Love as Action, not just Feeling
It’s important for couples to talk about work, parenting, money issues, and the practicalities of life. Yet, it’s also important for couples to spend time together simply enjoying each other’s company as they did when they first met.
The busyness of life, particularly when there are children, makes it difficult to purposely make time to relish being together without a particular agenda or purpose. When you spend all day being a responsible parent, planning schedules, giving advice, or dealing with controversies at work, it takes deliberation to switch into a connecting mode.
Co-parents and Housemates
If that conscious choice isn’t made, then couples tend to relate to each other as responsible parents, for example, and the partners will respond as either a good child or as a rebellious child. Either way, it’s a parent/child relation. Or partners may relate as co-workers, which doesn’t do much for the magic in a relationship either.
The reason divorce rates are so high when children leave home for college or work is that many of those couples haven’t been sustaining their relationship as couples, but have been relating primarily as co-parents, co-workers, or housemates. So, the powers of attraction and energetic connection—the Goddess of Aphrodite—have been left to wither in the cold. When the children leave home or life becomes less busy, the void and the longing for passion become obvious.
Love as a Feeling
People complain that they’ve fallen out of love as though they have no choice about the matter. “Love” is often viewed as a feeling. However, “love” actually involves more than just fleeting feelings that come and go. Love requires an action over which we do have some control. So there is something we can do about sustaining love in a relationship.
Falling in Love
The act of love involves choosing to have an attitude of appreciating our partner including their differences as we did when we fell in love. We fall in love and get a feeling of wholeness when we see someone who carries some qualities we lack in an attractive way. When we first fall in love, we’re in a state of awe and wonder regarding our partner, which coincidentally inspires our partner to feel confident and open—two appealing qualities.
Falling out of Love
Later in relationship, those same contrasting qualities often drive us crazy. But the irony is that the more we criticize and try to change our partner, the more our partner carries those qualities in an annoying way.
We also fall out of love, because we don’t bring new parts of ourselves and creativity to the relationship, perhaps because we’ve stopped growing. We can’t stop being passionate about life and developing ourselves without it affecting the way we feel about those around us.
Love as an Chosen Attitude
In contrast, the more we appreciate our partner, the more he or she carries those qualities in an attractive way, and thus, the more likely we are to get that loving feeling. It all starts with our own conscious choice to appreciate the differences, without denigrating ourselves or our partner.
Practical steps to promote the love and happiness between a couple include taking some time whether it’s 15 or 30 minutes a day to be together, having fun, being romantic, listening to music together, or having an adventure, as long as somehow time is taken to enjoy being together. Every week or so, a couple should spend a longer period of time together and consciously invite into the relationship the spirit of awe and mystery of being intimate with another human being.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD