Category Archives: Relationships Matters

365 Days of Love

365-days-of-loveWhat do we cherish the most?

This last week before Valentine’s Day, I was thinking of what I should get my wife.  Last year I had gotten her flowers, but this year, I needed to up my game a little. I usually get off work at 5 p.m. and make the 40 minute drive home in time for dinner. I needed to find an excuse if I show up home late from work, but could not find one. Lo and behold, pastor called a special leaders’ meeting, and it was a day before Valentine’s–perfect timing. An hour and half will be more than enough for me to find the perfect gift for her.  I drove to the store Thursday after work and found a mad dash of people, all looking for gifts for their loved ones. I thought a day before Valentine’s wouldn’t be as bad, but I was wrong. The front shelves were covered with teddy bears, flowers, cards and all kinds of Valentine’s Day gifts. I walked to the card section of the store, but the aisles were full of people. My head was spinning, trying to figure out what I would get my wife.  I walked to the back of the store to gather my thoughts.

Focus, James, focus.

This should not be this hard. I normally don’t go shopping, and if I do, I usually have a list of things I will get, and will be in and out of the store in no time. This time I didn’t have a clue what I was going to get her, but I knew it was going to be something other than flowers. I walked around for at least 40 minutes before I found myself in the fresh produce section. What was I doing there? I was supposed to be finding something for my wife. How romantic would it be for me to come home to my wife with lettuce and collard greens for a gift? I could have pulled it off if I told her that I was going to be making her favorite Zambian dish, but I couldn’t hide the food until the next day. Time was closing in on me. I needed to find something quick and head out of the store in time for the meeting.

Then it hit me. What am I doing? Is this the only time of the year I have to show my wife that I really love her? I have 365 days to be creative and do something special for her. Yet I found myself scrambling to get something she might not even like. Why do we even celebrate Valentine’s Day in the first place? How did it even come about?

I have celebrated Valentine’s with my wife for years,  but never have I really known how the day came to be associated with romantic love until this past week. I pulled out my phone and searched Google for information about its origin.

Valentine’s Day started as a religious celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Valentinus is a Roman masculine name which derived from the Latin word “valens” which means “healthy, strong”.  So the word doesn’t even mean love. Several stories surfaced about different martyrs sharing a similar name centered on February 14. One of the famous stories was that of St. Valentine of Rome who believed to have been imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were not allowed to marry and for preaching to Christians, who were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Legend has it that during his time in prison, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellished story states that before he was executed, he wrote a letter to Asterius and signed it “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

It wasn’t until the High Middle Ages when the day was first associated with romantic love and the tradition of courtly love flourished. In England during the 18th century, the day had evolved to an occasion were lovers showed their love for each other by giving flowers and sending handwritten cards. During the 19th century, the handwritten cards had given way to the commercialized mass produced ones.

How a day of celebration for religious martyrs came to be associated with romantic love for couples is anybody’s guess. Don’t get me wrong, I like to get away and do something special for my wife. I enjoy getting her flowers, chocolate, and having a romantic dinner. There is nothing wrong with getting each other expensive gifts; we can’t really put a price tag on love. It is the commercialization of days like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that gets me. Our culture makes us think we need certain things such as manicure, pedicures, flowers, date nights, and expensive jewelry. This creates in us certain expectation of ourselves, of people, and of life in general, and when these so called needs aren’t met, we become disappointed and disillusioned, sometimes creating division among our loved ones.

Millions of dollars are spent by companies creating TV, internet and billboard Ads that tells us we cannot live without certain things, and that we deserve more stuff. We have bought into the lie that says you are worth more than what you have now; you deserve better. And the flip side to that is if you don’t have this stuff, then you don’t have value. We are constantly bombarded with the message that you can only find happiness in gathering more stuff. If our love for each other was measured by material things we get on holidays such as Valentine’s, then the absence of these things would mean that we are not loved. When we put more emphasis on stuff, we send a wrong message to people; a message that says you are worth only as the things you receive. There were a lot of relationships that started this last Valentine’s, but there was also heartbreak that came from unfulfilled expectations. I hear things like we broke up because “she doesn’t do things she used to do anymore” or “he used to buy me flowers and take me out every Valentine’s but he stopped; I’ve finally had it.” Of course, there are many other underlying issues that lead to couples breaking up.

Love is more than the things we get, and it does not change based on how we feel. Love is intentional and not an afterthought. We have 364 other days out of the year to do something special for our loved ones. Showing love does not have to involve buying expensive gifts, but could be as simple as spending time together, cooking a special meal for a loved one, or going for an evening walk. It’s the little acts of love we do throughout the year that makes a big difference. When we take the time to stop and think about our loved ones regularly, we might discover that what they want the most is not the stuff we get them, but simply our presence. An expression of love that says: through it all, I am standing by your side. I will always love you expecting nothing in return–sacrificial love.

So what’s your take on Valentine’s Day?

Are We On The Same Page?

are-we-on-the-same-pageHeck, are we even in the same book?

On my last blog post “How Does She Do It?” I touched on some of the challenges mothers face raising kids and how most of the work they do at home is not appreciated. Culture teaches us that work is earning a paycheck. It is so embedded in our brains that we do not see the sacrifice of a spouse who has to deal with the day to day chores and dealing with kids at home.  I have received a lot of good feedback on how men and women can learn to listen to cues and establish an environment where we don’t take each other for granted.  I have to admit that I have a lot of learning to do. Despite trying to understand my wife between conversations that beat around the bush and non-verbal cues, I can totally miss what she has to say.

friendshipWhat’s fascinating is the huge difference in the way men and women process information,
yet we have to live with each other.  Our differences somehow are weaved into this amazing hidden treasure that unfolds as we explore life together, discovering the
beautiful and the ugly parts of a relationship.  True friendship develops when we can connect with each other on a deeper level, going beyond the superficial. We then discover that beauty comes out of the ugliness in a relationship.

I am not as patient as my wife when it comes to grocery shopping. I get in, get out, and get on with my life, but then I would only have a meal for dinner and most likely break the budget. She has all the menus planned out for the entire week, a grocery list, and a plan of attack upon entering the store. Sometimes, in the middle of planning the menus, she will ask me a question about what I would like to eat during the week, and it is usually when I am in the middle of doing something. And my mind goes blank.  It sure is not rocket science—it’s a simple question, right? If it takes more than 30 seconds for me to respond, she will come back with a suggestion.  She will say “What do you want to eat Monday, chicken or beef?” Information overload! I still hadn’t processed the first question, and now she’s added a second! And my response will be “yes, chicken or beef”.  My brain has just gone through a state of nothingness.  I have been caught off guard and do not know what to do or how to answer the question. My brain is flat-lining. It’s not that I am not interested in eating for the week. Interrupting a one-track mind is like making a wrong turn on the highway, like a GPS, I am recalculating trying to find an easier route to the question at hand. It won’t take long before she is frustrated because of my lack of input in planning the meals and she will proceed to make the menus without me. Or just quit cooking altogether. Good thing she loves cooking.

What frustrates both men and women in a relationship is the fact that we don’t operate on the same page most of the time. We think that we have communicated with our spouse about what we need, but we are using words or giving them cues they don’t understand, and then we expect instant results. What makes sense in our head does not mean that it made sense to our spouse.  I have heard frustrated women say “why can’t he do something without being asked? Can’t he see that there is work that needs to get done around the house?” In a lot of cultures, the mentality of most men is that work around the house is done by women and as a result, they do not feel the need to take the initiative to help. Men who do help on the other hand get frustrated when they are asked to do multiple things at the same time. I can’t multi-task like my wife. When I’m sweeping the floor or something and she asks me to take out the garbage, my response will be, can’t she see I’m already doing something? Our frustrations are the result of our lack of understanding on how different we process information.   We tend to be impatient with each other and are unwilling to give each other grace.

Every once and awhile, my wife and I have these self-evaluations where we talk about our needs and the things we do that makes the other person frustrated. At times my wife will say she has needs. I ask her what her needs are, and she tells me she doesn’t know. What’s a man to do with that? It is hard when you hear your spouse take a jab at your ego and bring out some of the ugly parts of your life, but it is necessary.  This helps us find ways to reconcile our differences and learn how to meet each other’s needs. We become better people when we learn to take criticism and not become defensive when we are corrected. Many times we are all locked up in our own little world, but we must look beyond it.  We must work hard to keep the channels of communication open even if it is a hard thing to do.  In the end, it will be worth it.

What do you find frustrating while trying to communicate with others? Spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, kids? What has been the most rewarding conversation you had? Would you mind sharing some of the ways you use to effectively communicate? We can all use help in establishing genuine and solid relationships.