Love is hard.
Anyone who has lived with another person beyond the dreamy stages of lust and infatuation knows that the day-to-day patterns that replace the excitement of date nights and sexy lingerie change our relationships from piping hot red to mundane vanilla, creeping up so subtly that we hardly recognize their effects until we suddenly realize that we’re spending our Friday nights sitting in different rooms, watching separate television shows.
Love is a verb.
It is not a thing—it’s not something we attain and hold onto indefinitely. It is something we have to do, and to work at, and that we continue to give to our partners even when the laundry needs to be folded and the dishwasher needs to be emptied.
We often talk about being “in love” as if it is a room we walk inside and simply marvel at its beauty. The truth is, love is much more like a house that we must build, brick by brick, from the ground up. The trick is learning to work together to build it—and even to have fun doing it—even when we’re tired, when we disagree, or when one or both of us simply don’t feel like getting it done.
When we first fall in love, our lives are so colored by rainbows that it’s difficult to imagine not being madly in love with our partners. If we aren’t mindful about our relationships, though, they cannot continue to grow. What began passionately can fizzle just as easily if we let them.
We are all probably guilty of falling into comfortable patterns in relationships. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable with each other, but sometimes we all need reminders of why we are together.
Like weeds in a beautiful garden, complacency and apathy only spread once they take root. The only way to keep our relationships healthy is to intentionally cultivate healthy patterns of connection with our partners.
Of course, none of us can be exciting all of the time, but connecting is about much more than adrenaline. It’s about communication, and about remembering why we are together in the first place.
- Touch each other. Love is about more than sex. It’s holding hands in public or snuggling on the couch. Human beings need physical touch in order to thrive, and so do relationships.
- Create something together. Whether it’s painting a room together or making dinner, couples who play together stay together. From pottery classes to beer making, some of the happiest couples find deep connection when they are expressing their creative sides along side of each other.
- Be a tourist in your own city. An old boyfriend and I once dressed in Hawaiian print shirts and wore cameras around our necks pretending to be quintessential tourists. We hit some of the major touristy areas in our city, took public transportation everywhere, and asked people to photograph us. We even made up stories about who we were and why we were in town. You don’t have to dress like a tourist (although it’s fun!), and you don’t even have to live in a big city to find music or festivals, or to dig into local history for a new look at the things that surround you every day.
- Join other couples. From board game nights to ball games to comedy clubs, spending time with other couples helps ground us in who we are. Like all of our relationships, other people are mirrors for us. When we see other couples interact together, they make us aware of things we do and don’t do in our own relationship. It can be a real bonding experience, and it’s also a great way to build memories.
- Laugh. Laughter does more than make us feel good. It releases healthy endorphins that allow us to feel more positive about ourselves, our lives, and our loved ones. Tell silly jokes. Share funny stories. Giggles often turn into something much deeper and more meaningful.
- Surprise each other. Whether it’s his favorite candy bar tucked into his computer case, an unexpected, loving text in the middle of the work day, or a message written on her bathroom mirror, little surprises are what make the world go ’round. They let our partner know that we’re thinking about them even when they’re not around.
- Pay attention. When we are comfortable around each other, it is easy to tune each other out in day-to-day conversation. It is all-too-easy to think our partners will understand when texts go unreturned, calendar dates are forgotten, or communication is responded to in grunts and nods. These are all slow killers of relationships. Pay attention—intentionally.
Think about it—when we care about something, whether it’s our favorite sports team, our work, or our relationships, we choose to focus our attention on it. If we love football, we pay attention to scores and rankings, we invest in jerseys, and memorabilia, and we spend time talking about our favorite team. If we love cooking, we share recipes, invest in cookbooks, and spend time in the kitchen experimenting with new ideas. Our partners are no different.
One of the biggest causes for break-ups is one or both partners feeling disconnected from each other. If we don’t give our partners the same attention that we give other things we love, investing our time and efforts in building a foundation and a future, we are showing our partners where our priorities do—and don’t—lie.
Love is a verb, and actions speak louder than words. Show your partner how important they are to you. Give them your attention and work together to intentionally build a life worth falling in love with all over again.
Author: Amanda Christmann
Editor: Catherine Monkman