Most people mistakenly think that love is a feeling. Here’s the thing, they have it all wrong.
“You mean it’s not?” Gasp! “But when I see him, I feel butterflies, my heart flutters, and my knees buckle. If that’s not love, then what is it?” Those may be physical feelings, yes, but those feelings don’t amount to genuine love.
In order to be more loving, you have to understand what love truly is. It’s not just a feeling. It’s a Commitment. It’s an Action. It’s a Decision.
Those initial feelings–the butterflies, the heart flutters, and the buckling knees, are all part of “falling in love.” It’s like a knee-jerk reaction. It’s not planned, and it doesn’t last. It’s a short honeymoon period that ends if the relationship lasts for any length of time.
It’s understandable why we’re confused about love. Hollywood has put a spell on us. They have us believe that two people can fall in love in hours (look at The Sun is Also a Star ); or days (look at Titanic), or through emails (look at You’ve Got Mail), and a host of other spell-binding ways. But that’s not true love!
True, genuine love begins after the spell wears out, after the honeymoon ends and real life begins. This is great news! If we know that actually loving someone starts at the end of the buckling knees, then we’re prepared, we don’t give up. We don’t think, “Oh, no, it’s over! My heart doesn’t flutter anymore, and the butterflies? What butterflies?”
If you’re currently in a relationship that you feel is circling the drain, or one in which love has flown the coop, or so you think, then you’ve got a nice surprise coming. It doesn’t have to be over!
Read on and learn some of the doable ways in which you can learn how to love — become more loving, win your partner back, and enjoy a satisfying relationship. Once you know what genuine love looks like, it will be easy to implement.
You might be thinking, This is too good to be true. And that’s fine, you can’t always help what you think.
But here’s the thing, it isn’t too good to be true. You can become a more loving partner by applying the following suggestions to your relationship.
Are you ready to become a more loving partner? You look ready to me. Let’s go!
1. Commit to Your Relationship
Decide that you are going to be in the relationship; that you are going to work toward its growth; that you will nourish it to the best of your ability.
Without that commitment, you don’t have the necessary foundation to build a loving relationship. That is why this first step is crucial.
If you have that commitment, read on.
NOTE: It’s never too late to make a decision to commit.
2. Invest Time
The workaholic who works 60 hours a week might say, “I love my family so much. I’m working hard to provide for them.” That’s not love. Remember, love is not a feeling; it’s not words. It’s an action that you decide to take.
M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book, The Road Less Traveled, states,
“…love is an action, an activity.”
One of the most important ways to demonstrate love is to spend time with the person you love. After all, time is our most prized possession. You show someone you love them by spending quality time with them.
If you want to become more loving, find time every day to connect with your loved one. You can do this with a text, a phone call, or a lunch date. Be creative.
3. Communicate Your Love
There are countless and effective ways to do this. When my husband notices I’m in a hurry, he makes the bed for me in order to give me a few additional minutes in the morning. If I run out of a certain food I love, he stops at the store to pick it up; he saves the last of anything for me. If he never said the words I love you, I would still know he does. Clearly, his actions are speaking loudly.
Find ways to communicate your love through action. Bring home a treat, do the dishes, make dinner, leave a note in his favorite coffee mug, etc. Before he leaves for the gym, my husband takes off his chain and sets it on his nightstand. When he’s not around, I shape the chain into a heart and leave it for him to find. It always puts a smile on his face when he does. You get the idea.
As a writer, one of my favorite guidelines is, show, don’t just tell. By doing this, the writer provokes a reaction from their readers, helps them feel the emotion the character is feeling. This works in real life as well.
Take an action, however small, that SHOWS your partner you love them.
4. Be Spontaneous
Relationships can fall into ruts. Years together can dull the excitement felt in the beginning when everything is new. It doesn’t have to stay that way.
Spontaneity can liven any relationship. Imagine yourself walking into the kitchen, wondering what to make for dinner, not feeling like cooking at all. Suddenly, your husband walks in and says, “Take off that apron, I’m taking you out to dinner.” How would you feel? I don’t know, but I’m guessing you’d want to jump for joy.
Or you come home, see your partner sitting in front of the TV and say, “Let’s go, I’ve made reservations at a great Air B&B. Pack your bags.”
Spontaneity adds a thrill to any relationship. Try surprising your partner this week!
5. Acknowledge the Thoughtful Things Your Partner Does
One of the ways to be a more loving partner is to acknowledge all your partner does for you. You might be taking your partner for granted and not even realizing it.
Do you thank them for doing the laundry, walking the dog, making dinner, doing the dishes, working out, replacing the soap and shampoo before it runs out, etc? There are a million little things that keep a home going, and it’s easy to forget that someone is doing it. Acknowledge it.
My husband had just taken a shower one day when he said, “Thank you! I never have to worry that I won’t have shampoo, or soap. It’s always there. I really appreciate that.” I felt warm and fuzzy after hearing that. It made me feel very appreciated. Your partner will too.
6. Be Supportive
When I decided to go back to school to become a therapist, it would mean a great deal of sacrifice. I would eventually have to quit my job; come up with tuition money, and devote time for studying. My husband said, “You’ll make a great therapist. We’ll make it work.”
When I decided to write The Healing Alphabet, 26 Empowering Ways to Enrich Your Life, my husband said, “I can’t wait to read it. People will love it.” When I decided to cut my long hair, my husband said, “You’ll look really cute with short hair.” He has been supportive throughout our 33 years together. That support demonstrates his love.
In what ways can you be supportive to your partner? Maybe it’s supporting a hobby they have, or wishing them a fun girl’s day out, or being there for every music recital, etc. When you’re supportive, your partner will feel like they can’t fail. It will provide the encouragement they need to keep going and have fun at the same time.
7. Provide Space
Clinginess can ruin a relationship. Too much of anything can be deleterious to its survival. Yes, it’s good to spend time together. In fact, I recommend it, but it’s also good to find a healthy balance.
Providing space means you allow your partner to express himself/herself in the way they enjoy. Allowing your partner time with friends and family is important. You don’t have to be by their side 24/7. In the article 10 Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship by Scott Christ, he writes,
“We all need time to explore, reflect, and express ourselves individually.”
Create a space for your partner so that they can express their creativity. Let them be them without you. Remember, they were someone long before you came along.
8. Take the Good with the Bad
A good relationship takes a lot of work. The day you married your partner, you probably thought you’d hit the jackpot by marrying the most perfect being on this earth. That day, you didn’t think about the fact they kept you awake snoring, laughed like a hyena, scratched the wrong places in public, chewed with their mouths open, and who knows what else. You were just thinking about the trip to Bora Bora, how beautiful she looked in the dress, how handsome he looked in the tux, and what pretty babies you’d eventually have…
But like I mentioned earlier, the honeymoon will end. It always does. And then you’re left with the real stuff: the smelly socks on the floor, the dirty mugs in the sink, the crumbs on the kitchen table, etc.
Of course, I’m painting a bad picture. Maybe none of this has happened to you, and after 15 years you still feel like you hit the jackpot. Congratulations!
For the rest of you, understand that there’s no perfection. It doesn’t exist. Yes, your partner is going to annoy you. You probably annoy your partner. If you want to be more loving, look past the imperfections. Find a way to see it as quirky. It’s part of who they are, what makes them them. According to Jeff Auerbach, Ph.D, in his book, Irritating the Ones You Love, he writes,
“We may not be able to change who we fundamentally are, but we can do the best that’s possible with what we have.”
And that goes for both people in the relationship. Neither one of you is perfect. Be more loving by accepting the not so appealing, and bask in all the goodness they do provide.
9. Avoid Put Downs
Here’s the thing, when you’re in a relationship, you pretty much know everything about your partner–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s easy to resort to put downs when you’re angry and upset about something they’ve done.
For example, let’s suppose they’re late for a movie. It happens. Don’t start in with, “Late again?! Jeez, you’re never on time, you moron!” Or, “No wonder your parents are disappointed by you!” Or “It’s a pleasure to meet the poster child for lateness!” And on and on.
What are you trying to accomplish? It certainly doesn’t sound like you’re having a constructive discussion. It actually sounds like a war in progress.
We have enough strife in the world. Don’t allow it to infiltrate your home. Speak with respect. Let love be the motivator, not pettiness.
10. Be Willing to Compromise
Relationships are partnerships. Often, one or both of the people involved forget that; they’re a little too self-absorbed, always wanting what they want when they want it regardless of how their partner feels.
Since all relationships require some form of compromise to be successful, the couple has to work as a team. It’s always a give and take; a quid pro quo; a back and forth between the people involved. “Hey, since we saw Shaft last week, how about we see A Dog’s Journey this week?” Both people are willing to give in to make their partner happy, even if they have to sacrifice a little bit.
A willingness to compromise can go a long way in creating happiness and feelings of well-being in the relationship.
11. Tell Your Partner 3 Things You Love About Them
My husband and I attended a couple’s seminar years ago. One of the exercises we were asked to perform was to walk around our partner while they sat in a chair, and tell them all the things we loved about them. It was an amazing experience. The focus was to be only on the good, on what you loved about them, what you admired, respected.
As the exercise progressed, the partner reciting all the compliments was reminded about why they were with that person to begin with. It was very powerful, and the feelings created from the exercise lingered for days.
You might think you’re listening, but next time your partner is talking, pay attention to your thoughts. What are you thinking? Are you really listening? Are you formulating your answer? Have you tuned out? True listening requires a great deal of effort, but it is a gift to the person who is feeling heard.
When you truly listen, the other person feels valued, important, like they matter. And isn’t that a gift you want to give your partner? It doesn’t cost a thing, but the dividends are priceless. True listening is the encapsulation of love.
Tonight, ask your partner a question, then really listen. Don’t get discouraged if your mind wanders for a spell, bring it back and re-focus. Your partner will sense your attentiveness and be ever so grateful.
13. Drop Old Issues
It might sound crazy to bring up past issues and hurts while in an argument, but couples do it all the time. It’s not uncommon for a partner to say, “Remember when you broke that vase and you said you’d replace it and you never did? You’re just as clumsy as ever!” The partner stares dumbfounded. “But that was 17 years ago! Why are you bringing that up now? Just because I accidentally dropped your cup and broke it?” You can see that this can quickly escalate.
There is no reason to bring up the past. Ask yourself: “What’s the point? What am I trying to accomplish? Am I trying to fix the problem or make it worse?” Old issues have no place in the present. Let them go. Concentrate on the here and now.
The bottom line is: make your relationship stronger, not weaken it.
14. Love DOES Mean Having to Say You’re Sorry
In the 1970 film, Love Story, written by Erich Segal, there’s a scene in which Jenny, played by Ali MacGraw, says to Oliver, played by Ryan O’Neil, “Don’t, love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I beg to differ.
People make mistakes. It’s good to apologize. Not just a fake apology, but a true, heart-felt apology. Apologies go a long way to repair a broken relationship. If you are in the wrong, say it. Mean it. Make sure the person understands that you are making amends.
You are not going to come off as weak if you say you’re sorry. Not only will you validate your partner’s feelings, you’ll gain respect. More than likely, your partner will say something like, “It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean that.” Make amends when you need to. Your partner will look at you with the loving eyes you crave.
Love is the most beautiful thing on earth. Being loving is the most amazing gift you can give. All the heart flutters, the butterflies in the belly, and the buckling knees, can’t replace genuine loving acts.
Don’t allow your relationship to be fed by simply stringing a set of words together. It takes a great deal more than that. It takes a Commitment, an Action, and a Decision. Done over and over again.
You have everything you need right here. It’s the start you need to make it to the finish line of your relationship. If your relationship has suffered an injury, implement the above tips for a week, a month. See what happens.
I see a second honeymoon in your future.
More About How to Love
Featured photo credit: Joanna Nix via unsplash.com