Have you ever felt stressed about what to give your spouse or romantic partner for Valentine’s Day? Have you ever felt pressured to find the right gift, the perfect bouquet of flowers, or the best restaurant, without breaking the bank? Have you ever longed to do something out of the ordinary, more meaningful, and long lasting to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your special someone? Read on to see what one couple did and how they deepened their relationship bond by being good stewards of the earth.
This particular couple—I’ll call them Rayanne and Greg—are both in their early forties and have been married for thirteen years. They have shared many wonderful, passionate, and memorable Valentine’s Day celebrations together.
But one Valentine’s day a couple of years ago they wanted to do something really different. Instead of spending money on things that would only be consumed and discarded—like an expensive dinner, a bottle of fine wine, and a dozen red roses—why not do something together for the good of the planet, something that others could experience and appreciate too?
Rayanne and Greg both regularly enjoyed the outdoors and had spent many a day hiking together, going bird watching, mountain biking, and having picnics at the beach. For years they had talked about finding a way to volunteer in one of these settings that they loved. But how? Greg had the perfect idea: they'd spend a day restoring parklands through their state parks association. Rayanne loved the idea and took it a step further. Seeing that Valentine’s Day was coming up, why not dedicate their efforts as a kind of valentine to the earth?
They met the volunteering qualifications for this particular gig: able to traverse a steep 1-mile hike up a slope, able to carry 15 pounds, able to plant seeds along the way, able to use ordinary gardening hand tools. It was a hard day’s work, and not everyone's cup of tea. They loved the idea of getting involved in something greater than themselves, an activity that could have positive and lasting effects.
Tending the earth together reminded them of the common values that drew them together in the first place. Rayanne had grown up on a farm, and Greg had worked for his dad’s nursery while attending college. There was something about seeding, planting, and pruning for the good of the earth that gave them great interpersonal satisfaction. Seeing the joy it brought to one another made their efforts all the more meaningful and special. Their labor of love for the land was like a vow, witnessed by other volunteers who chose to be stewards that day too.
Greg and Rayanne sometimes celebrate Valentine’s Day in more traditional ways, too, such as with dinner and a movie and doing something nice for each other. But Greg doesn’t like the pressure that often comes with celebrating Valentine’s Day: “There are 364 other days in the year to show her how much I love her, “he says. “I like spontaneity, and doing something for her when she least expects it.” But both of them say that finding purpose and meaning in a cause greater than themselves creates the strongest bonds of intimacy in their relationship. And best of all, Rayanne says, "you can give the earth a valentine any day of the year too, not just on Valentine's Day."
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Diana M. Pash, MA, LMFT is a certified Solution-Focused therapist in private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. To find out more about Diana click here: Diana Pash Therapy