Staying In Love

Falling In Love Vs. Staying In Love, Part II

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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.

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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…

Shut up, Ackbar. Seriously, it’s not a trap.

Shut up, Ackbar. Seriously, it’s not a trap.

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:

  1. Recognize the things that makes us feel loved

  2. Effectively communicate to each other what makes us feel loved

  3. Appreciate when our partner does something out of love, regardless of if it is our preferred way of receiving love

  4. 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…


Falling In Love Vs. Staying In Love, Part I

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I love falling in love! It’s an incredible feeling…that combination of swooning, joy, lust, anxiousness, passion, and hope all rolled into one experience with another human being. It’s intoxicating!

Love is a funny thing. Even those of us who study it don’t fully understand it yet. We can deconstruct it, look at it from different angles, and understand a piece here or a part there, but when you put it all back together it’s still rather messy. And really, that’s ok. Part of what make love fun is that it’s a mystery that unfolds as we get to know someone. One of the pieces that we can understand is the difference between falling in love vs. staying in love.

The biggest difference is this: We cannot control who we fall in love with. Louder for those in the back. WE CANNOT CONTROL WHO WE FALL IN LOVE WITH. It just “happens”. We see someone, talk with someone, spend time around someone and feelings develop. There’s a spark! You know exactly what I’m talking about, just as much as you know you did not look at said person and decide, “Well, I do believe I’m going to make a conscious choice to call forth into existence the magical spark that marks the beginning of falling in love.” No body does this.

Now, we’ve been trying to understand and explain why this spark happens for as long as humans have studied psychology and emotions. It has been explained as brain chemistry, subconscious reminders of our parents, even perhaps similar smelling sweat. Maybe all of that is true, maybe none of it is. I don’t know. I don’t think the origin of the spark is important either because no matter how hard or soft sciences try to explain it, it’s always something out of our control. (Unless, of course, you’re able to consciously control the scent of your sweat. If that’s you, email me immediately. I want smell like chocolate)

That spark is the beginning of love. Because it is the start of something so important, I wish with all my might that human beings would only spark with people who are a good match for them. Sadly, this is not the case. We spark with people good for us, bad for us, dangerous for us, etc. We spark with people who could damage our careers. We spark with people who are not our monogamous partners! We have no control over this very powerful thing happening that could make or break our lives and it’s just out of our control!

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Ok, take a deep breath!



Better? Ok good! I’m not going to leave you all freaking out and out of control. See, there’s a second part to this. I’m gonna say it real big like so you can’t miss it. Ready? Here goes…


Look at that, you’re back in the driver’s seat! Everything that happens after the spark is completely within your control! What this means is that you get to evaluate whether or not to pursue this spark or not. You don’t actually have to just because it’s there. More that that, knowing who you tend to spark with can actually help you evaluate where you want to go with it.

For example, I have a tendency (not 100%, but enough to notice) to spark with people who are usually labeled ‘crazy’. Not actual mental illness. I’m trained enough that I’m able to spot that a mile away and can decide if that something I can take on with eyes wide open. The kind of ‘crazy’ I’m talking about is the “Let’s go steal that cop’s car” kind of ‘crazy’. There’s something about that kind of person that sparks me hard! It’s accurate to the point that I have a friend who uses me as a barometer to determine how cautious he is going to be with a new potential partner.

The point is, when you feel that spark, pay attention! Pay attention to who this person is! Pay attention to how pursuing this person will affect your life! Just as there are rewards for following the spark, there are risks as well. Feel the spark and enjoy the feeling, it’s amazing after all. Go into it with eyes open, though. The spark is out of your hands, but what you do with it is a conscious choice. Make a wise one.

In part II we’ll talk about staying in love in long term relationships, so come back next week!

Stay Shiny!