One of my earliest memories of my father was his ritual of taking a cup of coffee to my mom to wake her up in bed. He had already come by and had us kids "up and at 'em", but generally let mom sleep; often she was awake late into the night folding laundry, sewing clothes and then reading her Agatha Christies.
As a relatively new husband (7 years this coming April), I still have lots to learn. But I'd like to think that I'm channeling my father and mother's love in action as well as that of the many strong marriages I've had the privilege of being inspired by and learned from.
Whether you are married or not, in a relationship... or not even searching, perhaps on this Valentine's Day we can strengthen any of our human interactions through:
Listening better. Really trying to HEAR what the other is saying. Without interrupting or thinking that we know what they are going to say. Allowing them to repeat a story we've heard before or they shared just last month. Listening to what's deeper than the words, hearing the pain or the confusion or the old story that still needs healing and tenderness.
Overlooking the small stuff. And isn't it almost nearly all small stuff. Next to a terminal disease and late term hospice care, why should we sweat anything? Are clothes that don't get hampered or hangered really enough to initiate World War III? Can you put up with the less-than-perfect for the peace of love and the love of peace? Something I used to say to couples is now my concern as a husband: Is it more important to be the right one or the loving one?
Verbalize your feelings. Rather than hide emotions that might just explode under pressure, what if you--in a calm way and after thinking about what happened--tell your partner what you are feeling? Do you see how this is putting their feelings on the same level as yours? No one person in a relationship is as important as the two of you.
Effort. Yep, you can't do it without the good, sometimes hard, work of keeping love fresh, honest, upfront and heartfelt. These days of Winter Olympics, it's easy to understand how the sum of early mornings and long days shows the results of bodies meant to hit the slaloms, navigate the luge curves, crouch for the curling, pirouette on ice and go for the gold.
There are no award ceremonies in a relationship; but the beauty and joy that is behind all the I love yous and Please forgive mes gets our hearts to beat "faster, higher, stronger, together" as goes the motto of the Olympics.