Charlie and I have been together for a long time, and it’s easy to fall into habitual ways of loving. Our years together give us comfort and security in our relationship, but they also tend to trick us into thinking we already know all there is to know about each other. So, to fight that (and the ensuing slow disconnection that it breeds), we try to consciously remember that we are always evolving so we can be communicating about our current needs and feelings. I could fill 10 lists with ways we show each other love in small ways, mainly because we work to continually be turning towards each other, and strive to serve in ways that show each other our love most (read more about that here). But here are 5 ways we are really working to embrace loving each other right now, and it’s not that we’re doing it perfectly each day, but we have both found that when we lean further into at least one way of loving more actively, our relationship keeps growing, bit by bit. Acknowledging this as a need, communicating about it, and wanting to convey love daily, is a way to help your partner hear and connect more thoroughly with you as the person you actually are. Not just their idea of you.
One pitfall we’ve found in long-term relationships is boxing each other in. Thinking that the person you loved a year ago is the same as the person you love today. People are far from stagnant! We are changing, being effected, and growing (hopefully, but at least changing!) every single day. As both Charlie and I change, rethink, reconsider, and grow, we change in what our needs are and how we perceive, give, and receive love. Talking through those needs regularly doesn’t need to be A Big Talk, it can be as small as just saying “hey, does it help/feel good when I ask you about _____? ” and taking note. When I realized that I didn’t need to try and be a super sleuth to love my husband and know him, I needed to be upfront and ask questions, it stopped feeling like a game of cat and mouse, and instead feels like deep love and connection.
Baseline: It’s easiest to know what a person needs if you ask them.
Once we opened up that communication more, and more often, we have been able to suss out the easiest ways to help each other feel the love we really deeply have. These are 5 ways we’re working on it right now (and I say working on, because we strive to do these daily, but both fall short often).
5 Ways We Choose Love Daily.
1. Contact. Knowing in what ways we each need contact. We are big advocates of the 5 Love Languages Book, and along with loving, reading, and understanding that book, we realized that we both need contact each day. But we need it in different ways. For Charlie, he needs physical touch. Eye contact. I make it a point to put my phone down, hold his hand, put my hand on his arm, and genuinely listen to him when he comes home. I ask real questions, and try to really listen. For me, I need to know he thinks of me when I’m not around. Text messages, emails, quick phone call’s, daily contact. I want to check in, touch base, and know we’re thinking of each other. That’s not always possible, but he goes out of his way to try and text or call me at least a bit each day.
2. Those weird little things. I try to tidy and have a dinner idea (not necessarily dinner made…) ready when he’s home from work. This is an easy way for him to enter our home after being in work-mode, and really engage with me and the kiddos without it being all about cleaning up/dinner/bedtime. And he does the same for me when I’ve been gone for the day (and that will be growing in the next months! ack!) The little thing for me? Dishes. I freaking hate them. Charlie? probably hates them too, but does them diligently each night while I’m in putting the girls to bed. It’s small things, that happen almost daily, that are a reminder that we are both striving to serve and love the other in a way that is really tangibly helpful.
3. Encouraging hobby time alone. Charlie encourages me to go for a run, close the door and do a yoga practice, spend money on a class, sit and write for an hour. I (struggle but am trying, daily) encourage him to write, listen to pod casts, and make sure to schedule time to get into his shop to work on not just work, but fun projects. He’s an artist! A wood artist! And we all benefit from him prioritizing time to fill up by creating.
4. Honesty. A big way that we love each other is by being honest, upfront, and respectful when we communicate. We don’t hold back the struggles, frustrations, or shortcoming we both feel in each other. We talk about them. But we have worked, for years, to create a foundation for being able to have these conversations before they become ‘a thing’. Instead of waiting and assuming “this probably won’t bother me when….” we just put the small things out there, and are able to defuse them easily, because they aren’t big issues yet. It’s a way of keeping ” a short list of accounts” instead of one small fight exploding because you have been sitting on ten other things you are secretly annoyed by.
5. Loving our kids. Both of us feel closer to each other when our family is more connected. This means making technology free time a priority, working to involve our kids into the responsibilities we have to get through (cook dinner with us! help us to the tidy up together with some great music!). Making sure that time spent outside is a habit. The less outdoor time we have, the worse we all feel. But the less we get out, the less we want to get out. So we have to muster up the cold weather fun mood, and get outdoors a few times, even if we all grump through it. And then, eventually we are all connecting more, talking more, exploring, and finding amazing pieces of nature to talk and learn about. We have found that every time we feel disconnected, we’re often disconnected as a family too. Leaning into that is far more attainable than a weekend away or date night (but those would be fantastic too, hah!) and we can feel a huge amount of love, connection, and accomplishment by leaning into our daughters and family relationship too. At this point it means going to kid activities together most of the time, instead of always choosing to divide and conquer. It means using that after dinner time as a family game time, dance time, reading time, or dessert making time. And trusting that, thanks to a pretty enforced bedtime, we will have time to talk and decompress at the end of the night.