Major corny, sappy warning: I am unabashedly head over heels in love with my partner of nearly 7 years, Michael. This is a Valentine’s post, so I am going to let my bright love flag fly. It also includes some details about my surgery recovery. Feel free to exit this ride now if you are uncomfortable with sappy love stories or surgery/ pain-related stories.

An (Emotionally Intelligent) Love Story for this Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, I won’t be eating dinner by candlelight at a pricey restaurant or strolling by moonlight along a romantic beach of our California town. In reality, Michael and I have never really been that into celebrating this holiday. We use it as an additional opportunity to participate in our favorite activities— eating good food and loving on each other. This Valentine’s Day is different though. For those of you who don’t read Illuminate, my weekly e-mail column, I just had knee surgery.

As of today, Valentine’s Day, I have been post-op for exactly two weeks. I am hobbling around on crutches, so the moonlit walk on the beach would be messy and cumbersome. I haven’t properly showered since the surgery, so the fellow fancy restaurant goers might find me unrefined. But don’t worry about me. If Valentine’s Day means feeling extravagantly loved by your mate, then I have been celebrating Valentine’s Day for every single day of these two weeks.

The other day, I was talking to my mom about the post-op experience. I described all of the various tedious and onerous tasks Michael has been performing for me since the surgery; waking up with me every three hours to give me pain pills, emptying basins of my urine for three days straight, holding my hand and adjusting pillows ad nauseam as I moan in pain. She responded, “yeah, I guess this is the less enjoyable part of love.” My eyes filled with tears, and I smiled. “Actually, this has been the most tender, poignant, enjoyable time in our relationship.”

I meant it. That is saying a lot for this saccharine-sweet couple. We met during a wildly romantic summer in Guatemala that resembled a Nicholas Sparks novel. Kisses in the pouring rain; slow, heart-filled kayak rides on the most beautiful lake in the world; slow dances outside of random music-filled houses. He was the first person I’d ever met who would look into my eyes and not ever look away. I was mindblown. That summer was a homecoming for my soul; it had found its mate.

Those first few months were magical. We sparkled with novelty and a movie-like quality of “this can’t be real.” But these last two weeks have been real and raw.

Without a healthy dose of emotional intelligence, Michael could easily be feeling overworked and under-appreciated. Without emotional intelligence, I could easily be feeling neglected and resentful. This surgery saga could damage a lot of couples; the non-stop needs of one can be so draining to both. Instead, empathy, consequential thinking, and pursuing noble goals have transformed this experience into an opportunity for exploring the depths and strengths of our love.

Let’s talk about empathy. Michael has been the most extraordinary, empathetic caretaker. He makes me breakfast in bed with homemade pesto. He rubs my feet and finds my fuzzy socks when my toes are freezing from decreased circulation. He enthusiastically cheers me on when I do something difficult. He has brought me no less than 200 glasses of water. I asked him what gives him the strength to keep taking care of me, and this was his typical light-hearted and thoughtful response: “It’s empathy. Of course I will get you water. I can put myself in your shoes, and you can’t even put your shoes on!”

His ability to give me the care I need is also deeply rooted in applying consequential thinking. He has the energy to give now because we planned it that way. He worked extra before my surgery to ensure he would be able to focus this time on me, we made sure we had all of our errands taken care of beforehand, and we even asked his mom and my mom to come out to help take care of me for the first week. We used our consequential thinking well in advance of my surgery to smooth out the logistics of this time. With the extra time and the reduced commitments, he has been able to focus solely on loving me and supporting me.

Michael’s noble goal is to appreciate (and help others appreciate) that life is a miracle. His belief in his noble goal shines through everything he has done these past two weeks. He treats this time together as so precious; human connection is a miracle of life. He makes me the most delicious, fresh food from scratch; the abundant food that comes from our earth and sun is a miracle of life. He holds my leg up to help me move around with the most gentle reverence; the body’s ability to heal is a miracle of life.

This whole experience illuminates two realizations for me. One: emotional intelligence has the power to transform difficult, challenging situations into opportunities for intense growth and beauty. Two: I already have all I want this Valentine’s Day, and his name is Michael. What a miracle of life, indeed.

Do you have an emotionally intelligent Valentine you’d like to brag on? Share your story in the comments below— we promise not to get jealous 🙂

PS– if you enjoy personal, inspirational content like this, click here to check out my weekly e-mail series, Illuminate! 

Maria Jackson

Maria Jackson

Program Manager at Six Seconds
Maria Jackson enjoys writing about the personal side of practicing emotional intelligence. Her noble goal is to “nurture inner illumination,” and she feel grateful to work and live in a world where she can practice daily. She shares stories, tips, and inspirations for living EQ in Illuminate, a free, weekly e-mail column (6sec.org/illuminate). She'd love to hear from you at [email protected]
Maria Jackson