Last week we talked about falling in love! It’s beautiful and amazing and fun and exciting and scary and vulnerable all rolled into one. I called it The Spark!
Today, we’re going to fast forward a bit. You sparked with someone. They sparked back, which is a great feeling, too! And then the two of you decided to move ahead and attempt to do this thing called ‘relationship’, however you are defining that.
Long term relationships do not usually maintain that Spark feeling throughout the relationship, and that’s ok! Love matures and changes over time. But in addition to love itself changing, people change, too. Stages of life change. Circumstances change. Everything changes.
So if everything is changing, how can two people stay in love? Remember how I mentioned in Part I that falling in love wasn’t a choice? Well, the great thing about staying in love is that it is! It is a choice, and it’s a choice you make on a regular basis. In long term relationships, love is a verb. It’s an action.
The first part of this action is the act of doing. One of the ways my wife expresses her love is through coffee. She very carefully and thoughtfully makes coffee every morning for me (and my girlfriend when she spends the night) and leaves it on my nightstand before she goes to work. Every day I wake up and feel loved by her because of it. One of the ways I express love is through the giving of gifts. I absolutely go overboard on gift giving occasions to show my love and appreciation for people I care about.
The second part of this action is the act of receiving. Since my wife expresses love through doing things for people, it is no surprise that she couldn’t give two shits about gifts, holidays, valentine’s day, birthdays, etc. If I didn’t have gifts for her, she actually wouldn’t care. Now I know what you’re thinking…
But she really means it. She doesn’t care. But she knows that’s how I express love. So when I get things for her, she sees it as an act of love because she knows that’s the place it comes from.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that if you and your partner express love differently, you each need to express love in the way they best receive it.
Ok, so my wife doesn’t care about gifts. What she does care about? Experiences and actions. She likes to go to new places, see new things, try new wine, etc. Every year, when it’s financially possible, we take a trip someplace and explore. She also feels loved when I take care of dinner, do dishes, or whatever else can take something off her plate that “has to be done”. Those things are less important to me, but I make a choice to do them for her.
In return, she has become an incredibly thoughtful gift giver, knowing that’s something I care about. She makes that choice for me.
I don’t expect her to give gifts like I do and she doesn’t expect me to provide experiences and actions like she does. We’re different people with different preferences and pasts that have shaped how we feel loved. But what makes us work is that we:
Recognize the things that makes us feel loved
Effectively communicate to each other what makes us feel loved
Appreciate when our partner does something out of love, regardless of if it is our preferred way of receiving love
Make a sincere and truthful effort to say and do things that makes the other person feel loved
These aren’t things that happen magically or spontaneously, like The Spark does. Long term relationships take effort on each person’s part to contribute to the health and support of the relationship.
So if you don’t already know, ask yourself what makes you feel loved. And then ask your partner what makes them feel loved. Finally, armed with the knowledge of what makes your partner feel loved: Choose. Choose to participate in making them feel loved, or choose to participate in the creation of distance in your relationship.
Love and long term relationships is not always easy or convenient, but with the right person? It’s always worth the effort.
May the odds be ever in your favor…