We all ‘know’ on one level that the amount of money we spend on someone doesn’t actually equate to the amount we love them (or the amount they love us). But it’s worth spending a moment pondering this.
The Money-Love equation breaks down two-ways. Firstly, we experience fear that the other person will somehow read our poor material offering as a reflection of our heart (and, we fear, think less of us/love us less because of it). Secondly, what is that rankle we feel when our partner gifts us something that’s a bit wide of the mark? We experience the gift as how they see us and our reaction to some presents is that we feel utterly unseen…
Underlying both of these is something is really important. We care. You care. We want to show and be shown the love we feel for one another. But the pressure is so high – emotionally and financially – and when there’s stress in a situation panic can ensure. Cue overspending and duff gifting.
This Valentine’s Day is a brilliant opportunity to level up in the love stakes. Talk about the day with your partner beforehand, discuss a budget, discuss ideas. Agree the amount of time you have for each other and be open and honest about your hopes, dreams, concerns and worries. Try to strip the conversation back to remembering what you most love about being with one another.
Because time is usually the thing we long for with our partners. Without the distraction of the kids; without one or the other of us head down scrolling through our phones, anywhere but present and together, despite inhabiting the same space.
Talking about it might feel like the antithesis of the Valentine’s mystery, the big ‘surprise’ moment, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s simply starting a conversation, creating the space. Then, what you do with that space is entirely up to you.
Here are a few ideas of how to show and share the love without breaking the bank:
Agree a gift budget
And stick to it! However small it may be (even £0).
Understand each other’s love languages
There are allegedly five love languages or ways in which people show one another their affection. They are: Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch.
We tend to show our love in the way we’d like to receive it. If your partner is rubbish at complimenting you but will drop everything to fix a shelf that’s been broken and bothering you for ages, they are STILL telling you they love you, just in their language, possibly not yours. Understanding their language, and yours, can help unlock the misery of those wide-of-the-mark gifts – and inspire you to ‘gift’ or demonstrate your love in new ways this Valentines.
What did you do when you first got together?
You were probably on a budget then and it could be a great resource in identifying what you would enjoy doing together now that doesn’t cost the earth. Clubbing might be out/less appealing than it once was, but could you get down to the pub together for a quiet drink, just the two of you?
Make your own Valentine’s card. It saves money AND means you can tailor the message inside.
Have a carpet picnic
Lay out a picnic blanket, some scatter cushions, light the candles, turn the lights down low and put on some smooth tunes. Feed each other favourite nibbles and see where it leads…
Write each other a love letter
Love letters, do they even exist anymore? Let’s bring them back!
Make it and bake it
There are heaps of recipes to make love heart cookies and special cakes for Valentine’s Day (this ‘hidden heart’ cake is extraordinary though microwaved boozy fudge might be better if you’re strapped for time).
Restaurant quality meal – at home.
Obviously be clear what your budget is first, but it’s amazing how cheaply you can reproduce a slap up meal at home (and these British Heart Foundation ones are even healthy too!). You could ask your partner to make a course or two as well. If that’s feels like too much work, remember the supermarkets will proliferate with their ‘Dine-in’ for £10/£12 options on or near the day.
Create a treasure hunt
Make and leave clues all over the house for your partner to find as a way of teasing out the finding of a ‘gift’…which could of course be you!
It’s February and still pretty miserable outside but being out together in nature is a good reason to cuddle into one another, whilst you spot snowdrops and other signs of spring or share a flask of hot chocolate together. The cool air on your skin and the sensory exposure to being in nature will whip up all the good hormones including serotonin (the happy hormone) and even oxytocin (the love hormone), the latter of which is brilliant for feeling connected.
Listen to the music that you used to when you first got together – Music is a powerful trigger, reminding us of happy times and taking us back emotionally (again with the hormone rush) to those crazy hazy days when all we needed was love.
Whatever you do, have an incredibly happy Valentine’s and know that you are loved.
This article was written by Rebecca Megson-Smith. A writer, writing coach and feminist, fuelled by books, tea and time by the sea. You can find her on her website, Instagram @ridleywrites and lurking on Twitter @ridleywrites.