3 Ways To Love Someone Well

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How To Love Someone Well

Understanding not just how to love someone — but how to love them well — is critical for sustaining healthy relationships.

According to attachment theory in psychology, loving well is about building a secure emotional connection with your partner.

Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby, attachment theory is "a psychological model attempting to describe the dynamics of long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans. [It specifically addresses] how human beings respond in relationships when hurt, separated from loved ones, or perceiving a threat."

Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth built upon this theory by studying relationships between infants and their primary caregivers. Ainsworth found that "children will have different patterns of attachment depending on how they experienced their early caregiving environment." This model suggests that infants will only thrive if they are securely bonded with a parent or primary caregiver, usually a mother.

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Attachment research on adults has shown the same is true for adult relationships. Infants and adults who are loved unconditionally feel secure in their own skin and in the world around them, which gives them the ability to choose a securely attached relationship, too.

Healthy relationships require a secure emotional connection.

When we have a strong emotional connection and are securely attached to our lover, our relationship can flourish.

When you're in a securely attached relationship, your heart and mind actually shift, making compromise and sacrificial love seem second nature. You become "other" focused. You no longer need the world to revolve around you. You no longer need to cling to your independence in fear of losing yourself; the reverse is actually true. You will become your true self in the arms of another.

An insecure emotional connection, however, will result in conflict, cyclical arguments and mistrust. Without a secure emotional connection, you are knocking on the door of heartbreak and heartache because emotionally insecure adult relationships are vulnerable to infidelity, emotional and sexual affairs (betrayals), addictions and divorce.

So practically speaking, what does loving someone well and building a secure connection look like?

Have you found that special someone who will light you up on your darkest day? The who will be there through thick and thin? That guy who will still love you on your really bad hair days, or the woman who supports you when you're so stressed from work that you want to crawl into a hole and never come out? Your best friend? Someone who tries to speak your love languag or thinks you're lovable, even when you're super crabby? That precious soul to spend the rest of your life with? Someone to love well on Valentine's Day and every day after?

Here are 3 ways to love someone well and build a secure emotional connection.

1. Make time for your partner

Being available and accessible to your partner can help you establish a secure, emotional connection. Life is busy. The world must be spinning faster than ever, but you've got to slow it down and make time for your primary relationships.

You might even be more attentive to your co-workers than you are to your lovers. But come on, work is work and should never take priority over your partner.

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2. "Feel" your partner's heart

Loving well requires hearing and feeling your partner's heart and responding appropriately — a cornerstone of secure, healthy relationships.

However, many men have trouble with this because they are "problem-solvers." They find it easier to find a solution than to sit and be emotionally supportive. It takes practice. But usually, that's what women want and need.

In securely attached healthy relationships, loving well is responding to your lover's fears or struggles with a hug and a look into their eyes that says, "That must feel awful. I'm so sorry you're hurting." This strengthens your emotional connection.

3. Be present

Loving well requires being all in, all there, all present to your lover. Put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, and turn off the kids, if you can.

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Sit side-by-side and give your all to the one who is your all. Look into their eyes. Hold their hand. Tune out the world for just a few minutes and feel each other's presence. Focus on your emotional connection.

Life's responsibilities will be there when you check back in. But for now, it's your time to be alone, to be each other's priority.

Like William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” I call that loving well.

So whatever the day, love your partner well. You will become your best self and, as a couple, you will begin to change the world.

Love is your destiny and everyone deserves to find it and embrace it. As Thomas Merton, a writer and theologian, said, "Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone — we find it with another."

I believe you will indeed become your best self while in a love relationship with another. So let's learn to love well on not just on Valentine's Day, but every day after, as well.

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Michael W. Regier, Ph.D. is a highly trained and experienced clinical psychologist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and EFT Supervisor in Visalia and San Luis Obispo, CA, who, along with his wife Paula, co-authored Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love. Learn more about the services he offers on his website.

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This article was originally published at Michael Regier. Reprinted with permission from the author.