Have I Told You Lately That I Love You

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Valentines day is a manufactured holiday but the cultural pressure is so intense that completely ignoring the hubbub is not really an option. So why not go the other direction and use the day as a chance to deepen and strengthen your relationship? What you can do for your partner, and what all good counselors learn to do for their clients, is list some positive qualities that make them special and provide concrete, incontrovertible evidence to prove it.

I vividly remember a meeting with one of my mentors about a difficult case I had. I really liked the kid I was working with and saw a lot of good qualities in him, but he had low self-esteem and mainly saw bad qualities in himself. One of the symptoms of his perception of himself was that he got in trouble all the time at school and at home, because naturally being a bad kid meant acting like a bad kid. My mentor told me, “List off the good qualities that you see in him. Be authentic. Don’t talk about qualities that you don’t see or aren’t there. And provide concrete evidence through examples.”

Usually when we give compliments we stay at the surface, saying the trait we like but not providing any support to ground it in reality. We can wriggle out of a compliment when there is no proof tied to it, thinking to ourselves, “She doesn’t really know me”, or “He’s just being nice.” But these rationalizations break down under the weight of a concrete example since it provides undeniable proof that the trait is real. It makes people feel wonderful to be truly known by someone and to have that person tell them about all their good qualities. We strive to meet the positive perceptions that important people have of us.

That’s what happened with my client. He just needed someone who cared about him to show him the good qualities he had and encourage him to use them all the time. It worked because there were many examples from our time spent together and from stories he had told about his life where he showed a lot of strength, intelligence, resiliency, and emotional sensitivity. Taking on these qualities was easy because he already had them, he just didn’t know it. I showed him these attributes in a way, through examples, that he could not disagree with or discount.

Whether we are aware of our positive traits or not, having someone we care about list them and give proof of their veracity through concrete examples feels really good. Truly knowing how a person feels about you is a different experience than the superficial words we often use to express our love and admiration. So take some time to think about the positive attributes you really like in your partner and share them, recounting specific instances where they were displayed, and you will have a great night.