Unfortunately, we have all been raised in a culture that finds the romantic notion of love to be supreme. Sure, those emotions bond us together in the early days of a relationship. But emotions are not the “North Star” of a relationship. Life cannot be navigated based on the presence or absence of these feelings. The true North Star of a relationship is commitment, which is based in action, the “doing” of a relationship. This sometimes entails continuing to love (action) someone even in the absence of the feeling of love.
On a basic level, emotions are reactions in the chemistry lab of our bodies. Sure, they are wonderful when they are around, but the fact that they are missing doesn’t indicate the death of a relationship. This is when the hard work begins!
Even more importantly, when the emotions are missing, we often try to find some way to recapture the emotions. This is a losing proposition. It moves from the wrong direction. Emotions are not the goal, but a side effect of the action of loving.
When one acts lovingly toward another, one naturally begins feeling more loving toward the other. Feelings follow action and not vice versa. More than that, most find it a losing proposition to try to “make” themselves feel a certain way. It is easier and more effective to choose to act in a certain way. Anyone can “make” themselves act in a chosen way. From that, feelings emerge – almost without fail!
Many of us are aware of the fact that emotions ebb and flow in the life of a relationship. Even with this knowledge, we seem to forget it in the day-to-day life. When the emotions are missing, we begin to believe, “I’m not in love anymore.” When, in actuality, the relationship is in an ebb pattern. The flow, if allowed, will return. That simply is the nature of relationships when we don’t interfere.
What to do? If emotions are a dead-end and our fist instinct is to show love the way we wished to be loved, you may be wondering, “How do I show this person love?”
1. Consider what the other person does (or did) to show love.
Even if the two of you have lost the habit of treating each other in loving ways, you may have the opportunity to think back on how love was expressed to you earlier in the relationship, and particularly during periods, where the feeling of love was evident. This can provide some clues on how the other person feels loved. If you show love in ways that love was shown to you, you may discover the key to best showing love for that person. And best of all, ASK the other person how to love him or her. Think to yourself, what would it be like to have your spouse ask you how you would like to be loved. Would that not be a powerful discussion? Would that not make you feel loved, even in just having that discussion?
One relationship trap is to assume that we must know what the other wants, or it isn’t genuine. “Mind-reading” is a high standard to hold another to. In fact, it has been the death of many relationships. Give up on thinking bout what you or your spouse is “supposed” to know, and concentrate on discovering what you and your spouse haven’t known about each other.
Relationships cannot be sustained on the illusion that the other should “know” if it really is love. Instead, healthy relationships are all about discovery and growth. Make it your task to learn about the other, to discover their secrets. And don’t trap yourself in expecting them to know your secrets. Share them. Seek to have your spouse share his or her secrets with you. Discovering the secrets of each other lies at the heart of successful relationships. It is a discovery process unlike any other. This is a shift in understanding. It is the difference between seeing a marriage where both are on the same “wavelength” to seeing a marriage as a discovery of the other’s wavelength.