Happy Valentines Day! As today is the ‘official’ day of love, I thought it would be timely to write a blog about what it is and how it all works. Hint. It’s a bit more complicated than you think.
As a psychotherapist working with individuals and couples for more than a decade, I’ve learned a few things along the way. For starters, love is not something that simply happens to you. Yes, we “fall in love”. We get jittery feelings in our stomach every time we see that person or hear their voice. Our heart skips a beat when we’re near them. We run to the phone in excitement at even the prospect that it could be them, tossing objects and people aside along the way. We want to talk to them all day long. We want to see them every day. Folks, this is chemistry and infatuation. It’s the ‘in love’ part of the process. But make no mistake, it’s not real LOVE.
This ‘in love’ phase serves a purpose. It allows you to bond with your partner, and make a commitment. In Darwinian terms, it allows you to ensure the survival of our species by having children together. However, research shows that this ‘in love’ phase only lasts two years. That’s it. Not that two years is bad, per say. But when you’ve made a commitment for the rest of your life, two years is pocket change.
"Research shows that this 'in love' phase only lasts two years. That's it."
Two years is when the ‘in love’ phase ends and real love can begin. Real LOVE, is not something that happens to you. You don’t fall into it. Real LOVE is a verb, an action. It’s something you actively practice with your partner every day. Life brings struggles. This is true for everyone of us. Whether it’s children, work, financial responsibilities, caring for parents, etc., life presents us with challenges, which can bring strain to our relationship, resulting in disconnection. And if we are not actively engaging in loving practices every day, that love can fade.
Like a bank account with a series of deposits and withdrawals, if you are taking out more than putting in, you will run out of love. Plain and simple. Except it’s not that simple, you see. Some deposits are worth more than others. Some withdrawals cost significantly more than others, depending on what’s important to the individual. For example, cheating is a major withdrawal of love and trust, and can be enough to sever the relationship entirely. Forgetting to put down the toilet seat, however, not so much. The value attached to each deposit or withdrawal is dependent upon the individual.
Deposits can come in the form of physical affection, words of praise, acts of service, quality time together or gifts. Physical affection can be shown with hugs, kisses, holding hands, or holding that individual. Words of praise - “You’re so incredibly smart, beautiful, creative, strong, kind, patient, ambitious, determined,” etc. Acts of service may include: Putting in the laundry without having to be asked, have dinner ready when the other partner comes home (no need for a three course meal, here), shovelling snow off his/her car so they don’t have to in the morning when it’s time to leave, allowing your partner to sleep in while you take care of the kids, arranging a massage for your partner while you hold down the fort at home, clearing the sink/dishwasher so it’s one less thing your partner has to do, making a reservation at a restaurant for your partner and their friend for a well-deserved night out, booking a couple nights away for your partner to get some quality self-care time. Some examples of quality time together could include: going to the movies, a concert, renting a hotel room for the two of you, snuggling up in bed watching a favourite show, drawing a bubble bath together, dancing lessons, going for a walk together, working out together, cooking a meal together, working on a puzzle together. Gifts can be your partner’s favourite trashy magazines, their favourite ice cream, a massage, flowers, a new gadget, book, bottle of scotch.
What’s important to know about deposits and withdrawals is that they are specific to the individual. While one person experiences love in the form of gifts, another does not. And so providing gifts to this person isn’t really a significant deposit. Your job is to uncover your partner’s preference for deposits, whether it’s physical affection, words of praise, acts of service, quality time together, or gifts. You also need to understand what his/her significant ‘withdrawals’ are, so that you can work towards preventing and reducing the frequency of them. Ask your partner which deposits are meaningful to him or her. If he or she doesn’t know, try each one and see what kind of reaction you receive. Don’t forget you also need to know which ones are most important to you, so that your partner can make deposits for you as well.
As an experiment for the next three weeks, watch your deposits and withdrawals every day and watch what happens to your love.
Happy Valentines Day!