There are literally hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of ways we can behave, things we can do that could be considered loving. Yet it is from where the gesture comes that distinguishes the loving act from the empty gesture.
What good, for example, is it if you hold your tongue in an argument, wanting credit for displaying self-control or hoping to get some payoff (like sex), while ultimately you have contempt for your partner and find their behavior regularly intolerable? Very little, it turns out!
If your goal is to display your love or affection my suggestions are these:
1) First, study your partner. Take care to learn who they are. What do they love, like, dislike? Find difficult? What sends them into outer limits? While this independent study may not result in your behaving much differently, your attention and care will be felt. Your investment of time is of the utmost importance to the overall quality and heath of your long-term relationship.
2) Include their overall happiness quotient as part of your daily awareness practice. In other words, check in with them daily; inquire about their feelings, dreams, struggles, agenda, and goals, personal and otherwise. Hold their vision for themselves as if it were your own.
3) Listen carefully. Most people tell us what they want from us. If not directly, they are dropping clues constantly about what would make them happy, even deliriously happy. “An uninterrupted hour, free from housework, kids, phones, noise, responsibility and…don’t ask.” “Oh I could use a massage, a romantic dinner, to have you kidnap me for the night, or simply to pick up your dirty socks and clean up after yourself so I don’t have to ask you.”
4) And then make it happen! And do not underestimate the little things; they can be the best sometimes. My husband gets up and makes me green tea with the exact right amount of soy milk in it every morning, even when we travel. I am so thrilled and grateful ‘cause I get to lie in bed those five extra minutes, and he knows how much I love to sleep in. Or he cleans up the dog poop ‘cause it makes me gag. Sometimes I will tell him to take a half an hour and go meditate when I know he hasn’t had a moment to himself all day. We know each other.
5) Then there’s what we don’t know about each other, where we stretch each other and ourselves. Sometimes I will say to my husband, “Let’s just get in the car and drive!” He picks the direction and we just go. Maybe we don’t even talk. We just find new neighborhoods or end up in LA or park at the beach and find a new restaurant or bookstore. Or maybe we walk out the front door and don’t know where we are going, only that we are interested in going where we haven’t been before.
And this is just a place to start. From here it becomes a joy to try and find new ways to bring joy, laughter, surprise or peace of mind into your partner’s existence. But from where we do that, as I said, makes all the difference in the world.
Like I always say, if you actually care, then act like it!
Great relationships begin within!