Friends and acquaintances often comment on what a loving and happy relationship my husband and I have. We have been together for forty years, and each year seems to be better than the one before. Recently we have noticed the little things that add to our happiness. Here are examples of how others succeeded in creating more joy when they integrated these five caring ways of behaving in their love life.
1. Share interests
When you seek a love relationship you usually hope to attract someone who has similar interests. But what happens when you join your life to a partner who dislikes the hobbies or activities that bring you the most pleasure and resents the time you spend on them?
My next-door neighbor Janet was highly educated and had been a voracious reader since childhood. Her husband Bernie was not a college graduate and rarely read. He felt inadequate whenever she had her nose in a book. Bernie constantly criticized and tried to shame her when she opened a book. She finally learned to hide from him in a bubble bath where she lounged and read until the water got cold! Their marriage went from bad to worse until it ended in divorce.
A few years later Janet met Michael, the man of her dreams, whose love of reading equaled her own. They have now been together blissfully for almost twenty years. She told me that they spend many hours a week with their Kindles, reading for hours at a time. Their relationship is never dull since they always have interesting things to share with each other about what they are reading and learning.
2. Laugh together
We all love to laugh at amusing events and funny people. Laughter can chase worries away and make us feel better physically as well as emotionally. The other evening my husband and I were watching a very silly movie on TV and kept cracking up as the principal actor got into more and more ridiculous situations. We had seen all his films and even watched them more than once. After one hysterical scene, as we caught our breath, my darling hubby turned to me and said, "I love laughing with you!"
Science has discovered that when laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also strengthens your immune system and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. No wonder laughing together can enhance relationships!
3. Hug like you mean it
Sometimes when couples have been together for many years they take each other for granted and only display physical attraction when they have sex or give each other a perfunctory hug or kiss when they leave for or come home from work, go to sleep at night or say goodbye at the airport. Many people in committed relationships equate touching with sex. Justin and Tammie came to me because they thought that their relationship was getting stale.
Tammie complained that when Justin reached for her with a certain look in his eyes it meant, "Let's have a quickie." She felt especially annoyed if he approached her while she was in the midst of some chore or activity since she usually interpreted his touch as asking to satisfy his sexual need right now.
I asked this couple to add a new dimension to their relationship by learning how to share a loving, mindful hug. This kind of hug is immensely satisfying since it allows a couple to experience a tender, intimate connection that expresses caring and commitment without being overtly sexual. Try this: When you are feeling affectionate toward your partner, put your arms around each other and stand body to body in a close embrace that is relaxed and not too firm.
Let go of your thoughts and concentrate on the tactile experience. In that moment, focus on your awareness of your loved one's body touching you, and enjoy the positive energy exchange without talking. Relax more and more as you get in touch with the way your loving emotions intertwine. Stand that way as long as it feels yummy. (My friend Mimi is much shorter than her husband so she stands on the first step of the staircase to achieve the right fit without having to stand on tiptoes).
4. Politeness counts
Sheri had been married for ten years to Alan, an angry, neurotic man who tended to act cruelly and was seldom sensitive to her needs. After she divorced him, she met and was happily married to Craig. One of the things she admired in Craig was his sensitivity. She said that Craig made her feel safe and special.
Sheri recalled that one of Alan's negative traits was his lack of good manners. He rarely asked for things; he demanded them. She realized that when she was married to Alan she didn't speak respectfully either. However, it was second nature to Craig to say please and thank you often. Sheri noticed how much better she felt when she spoke courteously to Craig since she now felt cherished and appreciated each and every day and wanted Craig to feel that way too.
5. Surprise each other
Suggest treating your special someone to an impromptu feast at your favorite restaurant on a weekday rather than make it an official Saturday night date. Don't wait until your lover's birthday to surprise him or her with an "un-birthday" present. It can simply be a fun greeting card that says "I Love You." If you see something that you know will delight your partner, don't put it away until Christmas — put it under his pillow tonight.
Get concert or theater tickets to see your spouse's favorite band or a play without letting her know. Then tell her that you are taking her someplace unique but don't tell her where. Let the destination surprise her. Other thoughtful gifts like flowers or wine may also please the one you love. Your gift doesn't have to be costly. Will he enjoy a mug that says, "World's Best Lover"? or will she kiss you when you give her a pair of earrings?
Follow my advice and you will find joy in heartfelt giving and thoughtfulness. I bet that the recipient of your loving gestures will want to make you feel loved too.
Discover more ideas for creating a lasting love relationship in my eBook Grownup Love: Getting It and Keeping It. Take advantage of a FREE phone consult with Gloria to discuss your relationship issues.
Credit: "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor." On Golden Pond, 1981
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