early to trek down to my local NBC station (WTHR) and do a live interview on avoiding the Valentine’s Day blues. Here are the main points that I hope will help you make the most of what can be a great holiday, but which many of us have avoided or complained about for years.  I’ve expanded here, since TV clearly has tighter time constraints.

Q 1: Sometimes holidays like Valentine’s Day result in unmet expectations or disappointment. Why does a holiday that is intended to enhance love cause conflict with many couples?

We all have different visions of what Valentine’s Day should be, and we often have very different memories of the holiday growing up. If your parents made a big deal about Valentine’s Day, and your spouse ignores the holiday, you may feel disappointed. There’s a wide variety of expectations. Some people hope to be pampered, others will be thrilled with a card. Communicate about your expectations and what your partner’s expectations are. 

Because the media in movies and advertising portrays Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers, there is pressure to get it right to show how special our love is. The pressure is often on men, which may cause them to want to avoid the day entirely. Talk about the pressure you feel ahead of time.

If you find your expectations are far out of line (i.e. she wants a new car or a diamond ring, and you budgeted for a box of chocolates) share with her your perceptions that gift giving isn’t a true indicator of your love for her. You might find a healthy dose of romance will win her over and you explain to her any gift would pale in comparison to her beauty!  But seriously, we should aim to be satisfied and happy in our current circumstances and to appreciate the love we have in our lives. More than that is just gravy.

Q2: Many people consider this a “Hallmark holiday” created to fuel consumerism. Should couples just opt out?

The holiday has been popular since the 17th century and its roots go back much further. It was not made up by modern corporations, but today all holidays are used as a way to generate business. For certain people who have had very negative experiences on Valentine’s Day, it may be better to celebrate your relationship on a different day. (I have a friend who was robbed at gunpoint on Valentine’s Day many years ago; she wants no mention of the day.) For most of us, though, I would encourage you to embrace the holiday as providing another reason to tell your spouse or partner how much you love them. My husband and I have come around on this and instead of avoiding the Hallmark holiday try to show love to each other and to our kids.

However, you don’t have to buy into the consumerism aspect. You can write a beautiful note or bake them a homemade pie. Choose something that your partner would find meaningful and special. We may not remember to give an act of love every day, so let Valentine’s Day be a reminder to add a little romance to your life on a daily basis. Don’t make it just a one-day effort.

Q3: How can couples convey their expectations and increase the odds of having a happy Valentine’s Day and maintaining a strong bond after the big day?

Women in particular think their partner should “just know” inherently what to do to please them, but men can’t read minds. It’s not cheating if we tell them what makes us happy. Again, partners need to communicate their expectations.  You likely have very different hopes for the day than your spouse, and it’s best to get them into the open. Ask your spouse what is the one thing you could do for them to make them feel special, and try to deliver on that.

Beyond Valentine’s Day, find small ways to be generous and loving to your partner.  Bring them their favorite beverage each morning or offer to massage their aching back. Compliment them once a day. These daily habits show they are important to you and can have a much greater impact than buying a dozen roses once a year on Valentine’s Day.

You can review the attached graphic for Valentine’s Day trends. U.S. shoppers spend an average of $126 on their sweethearts and loved ones this year. See if you can push your creativity and instead of spending a lot, show through your words and actions how special your loved ones are to you.

If you have frequently ignored the holiday, let this be the year that paper hearts and hand-written notes fill your house and get tucked under pillows. Even if you’re single, tell those you love how much they mean to you.

Graphic courtesy of Online MBA.

How To Have a Special Valentine’s Day

With only one week left before Valentine’s Day, enjoy this guest post from Lisa Moore. Communicate about your desires and expectations for this holiday so it can bring you closer together, rather than bringing disappointment or conflict.

Valentine’s Day, a day reserved for love and affection, often brings out opposite emotions in lovers. The case is especially true when the two people are married. Spousal conflict has been directly linked to eating disorders, alcohol abuse, depressive symptoms and other psychological disorders. These symptoms can be compounded when Valentine’s Day and all of its expectation-raising traditions come into play. If you’re concerned about the upcoming holiday and the effect it may have on your marriage, here are a few tips.

What Does Valentine’s Day Mean to You?

The beginning of a good Valentine’s Day actually starts a few days or a week before Feb. 14. Simply taking the time to talk to your spouse about what Valentine’s Day means to them can cut down on the tension when the day arrives. If you find out that your spouse has always wanted to have the traditional romantic Valentine’s Day experience, this year might be the year to make their dreams come true. If they really express disdain for the holiday, don’t expect a day punctuated by dozens of roses, boxes of chocolates and other romantic gestures.

Write Your Spouse a Love Letter

This might seem a bit antiquated but there is nothing like having a handwritten note from your spouse that explains (perhaps in poetic terms) just how much they mean to you. If you go this route, be sure and handwrite it. This added personal touch will mean a lot to your spouse.

Make a Date “Bucket List” For the Year

Make plans for what you want to do together in the next 12 months. Go to the opera? Go to a football game? A bed and breakfast? Write down a few ideas each and make it a point to try to cross everything off the list throughout the next year. Most couples go on dates 1-2 times per month. If you’re not even close to that number, or you just feel like you could use even more time together, this might be the perfect option for you. This is a great way to extend Valentine’s Day throughout the rest of the year.

Touchy Feely

Don’t be afraid to get physical on Valentine’s Day. Sure, the bedroom is a great place for that, but physical affection can take the form of everything from a good morning kiss to a shoulder rub to a cuddle session. Physical contact releases a drug called oxytocin into the brain. This chemical has been called the “Love Hormone” and increases feelings of intimacy.

Lisa is a guest blogger who specializes in every aspect of family issues, from marital counseling to throwing your child the perfect birthday using Super Mario party supplies.

Photo courtesty of stockvault.

Tried-and-True Valentine’s Day Ideas

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, many of you may be over-thinking what would please your sweetheart.

I could give you links to gift ideas for husbands and gift ideas for wives, but I think you know deep down what will be successful. Let me break it down for you.

For men, if it has to do with food and/or sex, you are probably onto something that will please him.

For women, if it sounds romantic, you’ll probably make her day. It doesn’t have to be the MOST original idea ever, although she will find it romantic if you remembered something she saw and liked. The vast majority of ladies out there would be thrilled if their husband used one of these tried-and-true ideas:

  • Bring home her favorite flowers with a sweet note,
  • Draw her a bubble bath and light some candles (warm a towel in the dryer),
  • Give her a massage (with some great-smelling oil/lotion), or
  • Write her a love letter (my favorite gift suggestion), or even give her a special toast over dinner or champagne.
  • Or, follow up on one of those hints she’s dropped for you.

Even though I’ve had this post scheduled for a while, I keep seeing some of these ideas on other web sites. That’s OK. Don’t feel your gift has to be the most original. She really doesn’t want a gadget no one has heard of. What’s more important is how you deliver on your gift idea and make your sweetie feel she is the most special one for you.

It’s also National Marriage Week (Feb. 7-14), so even if you don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, do something great this week to celebrate your marriage!

Do you have any special plans for this week?

Related Links:
Hitched Magazine makes the case for celebrating Valentine’s Day. We’ve all referred to it as “just a Hallmark holiday,” but read why it might be good for us after all.

Photo Credit ©Peter Haken/PhotoXpress.com