I don’t have to tell you that Valentine’s Day is approaching. From Kmart and Walgreens ads in your newspaper to Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton pitches in your inbox, retailers are quick to cash in on this made-for-lovers holiday. But do you really have to spend money to show your significant other that you care? Are you obliged to invest three month’s salary to prove your love? And in this month where all things heart-shaped are celebrated, must romance be measured by a dollar figure on a receipt?
As an experiment, I spent most of last week asking friends, family members, acquaintances, and—I’ll admit—more than one total stranger, “What is the most romantic (non-sexual) thing your significant other can do for you?” The majority of those I polled are long-married couples, though some are newlyweds, some are engaged or in a committed relationship, and a few are still single.
Pleasantly, I learned that the majority of answers had nothing to do with a purchased present. Instead, the masses (four dozen or so counts as “the masses”, right?) expressed more often than not that it’s “the little things” that they find most romantic. So what makes up the little things? Here are a few confessions about romantic actions—actions are the true gifts—that make the recipients’ hearts sing and stomachs flutter:
- He goes for long walks with me.
- She/he brings coffee to me in the mornings.
- He leaves surprise love notes for me to find.
- She’s an amazing mother to our kids.
- He’s a wonderful father to our children.
- She so strongly believes I can do difficult things that I begin to believe it, too.
- He emails or texts me in the middle of his busy day, just to see how I’m doing.
- She does my laundry.
- He picks wildflowers for me.
- She sometimes plans the weekend for us, so I don’t have to do it.
- He talks to me—really listens and talks to me.
- I overheard her telling someone how much she’s still attracted to me after all these years.
- He dances with me in the kitchen.
- She holds my hand in public, showing people that she’s proud to be with me.
- He surprised me by painting the living room for me while I was at work.
- She hugs me. You can never go wrong with a hug.
- He holds my face in his hands and kisses my nose.
- She/he sometimes cooks/bakes [my favorite meal].
- He/she trusts me with his secrets.
- She/he volunteers to run errands for me.
- She gives me a kiss on the cheek to encourage me.
Out of all whom I polled, only three mentioned purchased gifts; one husband planned a honeymoon after a 25-year wedding vow renewal, one husband planted rose bushes for his wife in honor of each of their children; and a third husband took his wife for a Happy Meal as a warm reminder of one of her happiest childhood events—each a sweet, romantic gesture that had significant meaning going far beyond the typical florist delivery or satin jewelry box.
Gifts and surprise presents are wonderful, no doubt, and I’m sure they mean a lot to the recipient. Still, it’s important to recognize how much each of these small moments, these priceless gifts of thought and time, mean to those who received them. Yet in this crazy-busy world, those things seem to cost us more than whipping out the Visa, and that’s exactly why they’re so precious.
While I’m not suggesting you forgo the cards, flowers, candy, or perfume, I am absolutely advocating for a gift from the heart; one that doesn’t cost a dime, but will be treasured more than any trinket money can buy. Can you afford it?
When love is at stake, how can you not?