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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cupid's Friend

“Any time not spent on love is wasted”- Torquato Tasso

We have once again come to that time of year that causes sweaty palms and makes men quail at the daunting task before them, and no, I’m not talking about figuring out what to do on a weekend without either hunting or football. I’m referring to what might be the most feared holiday of them all: Valentine’s Day.

I am going to write this week and next about this holiday and provide some help for those of you who either don’t observe Valentine’s Day, or those who every hope for that magical reaction when they hit their partner’s heart with Cupid’s arrow, only to find every year they are wide of their mark. For most of us, initially our crazy lives trump our desire to be more romantic, then over time we get out of practice and become embarrassed of our failure to treat our beloved the way we should. Instead of correcting our behavior, we attempt to convince ourselves the holiday, and its trappings don’t matter, eventually coming to believe that romance itself is unimportant.

Valentine’s Day has become a huge moneymaker for card companies, florists, and undergarment companies, to the tune of 17 billion dollars. For this reason many people are soured on this wonderful holiday much in the way we lament the commercialization of Christmas. I argue we shouldn’t throw Cupid out with the bathwater so to speak. Just because others commercialize the holiday is no reason we can’t use the day as an excuse to show our beloved how much we love and regard them.

The day used to be one primarily of men giving women cards and little gifts but with greater equality for women in society, a greater percentage of women give the object of their affection gifts as well. In keeping with this change in society, I will offer some thoughts for both men and women.

In many ways, Valentine’s Day is not so much about love as it is about romance. Romance may best be thought of as love in action, so Valentine’s Day is a day to EXPRESS your love. By now you are thinking, “But I don’t write well or speak eloquently like you do Mark”. Hey cut me some slack, there could be someone, somewhere, thinking it. On the off chance you are one of those people, let me provide some help.

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages, and in this book he proposes there are five ways each of us “speak” and “hear” love. These love languages are (in no particular order): physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gift giving. You will notice that only one of the love languages, gift giving, costs money. If you are on a budget, or you are conducting a one person protest against commercialization, then speak one of the other love languages.

The point for this week is not which love language you speak, but the importance of speaking one or more of them. Valentine’s Day is both an excuse and a reminder to do something nice for someone that does nice things for us. Next week we will explore the love languages and I will provide some suggestions for each language on the big day. Stay tuned!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

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