Nurturing Love by Practicing it

We all wish for and long for love and it is not something that just magically happens, it is something that must be nurtured and taken care of in order to grow and flourish.  I had a wise professor tell me once that he believed people fell into hope versus fell into love.  I think we have an idea of what love is or isn’t from our parents and from what the media presents as romance, but we don’t really know until we are in it ourselves.  My professor believed and I agree, that falling in love and really learning what love is comes later as the rubber hits the road so to speak and our relationships are challenged.  This is when the hard work to stay emotionally connected happens.  I see this happen with the couples I work with and in my own relationship.  When couples are able to trust and be vulnerable, they are able to do the work to really transform their relationship to the next level of intimacy and grow together.  I challenge you to ask yourself, how well are you nurturing and practicing love in your relationship?  It is easy to profess love, but how do you show love for your partner on a consistent basis?

What challenges do couples face that really tests their love and push it to grow and strengthen?  I think it is any time there is an emotional disconnection which threatens the security of the relationship or what Dr. Sue Johnson calls an “attachment injury.” In her book Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.  She defines this as “a sense of betrayal and/or abandonment at a key moment of need that, if not addressed and healed, undermines trust and connection and triggers or fuels relationship distress and partner insecurity”.  This kind of injury can be as traumatic as an affair or during times of stress when you need your partner the most and they are not there for you.  It is especially troublesome when years go by and these injuries have not been addressed in order to be healed.  Ted Huston of the University of Texas did a study and found that when marriages fail, it is not increasing conflict that is the cause.  It is decreasing affection and emotional responsiveness.

Knowledge is power, so I challenge you and your partner to talk about this.  Tell your partner how you need to be loved in the relationship, ask yourself on a regular basis if you are showing trust, kindness, affection and respect to your partner.  Also, learn to assert your needs during times of vulnerability.  Your partner can’t always read your mind so they may unintentionally not respond when you are in need, so learn to ask, and if you are asked, learn to listen and respond unconditionally.  Nurture the love in your relationship by practicing it! 

"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them - we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare." – Brene Brown Daring Greatly