I confess that I am not a great fan of Valentine’s Day. I sense that it is more about momentary commerce (cards, candy, gifts) than lasting love. I do believe in love and romance and want to share a mental/spiritual exercise that might enhance it for yourself. It comes from a small book that continues to shape my spirituality, The Strengths of a Christian, by Robert C. Roberts. It’s an exercise that helps build perseverance and attachment in a marriage. Roberts writes to a wife about her husband named Henry.
Take a memory that endears Henry to you, a memory of happy common life or of some special affection shown you, and use it as the grid through which to contemplate that aging person across the table. See him in the eyes of that pleasant memory. Do not do anything yet, or say anything, but just take some time to look at your partner in this complimentary light. . . . You may have to shed some grudges (as Christians say, “die to yourself”) just to admit to yourself that this is the person of whom those happy memories are memories. But if you succeed in seeing him this way, you will find that some affection will come over you. You will love Henry because he looks more lovable to you. . . I think you will find that when you explicitly share with each other the happy memories of your past love, those memories will have an even stronger tendency to arouse present affection in you both.
This technique for persevering in love is just the reversal of what happens in grudge bearing. The grudge bearer also dwells on memories of a relationship with another person and sees the other person through those memories. But instead of dwelling on happy experiences . . . he or she dwells on offenses (many imaginary, no doubt). Thus the grudge bearer descends into a confirmed disposition of seeing the other in an uncomplimentary light, which we call hostility. When we become aware of the dynamic of grudge bearing, we can turn it to the service of love by practicing the contemplation of happy memories of our relationship and the praiseworthy actions of our partner. When this practice becomes an ingrained habit and skill of self-management, then we have one of the powers of perseverance in marriage. (p. 95-96)
What habits of the heart keeps your love alive?
Using mirrors wisely – never to try to reflect other relationships, but instead to take my own selfish wishes and reverse those images into concern for my spouse. Like the grid you mentioned, I think looking through the eyes of appreciation is a habit to work at as well – being thankful for the so-called little things – fueling my car for me, the daily sharing of responsibility for home and family, and simply putting up with me!