Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone;
it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
– Ursula LeGuin
We all want to be loved. We all want to fall in love. We want to be in loving relationships.
It’s easy to believe if you fall in love that you will be loved. It’s easy to believe that if you’re in a relationship that you’ll be loved.
It turns out to be more complicated. It turns out that relationships take work.
Falling in love can happen effortlessly, can happen either fast or slowly, with intention or without. Relationships on the other hand take attention and effort and time; and they can only happen intentionally.
Falling in love is mostly about how another person makes YOU feel.
Loving someone is mostly about caring how that other person feels.
That means, first of all, thinking about that other person. Then it means that you care more about that other person’s feelings/wishes/needs than about your own. Finally, your choices and your behavior are now influenced by what you understand about your partner’s feelings.
That’s the most important part – love is about what you DO.
Falling in love can feel like something that happens to you. Relationships are something that you make happen. To make it even tougher, relationships can only survive and thrive when you keep doing the things that make them healthy and resilient.
It’s not good enough to do it right once, especially at the very beginning when it’s easy.
Relationship success requires persistent consciousness and effort.
Here’s the real kicker – in order to GET, you have to GIVE. It’s not just about feelings; it’s about actions.
Here are five actions that you can take to nurture your relationship and to make it more likely that you will have the love you want:
❤ SAY something loving to your partner every day.
(“You look beautiful/handsome today.” “You made a great dinner.” “You are a really good mom/dad.” “You are such a hard worker.”)
❤ DO something kind for your partner every day.
(Bring a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or after work. Offer to pick up the dry cleaning/ get the groceries/ take the dog to the vet, etc.)
❤ ASK about your partner’s day. Also ask about tomorrow.
(“How was your day?” “How did that thing go that you were worried about?” “What’s your day look like tomorrow? Easy? Hard? Unpredictable?” “How’s that project coming at work? At school? With the kids?” “How do you think your mom’s surgery/ dad’s appointment/ sister’s court case is likely to go?”)
[NOTE: be sure to pay attention to the answers to your questions. Those answers let you know what you should be asking about tomorrow.]
❤ BE present. To nurture and support a relationship it is necessary to have some amount of time when the two of you are present AND engaged with one another.
Being in the same house or at the same party but not engaged with each other is not good enough. Engagement is the key to being present in a meaningful way.
❤ LISTEN to your partner. One of the most powerful ways to nurture a connection is to listen actively and with a commitment to understanding.
Commit ALL your attention to your partner (no TV, no cell phone, no newspaper, etc.). Make eye contact. Orient your body toward your partner.
Listening is a powerful way to communicate a wish to be together. And when you LISTEN well, often, and effectively, then you also know how to SAY, DO, ASK, and BE in the ways that your partner will experience as loving.
Love isn’t just something you have. It’s something you do. Today, tomorrow, and every day, if you’re lucky.