How to Get and Give More Love In Your Relationship
If you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud.
This one is for Katie – I hope this helps!!
This is about relationships - it covers how to be loving and supportive to a person you are in a good relationship with. That means a healthy relationship – one that has been chosen based on a person who loves you back equally, and started with the same goal as you - to be a good and supportive partner. This is not to be applied exclusive of self-care and self-protection. So if you listen to this – it should be taken in with the existing understanding that you first and foremost must care for and love yourself and be with a person who is capable of loving and respecting you back. None of what I will say should make you think that I am implying otherwise. Self-love and knowing how to take care of yourself is the building block to being capable of a loving and mutually supportive relationship. If you are NOT in a relationship that is mutually loving, this is not for you. It could even be dangerous because that other person will not be capable of reciprocating the balance necessary.
This is for people in a loving relationship and you’re working to give love BETTER to that person. I have a lot of tools in this one – many of them are for being the most effectively supportive if your partner is suffering and many are for breaking through to an empowered position when powerful emotional patterns take over. The times when intimacy is not fun and you are both struggling to find a path to be loving in the midst of life stress. Because, relationships are very confusing – they’re personal. When two people get intimate, another human becomes a very major your focus – you cannot separate yourself completely when you operate as a pair. And that can make you feel frustrated, overwhelmed and powerless. When it comes to suffering, it can be very difficult to deal – because it’s your life, too. So that’s the point I am jumping off from, right now. For the good of making love work.
There are three parts – the what, the why and the how – the tools. To caveat: this is my opinion, nothing more - and you don’t have to agree with it. Take what helps and leave the rest!
Part 1: The What
When a relationship is new, you don’t have things that the other person MUST fulfill for you to be happy as an individual. Not consciously, at least. But it’s there – deep down, as a part of your life experience - this assumption that you’re on the same page, that they will act as you see them – right now. When we haven’t seen all the multitude of facets to an individual – we just assume they are who we believe them to be: a print out of the avatar we create of them. And because of that image, we choose our mate. We commit – we fall in love. So over time we either learn of all the facets we misinterpreted or can’t quite grasp due to different languages – and we change. We grow at different speeds – in different directions. So it is an average life experience that the elasticity of a bond will be tested. And this continuous growth and shifting is why relationships are hard – because they require we work. They require we accommodate, accept, and grow above. And they require we show up for ourselves as an individual: that we maintain our whole self, outside of the relationship. That’s what we bring to the equation, to begin with.
When you enter into a relationship, you are meant to be whole and complete. Ready to share this work of art that is you! Because a relationship is one of mutual rewards and not debts owed. Your life is a gift you offer – to bring more color to this other person’s life and vice-versa. That is why you choose very wisely a deserving mate, and then give them this very special and precious gift that is your loving and bountiful soul. So by default, what you ask of this other person should always come from that whole place – it is not a NEED that they do anything to make you happy. It is a want, but not a mandate – for their love is always a gift to you. It is through this method of perception — with zero expectations and zero demands – that we can love others the best way we’re capable of.
However, in the real world – the one filled with stress and not enough sleep, most of us tend to regress into old emotional baggage patterns. Because, with habit – our unconscious self takes over. When we are stressed, busy, worried, taxed, emotionally drained, chemically compromised or in a pattern of nonstop overthinking –we begin to operate from a survival mode state. It is biology: the stress response – fight or flight. In our most base level thoughts and emotions, we approach our relationships from a place of need – “What do I need. What are my wants – what should this other person do for me.” This expectation – these “rules” of what they should do – come from a weak and compromised place inside of us. These needs that they are meant to fulfill for us, do not exist in reality – they exist in our emotional muscle memory. They are like echoes of the way our childhood love maps were formed: what our parents didn’t give us that we still want. They are also the needs and wants of the ego – our constructed identity that wants to build a persona who is never wrong, always trying harder, and based on the rules – wins every fight.
Unfortunately most of us end up in a stress response state for a TON of our lives – we don’t even know we’re operating from it! It’s unconscious. So by default, our relationships take a ton of abuse. This person is there to support us, so they receive the expression of our base level neediness. Because they fill a role based in love and attention and care – we have a built in inclination to activate the same story inside ourselves – the one we wore in childhood. And it doesn’t mean that’s TRUE for you anymore – it’s old. And more importantly – it’s reactive – it’s unconscious. A default setting when energy is low. Why would this old baggage come into play in a romance? Because relationships are the reenactment of our home: what we didn’t get from our parents – in the form of validation. The needs of a child are very powerful because they’re based on sustaining life – they are your parents, you literally NEED them to survive. That’s why, when it comes to intimacy, so much of the emotional neediness between the two of you will be similar to that of a desperate child. “You HAVE to love me – But you can’t criticize me – But why don’t you love me enough to see how hurt I am! I can’t sustain such pain from you – how dare you! I am so vulnerable!”
Love is an extremely compromising position to be put in: you give another person the power to destroy you. Because to be seen so completely vulnerable is an intense confrontation: you’re both standing naked in front of one another – this person can hurt you soooo easily because they see all of you. THAT for many is utterly terrifying and the harder the exterior, the more sensitive the skin beneath. We’re like children in how vulnerable we are with one another –especially if you’re in flux in your personal identity or you’re not secure with who you are quite yet. It’s like last call and the floodlights turn on – and you’re not wearing make up. THAT’s intimacy – so yeah, it can be intense and bring out all sorts of stuff. This person – even though they have love for you, can destroy you – so it makes for a high-stakes bond. This is why it is vital that you covet and keep sacred –your significant other’s heart. Even if you are filled with loathing and frustration – as a partner, your job is to handle their heart with white gloves – always very gently and protecting them from harm.
Part 2: THE WHY
As you mature and grow up – you realize – this person is and will be – just, who they are. They are not who you wish or want them to be. They are human and flawed and even if you think they should want to be a different way – that expectation is unfair and unrealistic. And the sooner you get to that truth and accept it –the faster you will be happy and get the love you want. Why? Once you let go of the pain of your own expectations and accept the truth, you become truly empowered to act based on your own best interests as well as the person you love. You become truly empowered because you’re not basing things on your unmet wants - you’re basing them on tactical moves. You’re able to separate from the emotion and instead ask, “What will get me what I want? What is outside my control?” Because most pain comes from you feeling a victim to how this person is not in reality what you deem they should be.
If you have a loved one who is releasing all sorts of crazy shit onto your relationship, the positive side to that is that when we get secure with another person who loves us, we work out our shit. It’s a sign we feel ready and safe to deal – to test how safe we are, and work it all out finally – all the crap that’s been put away. This usually happens within the first two years of marriage and it’s a good thing that needs to happen – but for the receiving end, it can be a rough and unexpected test. It relies heavily on the other partner’s ability to be the strong one – and puts quite a bit of weight on the romance, to say the least. In general, here’s what commonly gets in the way of our ability to be loving to one another:
The ego – our thinking calculating solving brain - is what over-develops in us when we’re operating nonstop from our thoughts. Like when you don’t shut down and unplug from planning, you get into a state of being always on. When we are busy, we often operate from habit because it saves energy to live this way– and this is also true for the patterns of a relationship. You are quite literally operating on a power saving system of habit – in other words, you are unconscious. You might not even notice it – but you stop participating in your day to day life – instead you play a series of old records. Your reactions and interactions play on loops.
So when you live from this unconscious place, your ego is at the wheel. The ego needs to reaffirm itself constantly to create a sense of order in your logic, so it will label everything. Who’s right and who’s wrong and what the points to base this on, are. Like a lawyer taking notes. It is because of this method of calculating that you will play a very predictable set of reactions to your average relationship interactions. As you’ve probably experienced, you can literally make yourself upset or make yourself happy depending on the record you choose to play. We have all done this a million times – when you start to define the moment you’re having and CHOOSING the reaction you DESERVE to have based on your calculations. That’s your ego building up your “rightness” – in the back of your mind. The lawyer with a calculator – this means this and that means that, therefore – I’m right to be sad! That’s when you can actually make yourself feel more of a victim – when you deem the other person to be wrong, and therefore to affirm your rightness you enact the corresponding reaction.
Whether or not it feels like it in the moment, that emotional reaction is a choice. There’s a moment of recognition before the record begins to play – when you can step back and remove yourself from the reaction. You can allow yourself the space and distance to CHOOSE HIGHER. When you suffer from fatigue, that moment often escapes you – because it takes effort. It takes energy and conscious intervention, so usually you will lean in favor of, “This is so painful for me, this is so unfair. I don’t deserve this…” Because that means you’re right. THAT instinct – to be right– is your ego. It’s not the true you. You are the one who wants love and peace and to be rid of the stupid patterns that make your relationship un-fun for both of you. You are the higher, thinking self who is reading this and having tiny bells ring in the recesses of their memory. THAT is the true you, with an empowered and positive motivation to change what’s not serving you for the greater good.
Too Much Stress:
Love is like a rubber band around the two of you: it needs to maintain elasticity. When you go through too much stress and put too much pressure on your love early in the relationship, you can break it. There’s only so much stress and wear a relationship can stand before it loses the gift-giving, fun majority of it. That doesn’t mean it’s not fixable – but it must be fostered and rebuilt with deliberate care and attention – and ONE person has to start, first. They have to go all in. Because love is a bond based on mutual trust – so when that gift exchange is gone, it must be offered anew once again. Trust will be proven over time, with transparent and genuine effort. That gesture is what will inspire change from the other person. If you find yourself in patterns and grooves in a relationship, once one person changes – the other will by default change – because their dance partner started doing a different step. Change will follow.
Fear of emotionally lethal injury:
When you become intimate in a committed relationship, it’s a thousand times more painful to be criticized by your partner. Especially for someone with a tough persona – which reveals a sensitive interior. It’s a kind of pain that for many is just not tolerable. Because it’s on top of the painful feelings that exist already, inside. Therefore when someone comes too close, the reactive self will bark and shove away anything that might hurt. Criticism that is exchanged between an intimate couple can damage the bond immensely. It often occurs because one partner can’t see how extremely damaging their words and actions are, and they will interpret it as irrational or fake. When a knee-jerk reaction is to shut off or push away, that’s just self-protection – and it’s built in, and unconscious. It’s like the security covers on the windows go up. “Nope! Nothing’s getting in here! Step away!!”
Trauma or unexpected loss:
When we go through a major life event like a death or a shock of some kind, we operate from a base level for a while. It is because we are low on energy resources, that we have nothing to stand on – nothing to spare. So often we will revert back to a needy childlike place. It’s only temporary – but something to be aware of if you find yourself acting from this place, or you recognize it in your significant other. When we mourn or feel unstable, our energy is taken by the simple act of processing and managing the feelings. There is often nothing left for acting civil or taking care of others. It’s like being in an emotional incubator with the tolerance of a baby. Assume this person – with their lack of warmth or lack of effort is instead saying, “No– I need the care, right now. Expect nothing from me. That is what I need you to gift me, right now.”
It is also very difficult to be around someone close to you if you are processing grief. For the same reason a child who has had a stiff upper lip will break down in tears when they see their mom – we are seen, with an intimate partner. Our pain is on the outside – so if we are desperately trying to put it away and control it just to function – it can be painful to be around a person who loves us and wants to help us. It can even illicit anger – because we want to push it away. Keep it aside, for now. The best measure in this case is to create a bounty of space and lightness and maintain a topical barrier of protection. Respect no eye contact and allow a person to not feel when they need that. All will be said loud and clear, but will be unspoken. When mourning, all feelings are right – all anyone needs is no judgment. Lovingly be separate but around them.
Emotionally Lethal Expectations:
How others show their love and work their hardest is different per person– and when a person is pushed to their limit and and their partner has built in expectations– sometimes people just give up. I want to repeat that. People will give up. That’s when things start getting very bitter and fights are rampant. Because when a partner is constantly operating from a deficit level of performance – they’ve already disappointed you – so what’s the point. It can cause a person who WAS trying to grow, to retreat back into their shell. Because, if they cannot make you happy enough with the love they can offer you – it’s hopeless and devastating. When someone self-defeats and gives up, it’s when their partner has built in expectations of them that they feel they cannot maintain, OR they have very low confidence – so the pain of trying is too intense. When a person stops trying, it’s because they accept failure. And it’s a tragic and devastating thing to witness – like a light going out, they cease rising to the occasion.
It is extremely important to acknowledge the love being offered from one your partner in their respective language. By receiving a gift, you are giving a greater gift: you are acknowledging. You are complimenting and validating, JUST by honoring an expression of love with your enjoyment of it. How wonderful is that? How beautiful is that? You make another feel great about themselves JUST by accepting their gifts with grace. Just like an exchange of symbols between two foreign leaders: to make a strong bond, you accept their gesture with humble gratitude despite whether or not you want it or it’s as good as what you have given them. The gesture itself is the currency. THAT is the language of love.
Love requires a lot of acting, yes. A lot of effort, yes. This is all what you do to maintain the elasticity of your bond. But your goal is always self-serving and in your own best interests: it’s all to get this person – your appendage – healthy and strong, operating at optimal level.
Everyone thinks they’re doing the bulk of the work in a partnership. This is true of professional partnerships as well – so as a rule, assume you’re not. You cannot see the kind of work your partner does or how hard it is. You can’t compare your level of efficiency to someone else’s, because it’s not apples to apples. You both bring different sets of strengths. If you are giving love, appreciate them for their particular brand of gift giving. That is how you invite more success from them – not by judging how bad they are at something. Make it your go-to state to assume that both people are doing their best and bring opposite strengths. Your goal is mutual: more love. Love is always the winner, so don’t keep score.
Your relationship has nothing to do with who does more, how wrong they are, or what they should be doing that they’re not. It works against you to focus on things like better or should. All measuring and justifying is the ego’s way of solidifying your definition of self. Just like craving a definition of how successful you are compared to others – it’s an imaginary power-grab, which is neither here nor there because it has nothing to do with happiness or love. It has everything to do with a fighting. Do you want to fight? No. Fighting sucks and fills your body with toxins. So stop it and immediately forget who was right and who was wrong. Move on to what’s more important - like heading a little higher on this mountain.
All relationships are flawed. Everyone will have a lot of great traits and a lot of not great ones. The good and bad qualities that make up a person will shift, but the lists will stay pretty even overall. It’s always a trade off and it comes down to what matters most to you. What are your priorities? Most people are not going to be who you want them to be in your mind. So when you’re weighing your relationship and whether or not you think it’s good enough, all you ever have to ask yourself is, “Is it worth it?” That’s the only answer that matters. Not that you deserve better, or they promised they’d be different – all that is a waste of time. Once you ask yourself that defining question, move on to the action you need to take. Empower yourself to move forward. Stop the lamentation, because all that does is fester inside YOU AND YOUR brain. You have a choice – choose power, not victimhood. Which brings me to…
Part 3: The TOOLS
It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re in a relationship, because you’re isolated – on the face of a mountain with just one other person. Because of this, we tend to take on a “vs.” mentality – our view vs. theirs. It is from this place that often we make ourselves unhappy with our significant others or we will place blame on them – falling into habits where we unknowingly hurt the relationship with our judgments. When we stop coming from that gift place and instead come from a place of rightness, we lose the GPS signal of love.
That’s why it’s important to think of your relationship as something HEALTHY and GROWING – not something you want based on fulfilling your needs, but a bonus you foster based on mutual benefit – like a continuous game of Secret Santa. Or an awesome timeshare! Focus on the gifting element of it. You agree to be together based on mutual strengths. You want to push your other half higher and higher so that they can pull you up, with them. So here are some ways to better do that – aka, the tools. A lot of these are no brainers – they’re more like gentle reminders or refreshers. So think of these as a way to become more conscious in the way you love your significant other.
1. Love from your highest self, not your reactive self
That means simply – step back and give some power to the moment of pause. Before you react and act on the knee jerk emotional reaction – give yourself your own power. What I mean is – you, the real you – is WHO YOU DECIDE TO BE NOW. The person who wants to enact all these things I’m describing. THAT is you. NOT the person who gets mad and can’t help themselves when they’re upset and hurt. THAT is your weakest, survival-mode self.
This highest self is also a truth that exceeds the words of this other person and what they tell you that you should feel. I know often it’s hard to know what to do when this other person is telling you how to love them – and what YOU should or should not do for them. So, trust this highest, rational self as your court judge and let go of the ramifications. If someone doesn’t like what you need to do to be loving, that’s okay – they might be coming from a wounded and foggy place. If your partner is telling you how they want you to help them, but you know that it doesn’t feel right, in your heart – listen to that instinct and figure out a compassionate work around. Know where your heart lies and remember they chose you for a reason: listen to your gut and act from that place. Honor thyself. YOU are the only one who can call the shots for your actions, including the ones that come from love and respect. You were chosen as a partner for who you are – and you should never betray that self, even if it means you’re acting against what someone tells you they want. Often your gut will guide you to the correct action when your partner cannot see outside of their suffering. Respect that fact and allow yourself that moment of contemplation.
Foster your most rational, highest self - the one who is thoughtful, measured and coming from love, and then trust that self. If you don’t know what to do, give yourself more time. It will come. No matter what happens – this is where real, powerful life-changing love can do a lot of amazing work in your lives. Your partner might not be able to see it for a long time, but that’s how love works. It works separate from punishment or appreciation.
If it helps to cement your understanding, I recommend making this into a journal exercise:
- Ask yourself from a sober, empowered place these questions and answer them in your journal. What do you do as an empowered partner, to be unconditionally loving? What do you decide matters to you? What do you decide is relevant for this lifelong team – and what is trivial? What practices sustain and build you, as a couple? How do you keep your other half healthy and thriving?
By building you other half up – by strengthening it when it needs a little ego boost and allowing it to win when it needs that, desperately – you make your own life better. You want a strong mate that’s proud of who they are – that can keep pace with you.
This tool is about you empowering you. Not them, or what they should do or what you wish they would do. That thought process is a trap – a focus on your NEEDINESS and not your power. The power that exists inside you already – right now, if you ask it to – and you put down the expectations that are causing you pain. This is not to place blame, it’s to raise awareness – because expectations are very sneaky. They’re validated by culture – by movies, sitcoms – even our friends! The world says, ‘you are right to think these things and they are wrong to not be that way, for you!’ Often these expectations are invisible even to us. We cannot see that we are comparing others to what we think they should do, that we feel right to want.
2. Love Decoder Ring
This is visual metaphor tool. Picture you are engraving your own custom language decoder ring for your significant other – literal language translations that crack the truth of what’s going on inside of this person. Write the decoders down!
- I want you to begin to describe to yourself – in writing – a list of what this person is and is not capable of in your relationship. Where do they get stuck? Where do they shut down? Where do they constantly struggle and go into a bad place? What are their walls – where they can’t read you, they can’t do what you want them to do even though you tell them. In what kinds of conflicts and situations do they demonstrate they are incapable of acting a certain way?
I want you to begin to expect that from them – know that it’s something they suffer with because of how they were formed growing up, and mourn the loss of that for yourself. That is something you have to accept and acknowledge about who they are – and stop expecting them to behave differently. A lot of our hurt or conflict in relationships is a loop of behavior – we both play out the– “But why? Why can’t you see me?” That’s based on ignoring the facts of each others limits. So you are going to stop that now – why? Because you are empowered to change it and to cease the pain it causes you in those broken record loops. Act as the enlightened one and create more love for the both of you – which is what you really want.
A lot of the healthy, self-protective habits we take on in our early adulthood are for a very good reason – you HAVE to demand quality treatment for yourself when we’re choosing a good and deserving mate. Those are feelings you have to learn the hard way to have – “You can’t have me or my love, and no I will not tolerate this kind of behavior!” They are the demands that keep us safe and help us weed out the dangerous partners who are undeserving. But after you have chosen a trustworthy partner who is good to you and deserving of your love, those habits are often not serving you anymore. It’s time to put them down and try to see the fact that they are always coming from love – it’s just hard when we have opposite languages. If they stop being capable of giving love, it’s likely when they don’t feel safely loved back by us. Some people are just not capable of being the bigger, stronger person – of stepping back and finding a work around, like you are doing right now. The way their muscle memory formed puts them into a mode of blindness.
Depending on childhood dynamics we learn to self-protect by building defenses to when we felt powerless. That’s usually what dictates when we shut off or cannot listen anymore. It is not kind or loving for us to expect that they change to accommodate whatever version of love exists in our scars. This person has limits, and they will always be a unique gift – a whole being – whom we can enjoy or not, as they are.
When you see yourself feeling that this person doesn't love you enough or isn’t trying, step back and see what old resent that perception is attached to. That loop of thought inside you – is old, too– and doesn’t have to pertain now. Start with reality: you have a choice – move from there and all your problems have solutions. We all have those spots – where we stopped growing– even you. And no, that’s not fair – it just is. This step can be hard because it’s like accepting a truth that a part of you desperately wants and thinks you need to be happy – so it can feel like a mini death of sorts. So take your time and let it sink in. This one won’t happen overnight.
3. Love is a garden and you are the rain
If you’re wondering how to help someone you love when they are struggling – or perhaps you are frustrated because you are unable to help them but it’s hurting you to witness them in pain. Just close your eyes and step back and be as gentle as rain. Be a presence – a nourishing, refreshing source of life. Just keep misting them lightly with love, positive feedback, and offer your personal solutions, and the life-giving nutrients will drip through. But be that delicate and constant. Watch life thrive.
What is most important to keep in mind is their life is not yours. You are not meant to take over their body and fix things for them – nor can you tell them how to feel about their life and everything in it. THEY must grow themselves at their own speed. But this doesn’t mean disappear or stay silent – it just means be a constant nourishing presence. A drizzle that feeds them. Doesn’t bully them or expose their roots. Think from a zero-expectations, zero pressure point of view. And – you’ll find that over time, when you show someone consistent unconditional love, they will hear you loud and clear when you do need to confront them on a serious topic. The ear canals are wide open.
4. Bad Tattoos
This is how you allow someone to accept themselves – you show them YOUR hideous tattoos, first. If this person you love is struggling with a form of self-acceptance it feels like patronizing to tell them why they should feel better about it, unless you’re talking about yourself – solely. So instead, teach secretly with a focus on yourself. Your partner can't ever feel like they are unaccepted just as they are. That adds pressure to an already heavy plate of inner struggle. Use yourself as the example and keep your judgments to yourself. Don’t force it like you might medicine to a child– keep it clean, cool and thoughtful, like something you’d tell a boss or coworker. Just offer it as something outside of them, unrelated to them. A random anecdote you want to share – that made you really happy you experienced it. Come from a genuine place and the offering will have value outside of the lesson you’re struggling to impart. Make this a genuine highlight for you, truly. The goal is not to tell them how they feel is wrong. It’s to offer them your different and wonderful POV and how it makes your life great.
And let go of the pressure on yourself if this person just can’t hear you. Often a person can only hear something when something inside them is “ready.” It’s the Buddhist principle, ‘when the student is ready the teacher arrives.’ A person can hear something a thousand times a day over years, but they will only really hear it when they are ready to.
5. You're Playing Double Dutch
Being heard as someone loving is all about timing – your partner will have specific windows of time or styles of delivery that are prime. You want to wait for those moments - like you’re jumping through a pair of jump ropes. It has to be just right. In order to get in and be on their rhythm, you need to time your jump. So begin to take mental notes: notate when this person can best hear you and what style of communication is best for them to soak it in. Be patient. Watch. Often when it comes to difficult communications, you need to deliver it in a form that’s lighter and more tolerable. For example – most are more able to hear requests when they’re delivered in a casual and humorous way and not a place of annoyance. If you want to reach someone you have to pick the safe way to hand it off – when they are open and not defensive.
6. Olympic Listening or Heart-Shaped Ear Holes
So much of love and affection is in your body language – so when it comes to listening and being present with your partner, listen like it’s a pro sport. At the end of the day, if you can be physically present and offer yourself totally and unconditionally to this person – they will feel respected and loved. Things like sitting still and keeping your eyes on them can alter the way a person feels about themselves - it can actually boost their confidence.
Try to shut off the editing software that plays in your brain and analyzes: hear them as though you have no idea what they will say next. Almost like you’re hunting for a key piece of information. You will find that when you pay attention without anticipating, you gather a vastly more insight from what they say.
Listening is the greatest tool I can offer you, in relationships. We all simply want to be seen and understood. This is the most healing and powerful gift you can give to another person. And no, they will not always hear you back – but you can honor them by listening to them and being patient with them no matter what. And whether or not it happens overnight, they will feel it – and hopefully begin to mirror the pattern back to you.
If you find yourself suffering to help someone change—remember that you are loving them just by being present with them. That is your most powerful role – to witness them and show them you understand them. Allow them the dignity of their own experience. Positive feedback always helps – but when they want an answer, they will ask for it.
7. We Exchange Love in Gift Cards
Every expression of love from your partner is like a gift card. It’s up to you to give it its value by appreciating it: by taking in each gifted action, and placing it within this context so that you feel their loving, fully. Like, cash it in! Your heart needs to redeem that value! Like my exhausted metaphor?! And yes – this takes work, but that work is the way you see the truth. Which is, they love you a lot. Recall the goal: to better get love. You might as well both be from different planets because you speak different love languages – so if you want to read their language, do this process of noticing the intent behind every kind action. Really make it into a gift that has materialized before you and verbalize your recognition as often as possible. Never judge the value of their gift based on what you are capable of – that’s not fair or relevant to the expression. If you can make this a habit you will be surrounded by love – and more of it will flow forth from your significant other. When value is redeemed – the effort is worth it!
8. Partner Swap
I use this one all the time – and I love it!! No, I’m not saying have sex with your friend’s partner. This tool is a mental exercise for getting yourself out of a dead end conflict and you can’t find the solution.
*Warning: This only works if you have friends who are in healthy and loving relationships. If you don’t have friends in healthy, loving relationships – don’t talk to them about yours! Don’t listen to them talk about theirs, either! You’ll find yourself slowly turning into them and taking on their viewpoints. Stay off the topic altogether!
Step one is to find a benchmark couple – one you respect and admire for their ability to treat each other well. A couple with a healthy and positive relationship who demonstrates mutual respect and friendship – and most importantly, who is not into drama. You want mature, confident individuals who have their own lives but get along great together. Who have fun, and seem very selfless with one another.
Got that? Great! Now I’ll assume one of the members of that couple is closer to you, friend-wise. Hang out with this person. Be around that person. Listen to them discuss the various arguments they have with their partner and how they resolved them. Listen to them talk to their partner on the phone. Ask them questions about how they address issues you have in your partnership. In other words – get to understand how they act around one another.
Step Two is the part of this tool to use when you are in a fight or a conflict and you get stuck. Just like you would model an inspirational person’s behavior to create positive self change, try on this other person’s head. Take your inspirational benchmark partner’s brain and imagine you are them: how would they act in this situation? How would they be loving? Would they think this is a big deal? Then why do you have to feel bad? Answer, you don’t!
You decide how everyone in the world is allowed to make you feel. That includes being upset or hurt at something from your partner. It also includes honoring an emotional response or skipping it in favor of something that makes loving easier. See how this other person might act to support your other half. Use this one when you need help remembering you want to be loving and get over the bumps as quickly as possible.
*If you DON’T know anyone with a relationship like this – your step one is to seek them out. Actively select a new pair of friends based on this trait. I am not kidding – having friends who are also in healthy relationships is life altering in ways you cannot imagine. It’s a support system that will steer you right when you get lost in your own emotions. AND it’s a great predictor of how they will behave as a friend– so you are making a great decision for yourself socially. Great and solid people tend to have great and solid relationships.
9. Focus on Yin
If things in your relationship aren’t changing and you want them to – try changing all your habits of participation. Examine the responses and actions you have in your relationship and alter the way you complete the dance – you’re one half of the rhythm between the two of you. A change to the relationship between a yin-yang starts when one side moves independently of the other.
Stop assigning yourself victimhood and affect change in your control. It’s all about correcting emotional patterns when they take over, because you get to choose how you behave. When you resent or feel unseen or unloved or affected by this other person – that emotional reaction is from you inflicted on you. You get to decide how someone else is allowed to make you feel.
What happens when one person changes is the other takes notice. No longer is the partner following the steps of the dance – their steps must change in response. When you change yourself, do it without expectation of them. This is not about manipulation – it’s about altering what you have control over – which is your own behavior. But, when will they say thank you? Maybe never. Thank you would be nice, sure – but it really has no place in this arena. It’s not relevant when it comes to this goal. You’re working toward a higher result – far beyond recognition. You’re rebuilding a system of communication and dropping the unconscious patterns that hurt both of you.
You likely won’t see the effects of your gift giving until you’ve traveled far beyond this point in your lives – just like you can’t see yourself maturing. You can’t look at this process like that – you cannot expect to ever see them acknowledge and identify what you see and experience. But that’s not why you do it. You do it to move into a new kind of relationship. Giving furthers your course. Expecting holds it back.
Love is a gift you offer as a self-contained expression. It does not involve reciprocation- you give it with no strings attached. And when you’re capable and happy, you enjoy giving. So when you’re able – give in excess, and gently remind yourself that you expect nothing in return, including a particular outcome. Consciously be the stronger one of the pair if you are ready and capable. Everyone is entitled to their own unique path on their own time. They might never agree with you or your methods but if you are truly coming from a loving place, you will do it anyway.
It’s a great thing to give unselfishly as your normal state – it’s something your significant other and everyone who knows you will appreciate deeply, about you. Think about your own experiences in this way: when you were suffering and those who love you showed up for you – unwavering, completely ready to support you and give their love to you. It is so profoundly moving and something you could never repay. In these moments you are humbled. How you love others is a measure of who you are as a human being – it is a value that cannot be measured or quantified. It is that pure and uncut. The most powerful bond in all of our human existence can be given by you – how wonderful is that? Such a healing, powerful gift we can give with nothing but our hearts.
The beauty of being in a relationship is when you feel strengthened by this other person, you grow more – you take risks, make bigger jumps – and if one of you falls down – the other can carry the weight for a while – and do it happily. The strength of another person who is ready to catch you is universe-altering. When you see someone there for you – ready and committed – it changes who you are. It is a force unlike any other – so think of yourself as a super hero with great capacity. What you choose to unlock with this gift is up to you – but know that your love is much more potent than you can see it is. Use it well and use it often.
Smile lovely friends… xox! Sarah May B.
If you're interested in reading further, this is an excellent book on similar topics called "Intimate Partners" - check it out! xo
Featured image via Flickr