Unfortunately, love doesn’t come with a handbook. God has too much of a sense of humor for that… what fun would it be if we all understood one another? Imagine arguing, tensions rising, insults flying, and someone hits the pause button. “Hand me the handbook, honey”. And, with that, the argument ends.
Let me make myself perfectly clear. Love is messy. It isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t simple. And, you’ll likely have to do things you won’t like, nor agree with, in the thralls of passion. But, damn it, it’s worth it.
Born to an Irish father and an independent English mother, timid is not a personality trait I possess. Passionate, strong-willed, or even stubborn as my husband likes to put it, accurately depicts who I am. Let’s just say I was born in this century for a reason, for if I hadn’t been, my life would have been significantly shorter. So, when I am explaining the keys to successful love, you’ll do yourself well to remember my inherited disposition. While you’re sipping your morning coffee and judging my well-learned words of wisdom, bare in mind these lessons took me longer and were more strongly resisted than most.
Lesson One: Choose your battles wisely.
I get it. You’re thinking, “Oh, here’s a gem I haven’t heard before”, but hear me out. I can’t count how many times I’ve read this, been told this, or been reminded of this. With such consistent repetition one would think the sayings’ true meaning would have set in long ago, but then again, we’ve already covered my pig-headedness, so let’s just move on. Naturally, we treat our spouses as children who need to be taught lessons. Shaped and molded into good pupils like play dough. So, when an engaging opportunity rears its’ ugly head, it’s all but too hard to resist it. “How will he ever learn if I don’t tell him?” In all fairness, your husband isn’t a child. He knows the garbage needs to go out, but he doesn’t want to do it any more than you do. You have a few options here. You can nag him until he yields and live with his resentment, take it out yourself and live with your resentment of him, or try something different. “Honey, you’ve had a long day. You seem tired. Would you like some help taking out the trash?” Worst-case scenario, he says yes and you two spend some time together… away from the televisions, electronics, and distractions… and jointly endeavor on said activity. What you’ve done may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. You’ve shown him kindness. We’re all human and at the end of a long, tiresome, day a little compassion goes a long way. In a relationship there will always be differences, of opinion, of background, or of nature, it’s what makes us human; but every day need not be a roller coaster of emotion. So, leave the highs and lows to the big stuff and save the teaching moments for your children.
Lesson Two: Be a good pupil.
Your partner may not come with a handbook, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be learned. In life we study and research things like scientists. Buying a new car, boots, or even a toaster, we weigh the pros and cons, study the details, and read the manuals so we understand how they work. We don’t walk into Canadian Tire, grab the first toaster, head to the cash, take it home and stuff bread down its’ slices. No. We carefully choose the best-suited toaster for us and learn how to use it. So, why do we take the time (sometimes decades) to carefully select the best-suited partner, yet never learn how they work? Let me explain. I have the most energy in the morning, so that’s when I clean. I do the dishes, sweep the floors, and tidy up. But, my husband is slower moving in the am, not unlike sleeping beauty slowly rising from her drugged slumber. Let’s cut to the chase and just say he’s not cleaning first thing. That’s okay because we’re different. You need to study their personalities, their actions, and even their bodies. You need to know the curves of their frame, their in’s, and their out’s. When you come to know something well, you appreciate it. Not unlike that of a fine wine. Our culture is object obsessed, the newest toy, the best makeup, or the newest technologies. People line up in drones, hours before stores open, to get their hands on the newest thing. Conversely, you don’t see people doing that for one another. We live in our heads, with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, so it’s easy to think of you first. “Doesn’t he know how tired I am? I made dinner, I’ve done the dishes, and now I have to take the damn garbage out too?” I hate to break it to you, but he’s thinking the same thing. “I dropped the ball at work today. I really did. I got into it deep with my boss, I missed that deadline, and now she’s nagging me too”. But, if you’d known him, studied him, you’d have seen the exhaustion, the stress, and the defeat in his body language and heard it in his tone. Long story short, the buttons broken on the toaster and your still shoving the bread down the damn slices and wondering why it won’t toast. It needs fixing before it can do what you need it to.
Lesson Three: You’ve got hands for a reason, use them.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of my fourth grade class, I still hold the vivid memory of learning the most annoying, bloody, song of my youth. Well, besides Lamb Chop’s this is the song that never ends… If you didn’t watch Lamb Chop as a child, consider yourself lucky and skip the trip to YouTube. Where was I? Oh, yes. Grade four. (singing) My body’s nobody’s body but mine, you touch your own body, let me touch mine. Well, I think it’s safe to say teaching standards have risen since the early 90’s, but you get the message… keep your hands to yourself. My friend, this isn’t the 90’s and we certainly aren’t in grade four. Your hands need not be kept to yourself any more. Touch. It’s the simplest principle. A hug warms the heart, a hand on the shoulder brings comfort, and a stroke through your child’s hair is instantly soothing. Do me a favor and think, really think, how many times a day you lovingly make contact with your partner. It’s likely less than you think. Humans are like icy sculptures. The more you touch them, the quicker they melt. Now, remember, we’re referring to love partners. Please don’t head into work tomorrow and test-drive this theory on your boss. I’m not responsible for the sensitivity training you’ll likely receive post-haste. But, that being said, do try it out on your partner. Don’t just talk to them. Touch their arm, their lower back, stroke their hair, or hold their hand (yes, even at home). You’ll be surprised how increasing your touch increases your connection. Love is not fostered through words and union alone.
By this point some may have given up reading, others may be thinking, “Seriously? That’s it?” But, for those of you who are reflective you’ll be honest with yourself and think. How often are you too quick to react? To pick a fight? How well do you really know your partner? How well did you study their manual? And, how much do you actually take in the opportunity to slow down and touch? We’re all busy. Someone will always be late. Something will always seem more important. Patience and appreciation is key. I promise you. When you’re old and grey, you won’t be thanking yourself for watching the game, sending that email on time, or looking up what Jane and John did while on vacation last weekend. But, you will be thankful for loving fiercely and being loved. For connecting with another’s soul. And if not, than you’re Hitler and what the heck are you doing reading an article on love anyways?