Every Valentine’s Day, people reflect on the amount of romance in their relationship. For some, Cupid’s arrow strikes with a passionate bulls-eye, while for others the arrow misses its mark, leaving them wishing for more romance. One of the most common patterns we see in working with couples is the disappointment and disillusionment which comes when one or both partners feel the romance is gone. There’s little or no passion and excitement, though they fondly remember a time when the mere thought of being together elicited powerful feelings of intense love and tenderness. Yet now the relationship seems dry, stale, and boring. What happened? And is it possible to get those wonderful feelings back?
In a new relationship, we are all granted a free grace period where tremendous passion, aliveness and intensity is bestowed upon us with minimal effort. There is evidence that there is a physiological reason for this period of infatuation, where the brains of new lovers are saturated with higher levels of phenylethylamine (PEA), a naturally-occurring amphetamine-like neurotransmitter, creating a highly aroused state of body of mind. As a result, we are spontaneously loving, giving, thoughtful, affectionate, playful and passionate. The slightest touch can elicit fireworks and we are fully awake and present in each luscious moment. We are given this wonderful gift - a vision of what is possible to create with each other - and then our task is to transform that vision into reality. But what lies ahead after the glow wears off?
In the 1977 movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton confront this question by asking an elderly woman on the streets of Manhattan about the true nature of love. She looks at Woody sadly, shaking her head, and says, "Love fades, sonny." Yet just then, a young happy couple comes bounding their way, and a perplexed Woody asks them, "How do YOU do it? How do you stay so happy?" The man cheerfully replies, "Well I’m vain and shallow, and so is she! It works great!" and they run off laughing and kissing.
In reality, it is depth not shallowness that creates lasting love. And love doesn’t fade unless a couple allows it to fade. The Law of Entropy applies here: without a sustained effort toward keeping anything in the physical universe maintained or improved, things tend to deteriorate and go in the direction of disorder, whether it is your car, your home, your body or your love. People take their love for granted, and they slowly begin to drift apart, until suddenly they realize they are little more than roommates.
And how do you keep your love from fading? What specific efforts help keep the feelings alive and passionate? Although not easy to perform, the two-part answer is simple: Reduce or eliminate hurts and resentments, and create a closer bond by understanding and meeting your partner’s emotional needs.
You cannot simultaneously feel resentment and loving toward someone! So the first thing to do is clear up any hurts or resentments standing in the way of your wanting to be close. Listen to your partner’s concerns or resentments, validate their experience, and make whatever corrections or amends you need to help them fully resolve and let go of their issue.
Once you have resolved resentments, then you can get closer by giving your partner what they need to feel cared for. Genuine love is a series of small repeated kindnesses, but don’t assume you know what your partner needs to feel cared about until they tell you directly and specifically. Don’t make the mistake of the man we knew who spent over $900 on flowers for his wife, only to find out she hated flowers. Ask your partner what his or her favorite caring behaviors, and you will have the magic recipe for creating lasting love. By giving them what they need to feel cared for, to feel cherished and important, you build up an overflowing reservoir of positive feelings in your emotional love bank to draw upon in the future. And when both partners do this, there is a powerful synergistic effect which results in even greater feelings of closeness, passion and love.
Some of the most important emotional needs that people have in intimate relationships include needs for affection; admiration/appreciation; honesty and openness; financial contributions; stimulating conversation; sexual gratification; shared recreational interests; home/family contributions; and physical appearance/health. Sit down with your partner and discuss what each of your needs are, and how well your partner is currently meeting them. If you can consistently fulfill many of your partner’s emotional needs, you will find yourself in a passionate, loving, intimate relationship that is based on a deep, loving bond between two committed people. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of waiting for loving feelings to be present (as they were in the beginning) to justify performing or giving loving actions toward their partner. This is exactly the opposite of how the real relationship which exists after the glow fades, where loving, caring actions elicit loving feelings in each other. If you sit around and wait for your partner to make you feel good before you engage in any caring behaviors, you will create at atmosphere of keeping score in which resentment rules and any genuine love will definitely fade away over time..
For more help in creating a passionate, loving, intimate relationship this Valentine’s Day and beyond, here are some great books with fabulous tools, exercises and insights to help you along: Hot Monogamy by Pat Love; Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman and Scott Stanley; Fall in Love, Stay in Love by Willard Harley; and The Conscious Heart, by Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks.
The spirit of Valentine’s Day can be with you 365 days a year. Do something every day to continually create the best relationship you can, and you will enjoy a lifetime of lasting love with each other.
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