Why Our Best Intentions on Special Occasions Often Backfire
Research shows the importance of savoring your partner on a daily basis.
Posted Feb 14, 2019
There seems to be so much more focus in popular culture and the press today on getting together, rather than staying together and how to be happy together.
It's as if once we find our so-called "soulmate" we can saunter off into the sunset hand-in-hand feeling forever "completed" by our partner. Not much work is needed on our part after we are partnered—or at least, that is often the story we are sold.
Of course, on those special holidays like Valentine's Day, birthdays, and anniversaries we may exert some effort and go out of our way to express our love to our partner, perhaps through a box of chocolates, flowers, or another token of expression.
While these special occasions are opportunities to show our love and gratitude to our partner, if they are the only or predominant times we do so our love may not last.
As we mention in our book Happy Together, although giving gifts on anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine's Day, for example, can be an effective way of communicating our love for our partner, it can also become a stale routine, a required duty, regardless of the way either person in the relationship is feeling at the time.
Although we realize that these special days can present opportunities for getting a stagnant relationship back on track, we also suspect they more often lead to a sense of obligation and behaviors that lack deep meaning.
In these circumstances, our partners may be extra kind not because they want to be, but because they feel they have to be.
Savor Together to Stay (Happy) Together
Instead, for relationship satisfaction and sustainability try savoring your partner. In other words, truly attending to and appreciating your partner, telling your partner what you love about him or her.
According to leading savoring researchers, Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff, there is no stronger way than savoring to express your love to your partner.
Savoring appears to be more effective at communicating love for our romantic partner than a variety of other means for doing so such as helping out with chores, doing favors, and giving gifts.
In contrast with gift giving, savoring isn't dictated by the calendar. Rather, Bryant and Veroff argue it is an indication of the presence of several relationship-affirming factors.
Specifically, savoring is:
- Spontaneous—savoring naturally occurs when we are authentically feeling positive emotions.
- Intrinsically motivated—not governed by social needs, status, approval or what society tells us we should do
- Conscious focus on the present moment—mindful attention to one's partner allows for a deep communication of love and concern.
Since your partner is not a mind reader be sure to express your appreciation directly. And to be most effective, these expressions need to be reciprocal. Both individuals in the relationship need to practice savoring one another for relational satisfaction and thriving.
By the way, we have nothing wrong with gift giving, especially when it comes to flowers and chocolates—personal favorites of Suzie’s! All we're saying is that along with these lovely gifts, remember to also give the gift of savoring all year along to help your partner feel deeply cared for and loved.