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Love is a Garden to Be Cultivated

5 tips on how to maintain a healthy, loving relationship 365 days a year.

Nashville, Ark. – Valentine’s Day may be the traditional day that love is celebrated, but love really must be cultivated year ‘round. Candy, flowers, poetry and other romantic treats or gestures are thoughtful ways to observe a relationship in bloom but are not likely to do much for a relationship that been neglected since the last gift-giving occasion.

According to Dr. Wallace Goddard, co-author of The Marriage Garden, there are five things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship 365 days a year.

  1. Practice humility.

    “Psychology tells us that what we as humans tend to see is what we look for. If we look for offenses against us or if we look for selfishness or faults in a partner, we’ll probably find it. If we look for graciousness, kindness and goodness, we’ll probably find them,” says Goddard. There is often a “hardening of categories” in marriage, meaning that people tend to see their partners in a certain way. Next they start to look for confirming evidence this is true and the cycle continues.

  2. Look for the good.

    “That means taking the time to notice the things our partners do that we appreciate, including the parts of our partner that inevitably, at times, will be inconvenient but that are still a blessing that we chose and would continue to choose if we had good sense,” Goddard explains.

  3. Speak your partner’s language of love.

    Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages series, points out that nothing you do to show love for your partner will be effective unless what you’re doing matters to your partner. Even though, Gifts, is one of the love languages, buying chocolate and roses doesn’t mean much to the person who has Quality Time, as their top love language. This person would much prefer to spend a quite night together watching a movie or taking a walk together. The key is to find out which language of love your partner has and then doing things to address that particular love language.

  4. Do maintenance.

    John Gottman, one of the country’s foremost authorities in marriage research, says that a trip to Hawaii won’t heat up a relationship if you haven’t kept the pilot light lit.

    “It isn’t the great big events that are the key to having a continuing healthy relationship. Instead the little conversations, the spending 10 to 15 minutes a day to catch up on each other, the doing little things together, whether it’s working in the yard or painting a room or watching videos. Little things done together regularly provide maintenance that’s very important,” say Goddard.

  5. Foster companionship.

    Jonathan Haidt, talks about the idea that in the early stages of a relationship the romance initially skyrockets and then starts to decline within a short period of time. For a relationship to continue, it’s important for people to evolve gracefully from the electric jolt of early romance to the sweet satisfaction of being with someone whose company is comforting.

    Gottman recommends keeping a list of the qualities that we enjoy in our partner in a wallet, keeping photos of cherished times handy, or keeping a small scrapbook handy to page through every now and then and remind us of the good times and help us remember what we enjoyed about them in the first place. That is the key to a healthy relationship.

If you are looking for something for your Valentine this year, check out the “free” publication, “Marriage Garden” available from the Howard County Extension Office. The publication, along with the publication series, “Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds” is a free gift to anyone applying for a marriage license in Howard County. It’s your free gift from me!

In fact, these publications are available to anyone, just contact the Howard County Extension office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse or download from our website.

Download publications for personal finances and relationship building.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recipe of the Week

Here is a tasty recipe you can make this Valentine’s Day. This recipe looks impressive without a lot of fuss! Serve with your favorite veggies or salad and a whole wheat roll for a complete dinner.

Cheese-Herb Chicken Medallions

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), all visible fat removed

  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives or 1 teaspoon dried

  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbles

  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 3 ounces nonfat or part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

  1.   Preheat oven to 400⁰F.

  2. Place chicken breasts in a zipper type bag. Seal.

  3. Flatten breasts to ¼ to ½-inch thick.

  4. Remove and place chicken breasts on a flat surface or plate.

  5. Evenly sprinkle each breast with chives, basil, paprika, and pepper.

  6. Form cheese into 6 loose balls and place one in the center of each breast.

  7. Roll chicken around cheese, making sure the ends are tucked in.

  8. Tie each breast with 100% cotton twine or cooking twine to retain cheese. You could also use toothpicks or small metal skewers to seal each breast portion.

  9.  Place stuffed chicken breasts in an ungreased baking dish.

  10. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken has turned white throughout.

  11. Chicken should register 165⁰F on a food thermometer.

  12. Allow chicken to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

  13. Yield 6 servings.

  1. Nutrition facts per serving-Calories 158, Protein 30g, Carbohydrate 1g, Fat 3g, Sodium 157mg

    Note: You might add a basic sauce to top the chicken breasts before serving. Keep in mind any sauce you add will increase nutrient content.


By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517