Like so many other Americans, Crystal and I were married in February; the week after Valentine’s Day, nonetheless. We considered having our small wedding ceremony on the “sacred day of love” but opted to go the weekend after as it saved us hundreds of dollars in overall expenses. It wasn’t about the money though. It was more about the fact that neither of us really subscribe to the western notion of Valentine’s Day. Even during childhood when status was assigned to he who received the most candy-laden cardboard signs of affection come lunch time, the whole idea of a cute cherub bearing bow and arrow with an assignment to shoot the forlorn seemed ridiculous. And before you ask, no, I do not have any horrible childhood stories of being chosen last or getting rejected at the 8th grade winter dance that may cause such malice. I just don’t understand the American idea of creating a holiday around roman catholic martyrs and saints that is celebrated most by buying stuff. It just seems bizarre. The day would be better spent thinking about the idea of love and the components of a long-term and healthy relationship.

Since learning to live more simply and focusing less on what we can buy and what we own and more on how we spend our waking moments, our relationship has grown and improved tremendously. We are less stressed about money and success and rarely worry about what others think of us. We have given up listening to others and instead focusing on relationships, experiences, and events that make us happy.

So in honor of my beautiful wife Crystal as well as the celebration of Valentine’s Day I offer up these few tips that have helped, motivated, and inspired us as I hope they do you!

Don’t harbor resentment. One of the worst offenses in a relationship is the act of holding an emotion back until it explodes. In a loving relationship each partner should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings when things upset them or disappoint them or otherwise frustrate them. By doing this it is impossible for resentment to build up. No one likes to have egg thrown in their face!

Don’t take your significant other for granted. When Crystal and I were first married she had work obligations that separated us for nearly two months. I missed her like crazy. There were moments when I would trade the world just to talk to her or hold her hand. Her love is a true gift. Because of that I try to never take her for granted. In other words, when she speaks I don’t just hear her. I really listen. I try not to shrug her off with a “Oh yeah. That’s great hun.” Rather I put down what I am doing and I look at her and listen to her. She respects me and my time so I know when she is trying to talk to me when I am busy with something else that she really needs me to listen.

Never stop dating. It’s simple. Make time for you and your significant other. Ask him/her out to the movies. Or ask them to dinner. Just make it about you and your significant other. In fact, we have heightened the stakes and made a rule of no phones, no inviting others, and no backing out. Granted we can’t afford to do this but once every 2 months or so we make sure that once a week we set aside at least two hours to just be alone and go on a date; window shopping, cooking, watching a movie online, etc.

Voice your needs. Sometimes when we enter into a long-term relationship, we put ourselves second, behind the other person’s needs and desires. When children come along or a promotion at work we oftentimes put those needs in front of our own. While these are fine pursuits in and of themselves there has to be a balance. Otherwise resentment will set in. Voice your needs to your significant other and try to figure out how they can be met as well. Two people will rarely have exactly the same wants and desires out of life. In fact, that is just nonsense. Two people means two paths that must compromise into one. But compromise doesn’t always mean complete sacrifice. Be respectful. Keep an open mind. But voice your needs too.

Support your significant others’ dreams. Just as you have dreams and desires, so does your significant other. Provide a safe place for them to talk about those dreams. Whether it be to learn to turn wood or paint with watercolors or cook gourmet recipes, I have always tried to support Crystal’s dreams. Supporting your significant others’ is absolutely necessary. Life is short enough and when you choose to share it with someone, there is nothing worse than having those dreams defeated.

Love. Unconditionally; love. Above all else, we have learned that when everything else falls short, our love for each other seems to pick up the pieces. “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa


This post was originally written for my weekly spot on Farmers’ Almanac but in light of the Valentine holiday I decided to double post it. Enjoy!