Have you expressed genuine affection for your partner lately? There are literally hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of ways we can behave that could be considered loving. Yet, it is from where the gesture comes from that distinguishes the loving act from the empty gesture.
What good is it for you hold your tongue in an argument, wanting credit for displaying self-control or hoping to get some payoff (like sex), while ultimately, you have contempt for your partner and find their behavior regularly intolerable? There’s very little good in that, it turns out! If your goal is to display your love or affection genuinely, here are five suggestions.
1. Study your partner. Take care to learn who they are. What do they love, like and dislike? What do they find difficult? What sends them into their outer limits?
While this independent study may not result in your behaving much differently, your attention and care will be felt. Your investment of time is of the utmost importance to the overall quality and health of your long-term relationship.
2. Include their overall happiness as part of your daily awareness practice.
In other words, check in with them daily; inquire about their feelings, dreams, struggles, agenda and goals, personal and otherwise. Hold their vision for themselves as if it were your own.
3. Listen carefully.
Most people tell us what they want from us. If not directly, they usually drop clues constantly about what would make them happy, even deliriously happy. “An uninterrupted hour, free from housework, kids, phones, noise, responsibility and…don’t ask…Oh I could use a massage, a romantic dinner, to have you kidnap me for the night, or simply to pick up your dirty socks and clean up after yourself so I don’t have to ask you.”
4. Make it happen!
Do not underestimate the little things; they can be the best sometimes. My husband gets up and makes me green tea with the exact right amount of soy milk in it every morning, even when we travel. I am so thrilled and grateful because I get to lie in bed those five extra minutes, and he knows how much I love to sleep in.
Or sometimes, he cleans up the dog poop because it makes me gag. Sometimes, I will tell him to take a half an hour and go meditate when I know he hasn’t had a moment to himself all day. We really know each other.
5. Embrace what you don’t know.
Then there’s what we don’t know about each other, where we stretch each other and ourselves. Sometimes I will say to my husband, “Let’s just get in the car and drive!” He picks the direction, and we just go. Maybe we don’t even talk; we just find new neighborhoods or end up in LA or a park or at the beach, and find a new restaurant or bookstore.
Or maybe, we walk out the front door and don’t know where we are going, only that we are interested in going where we haven’t been before. And this is just the place to start. From here, it becomes a joy to try and find new ways to bring laughter, surprise or peace of mind into your partner’s existence. But from where we do that, as I said, makes all the difference in the world.
Like I always say, if you actually care, then act like it!