How do you rekindle the love in your relationship?
I have been married for nearly 20 years and I have fallen into and out of love so many times that I have lost count. Love has little to do with falling, otherwise being a toddler (or 90) would be a love-in.
Love is a little like sand in the hands. It doesn’t matter whether you hold onto it lightly, or tightly… the grains will still fall out of your hand. But if you hold tightly, all that you will think about is your grip, and eventually you will grow tired. But a gentle grip will hold the tiny grains safe and allow you to do more than sweat through it all.
Love can be lost. I know, because I have lost it. At times, I have hurt my partner and made her lose faith in me. She has looked at me with pain in her eyes and the hurt pushed her away. Other times, she has hurt me and I have pulled away. As couples, each of us moves through a dance of intimacy that can be wracked with pain and confusion. It is easy for love to grow old and cold.
Love is not lost like a piece of jewelry can be lost, only to be found again in the same condition as when you first lost it. All that it requires is that you pick it up again and try it on. Losing love is more like how you lose time. Time can never be regained. A moment lost will never come back to you. You can change yourself and become more present, but you will never regain what was lost. You can, however, change how you relate to all of the moments that will come your way in the future.
How to change your relationship to love?
Changing our relationship to love can be difficult. First it involves loving yourself in spite of yourself. You cannot be fully available to your partner, to your friends, or to yourself without first loving yourself.
Love is more than sharing happy feelings together. It is more than all of your loving behaviors. Love is the story that you tell yourself and the story that you live out together. Like any story, it can become stale unless new chapters are written and re-written. Love needs constant input for it to be fresh. After 20 years, it is easy to take each other for granted. I have been guilty of taking my marriage for granted and not putting the energy into it that my wife and I both deserve.
Being open can change your life, but it is difficult. Life will come at you in waves and it can be tempting to shut down. Love will not come pre-packaged in the way that you are most comfortable with. Usually love will come in a form that you aren’t ready for, but one that you truly need. Maybe love looks a little like accountability or freedom, or becoming a little more serious or more fun, or more structured or more flexible. Love will come at you in unique ways, and it will stretch you. At times, the stretching can feel uncomfortable. But if you are uncomfortable, then you know that love is doing it’s job.
I have stumbled my way through many lessons on love over the years. Some of my lessons have left scars, others are more like stubbed toes in the middle of the night. What I know so far about changing your relationship with love is that love thrives when you have these six things in your relationship:
- Gratefulness for each other
- Listening to each other, and listening for the needs behind the stories
- Enjoy your rituals but don’t let them become ruts
- Commitment to each other
You may have other items that you would add to the list. I am curious what you think about your relationship to love and how you keep your relationship to love fresh and alive? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
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Keep it Real
This article first appeared in The Good Men Project
Photo by Silke Remmery