Loving is easy in the beginning when you’re falling madly. All the happy hormones are flying and you’re constantly thinking about your new mate and can’t wait to spend time with them again. Biologically, this is supposed to happen so you hurry up and procreate. In the modern world, where we live longer and generally try to stay married, it’s not always so easy.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, (which is made up and actually has some dark history – but hey, isn’t that the case with all holidays?) I thought it would be nice to talk about how to love well instead of how to divorce well.
- Keep up the novelty – Part of what brings out the happy hormones is the newness of the person you’re falling in love with. Every feeling, thought and experience with them is new to you and it’s exciting. As time goes by, and things don’t feel so new anymore, you can continue to trigger the happy by doing new things with your partner. It might be cooking new foods together, going to museums and learning about the art, checking out different hiking trails, working on home improvement projects or travel. That last one – travel – is chock full of new experiences.
- Learn - or relearn - your partner’s love language. Does she prefer back rubs or back scratches? Does he like it when you cook for him or does he like to go out for a meal? What actions make you happy and what makes them happy? Learn these and gift them to each other.
- Touch each other. Recognize and remember that passion goes in cycles. When things are great, they’re great and there’s no reason to look within. But when the passion takes a dip it can be confusing and upsetting. Just like your stock broker advises, if you’re in it for the long haul, you need to be prepared to take the lows with the highs. Know that the passion will return (sometimes it takes work). And when it does, take a moment to recognize that it’s present and does come back. Be physical with each other regularly as it, too, releases the feel-good hormones. Even when we’re not feeling totally awesome about ourselves, our day or our partner, touching will improve this. Make sure to hug every day. A full-body hug lasting just 30 seconds releases the happy hormones.
- Be kind and attentive. When your partner mentions something about their day or what they’re reading, thinking about or involved with, they are in a way asking that you recognize them and attend to them. These are called bids for attention. They are sharing something with you and the most loving response is to verbally recognize it and respond with a (nice) comment or question to learn more. Give them your full attention to show them you care and that you are interested in them. It makes them feel good and it will come back to you.
- Accept their “flaws.” We all have things our partner does that bug us. Assuming we’re talking about little habits or quirks and not personality disorders, try to move from annoyance to acceptance. You can’t change anyone but you can change your perceptions and expectations. When the annoying thing happens, try to let it go quickly and move your thinking on to something else productive or positive. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t dwell on the little things.
- Be aware of the Green Monster. Jealously shows up when we have a need that is not being met. Let it be a red flag for you to dig a little deeper and figure out what you’re missing or needing. Talk to your partner about it and together you can set boundaries that are safe for you both. When he talks to another woman in a social situation does it make you nervous, angry or anxious? If there’s no history of adultery then it likely has to do you with your insecurities maybe from childhood and not his behavior. This is normal! The trick is to recognize it for what it is and not let a fictional fantasy get the better of you. Again, talk to you partner so you can be on the same page of understanding here.
- Be soft on the person, firm on the issue. When you do have a conflict or argument with your partner, take care of the issue without attacking each other. Stay focused on the thing that happened, how it makes you feel and what you want to do about it. Once you resolve it, move on. Don’t hold resentments.