My favourite part of Valentine's Day is shopping for a card. I love my annual pilgrimage to the stationery store. It feels so retro to linger over one card after another. I take the time to read each saying, feel the quality of the bond, and appraise the design before making this very important purchase for the man I love. Yet despite the dozens of delightful options, it occurs to me there is room for one more card on the rack: a Valentine's Day report card.
Don't get me wrong. I love the Valentine's Day cards that my husband buys me. I treasure every single card he has given me in the close to 30 years we have been a couple. He always writes something touching that makes me smile, and sometimes shed a tear. But Valentine's Day in our house is mostly platitudes like "I love you more each passing year" and a fancy box of chocolates. If our relationship is to evolve we both need to give and get a card with more oomph.
I work as a management consultant and one of the gurus in my field has said: "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it." A Valentine's Day report card would provide just this opportunity. My husband and I could independently rate our relationship in areas such as teamwork, communication, and excitement on a scale that ranges from poor to fabulous. Then we could compare where our scores converge and where they don't.
A Valentine's Day report card would help us uncover any mistaken assumptions. Take the "excitement" category as an example. I may rate this category as "fabulous" ("boy, visiting granny again in Fort Lauderdale was sooo amazing"), but my husband may rate "excitement" in our relationship as "poor" ("yeah I love your granny too but I'm itching to paraglide in Spain"). Without a structured framework for conversation we may never discover one of us is about to die from boredom -- never a good thing in a relationship. What better day is there to figure out and fix relationship disconnects than February 14?
If you are game to give your partner a Valentine's Day report card, here are a few best practices to get the most out of your annual relationship review.
Turn off your mobile devices. This is the most important conversation you will have all year. Go to a romantic place, turn off all mobile devices, and indulge in a nice bottle of wine. Make sure you remember to bring your completed Valentine's Day report card.
Celebrate those relationship gems. We spend so much time with our partners that the days can easily blend together. Take the time to think about the highlights in each relationship bucket -- such as when you worked best as a team, communicated well in a difficult situation, or felt real excitement. Even in relationship categories that are not your strengths, the two of you should be able to find at least one moment to be proud of. Celebrate those successes, and figure out how to create more of them in the future.
Set relationship goals. Brainstorm goals for the coming year to inject new energy into your relationship. An "excitement" goal of "let's spend one romantic weekend away trying two new activities we've never done as a couple" is concrete and achievable. Avoid making a laundry list -- two or three priority goals will do just fine.
Laugh. This is the day to reminisce fondly about your many relationship triumphs, but also to have a sense of humour about the disasters. With the benefit of distance and 20/20 hindsight you can acknowledge what went awry, laugh at your mistakes, and give and receive feedback with open hearts so you can work better together in the coming year.
So this Valentine's Day, let's all sharpen our red pencils and get to work. Yes flowers are fine, but feedback is forever!
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