Revitalize Your Love Thinking

Love and work are the cornerstones of our human-ness… -Sigmund Freud

Learning how to stay and grow inside your relationship is an art form, a meditation practice and a work ethic all rolled into one. The nice thing about the work is that it is constructed of basic skill sets you can develop and strengthen just by attending to them and practicing. No one is born a great communicator or even a skilled listener. Many of us grow up in the midst of invisible negative thought patterns that infiltrate our best thinking efforts, without even our notice. Even showing up for your relationship is a skill that gets better when expectations and the meaning of promises are shared and negotiated.

In this new series, I will share stories about couples that might resemble people you know. See if you can imagine a way that a single interaction in the story could have changed to make the situation more sustainable and healthy. What else could have happened for the people involved that would have made the relationship more compelling? How could they have been kinder to each other?

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Nancy had seen her boyfriends fall out of love before. She knew all the signs – the distracted half kisses, the late nights of work, the impatience at small requests… She also knew that her response to Michael had become short and less-descript. She tried not to fixate on the stupid way he left his dirty socks rolled up in a ball in the couch cushions or the way he slurped the milk at the end of his cereal because she knew it wasn’t the little things that mattered. She tried to ignore all the ways she felt disappointed in Michael and she tried not to notice the quiet ways she felt him looking at her with the same disappointed glances.

Walking on eggshells might have been easier than the ways they both worked to dance around the change in their relationship. Each night one of them lingered longer in the study or in front of the television so that they wouldn’t have to face each other in the quiet of preparing for bed, a time that used to be Nancy’s favorite moment of her day. The more space they built in between them to hold their unspoken feelings, the more lonely and resentful Nancy became of the socks she would find under every cushion.

She thought she loved Michael, but now that he was hardly ever really present, her doubts about what he was thinking about her and their relationship seemed to show up even in the smallest of exchanges about where to meet for coffee or who would pick up bread for dinner. Finally, one evening while making dinner, Michael broached the subject of finding his own place again. “I just think it would be good for us to have more space…”  His voice wandered off. Nancy couldn’t decide if she was relieved or sad that another relationship that seemed to have so much promise was disappearing in front of her eyes. She caught his eye and for a moment thought she could see the same mix of doubt and regret that she was feeling. She wanted to do this differently even though she was afraid she would just make it worse….

Meanwhile, Michael too wished he could think of a way to reach back in time to their connection that felt so strong just a few months before.

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Warm-up Exercise: Think Differently

Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. With each breath, let go of the thoughts and concerns filling your mind. Then, with the next ten breaths recall a memory of when you fell out of love with someone or they fell out of love with you. You could even just look for a memory of when you fell out of love with yourself. Try to remember what that disappointment felt like and even where you felt it in your body. Make a mental list of five things you told yourself about you, your partner or your relationship when the in-love feeling was fading. How did you resist the changes that were happening? How did your communication change? Were you able to be kind to yourself? Did you blame your partner? Did you blame yourself?

Imagine you could go back to that time and do three things differently. Imagine yourself back in that situation with one new thought about yourself or your situation that would have eased the situation. Imagine one way that you could have communicated more kindness during that change. Imagine one way that you might have embraced the change that was happening in your relationship: how would that have looked?

Take ten more slow even breaths and see if you can feel in your body how those changes register physically. Paying attention to physical sensation while imagining a new way of thinking and interacting is a powerful way of remembering and embodying changes we want to make.

•••

What we pay attention to multiplies. Emotional pain that comes from seeing the full view of who someone is after the “in love” feeling goes away often gets multiplied by our resistance to look at it. This is a useful way to become mindful of whether you are allowing yourself to attend to the painful aspects of relating or whether you are multiplying your pain with resistance and falling into suffering through something that will quickly become untenable.

Pain of all the small annoyances that make a life together both challenging and rewarding is workable if you are willing to give it the air and attention it is asking for. Resisting it only multiplies its impact because our thoughts that are left unsaid become an internal storm. Other people sense the storm, too. Giving our weaknesses or those of people we care for our full attention is usually all it takes to dissipate their force. Adding humor is better still. Try throwing a balled up sock into the middle of distant conversation. Risk bringing full presence to your relationship, especially when things get hard; for this is where you both can transmute the pain of learning how to love into a new experience of really being loving.

 

15 comments

Kamia T.
Kamia T.about a year ago

My grandmother, who remained deeply in love with my grandfather over 45 years, said that the key was to find your best friend first, so that when those moments came when you fell "out of love" with them, the deep friendship would sustain you until you could fall back in love again. Wish I'd had the sense to follow her advice.

Abbe A.
Azaima A.5 years ago

thank you

Deepti P.
Deepti Patil5 years ago

thanx..

Asiatic Lion
Asiatic Lion5 years ago

tfs

Marianna B M.

noted

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

Lupe, you are exactly right. I want to add that men use women
like that a lot. Men are brought up to think that women were
put on earth for them to use as breeders and slaves. They know that a woman is in love with them and they know they are not but they stick around to suck everything they can out of them. They get away with it because women are naturally more nurturing and have a stronger nesting instinct.

tiffany t.
tiffany t.5 years ago

thanks

sandra m.
Past Member 5 years ago

It does take 2 to make a relationship work -if 1 doesn't try-nothing the other does do will make a difference

Lupe G.
Guadalupe G.5 years ago

This only works if both are on that same level of understanding. I knew that after I tried everything I knew how within my level of patience & care, that if he wasn't responding or trying to, that it wasn't worth saving. I knew he wouldn't but still I tried. I knew exactly when I fell out of love completely & the sadness I felt for how immature he was & how I had made a boy into a man in my own eyes. I knew then that it was partly my fault for putting on my blinders because I was in love but he knew he was not in love but chose to stay for convenience because I was responsible. To understand what you've written, one has to be mature enough to get to that level.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson5 years ago

thanks.