Love is a strange thing. For one woman, it means falling in love with multiple light fixtures and tying the knot with her antique chandelier. For most, it means being committed to another person over the long term, hopefully for the rest of their lives. For myself, it means being in a committed, married relationship going on for twenty-six years this summer. Whatever an individual’s case may be, I am glad that there are specific actions that we can take to increase our love for another person. It is not a mystical or magical occurrence beyond our control, as many movies and novels would proclaim. Because it is within my control, I am grateful for the love in my life and my ability to make it grow.
Now, before I dive into the different areas of love development and why I am grateful for them, I want to separate love from attraction and lust. Attraction can lead to love, but attraction is not love, although it has been confused with it. Attraction comes in many forms: physical attraction, similar interests, bonding through shared experiences, and so forth. Love is a much deeper emotion and it is much harder to sever when life gets hard. Lust is more of a function of biology and is locked into the superficial and the immediate. While two people in love can have great physical attraction for each other, the relationship is not based on the physical, as it is with lust. I am grateful that real love is much more than shared moments and goes beyond biological impulses. I am glad these factors are within my grasp.
I have noticed that the various forces that affect motivation also affect love as well. I am a fan of Brendon Burchard and Tony Robbins models of motivation and I feel that they dovetail nicely with the factors that affect the development of love. For those inclined, you can find Brendon’s ten factors here and Tony’s can be found here. One of the factors that has a direct connection to the development of love is control. This is because we are only able to develop love with another person if we believe that we have control over our feelings. We get to decide whether we are in love or not and whether or not that we want to pursue the relationship. This is a critical point and one that I do not make lightly. If we are not in control of our love, then it is doomed.
This is because if we feel that an experience is beyond our ability affect its outcome, then we become overwhelmed and hopeless. We sense that we are a victim and that we are struggling against an impossible situation. One of two things generally happen: either we abdicate responsibility and embrace the emotion without constraint or caution or we fight against it, rail against it, and beat against its walls until we are bloody. In either case, love runs its course and we are left jaded and apathetic.
Another aspect to developing greater love is what I’ll call contribution. I am grateful that contribution allows me to develop greater love with others because it allows me to actively choose to be more loving and to receive greater love in my life. A metaphor for this aspect of love is a set of scales used in the distant past, as displayed by “Lady Justice” in statues or other forms. On these scales, items are placed on both sides and if they balance, then the observer knows that the two items have equal weight. However, if one side is lower than the other, then it is clear that one side weighs more, and therefore the two parts are unequal. This is true for relationships as well. Both parts of the relationship must feel that they are contributing. If one side believes that they are giving and the other side isn’t, then the relationship suffers and is headed down a path of breaking up.
If a person feels that they are contributing and the other isn’t, then feelings of ill-will towards the other person is going to develop. A relationship is a lot like an emotional contract between two people and if one side of the contract is not providing emotional well-being, then the other party will feel cheated and angry that their needs are not being met. They will begin to blame the other person for the failure and will experience emotional pain when the other person is around or when they think of the other person. Once this pain has become habitual, it is hard to come back from that. Not impossible, but it takes consistent effort to change the tenor of the relationship and bring positivity back to the fore.
Keeping the relationship positive isn’t hard to do, but it does take intention. All relationships are based on assumptions on what makes up the connection. Talk about your expectations and how you know if they are being met or not. More often than not, you will be surprised by what your partner needs to feel love. Then go out and fill those needs.