CARING FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Within a marriage, romance goes hand in hand with caring behaviors. John Gottman (1994) found that happy couples have a 5:1 ratio of caring behaviors in contrast to negative behaviors. In other words; for every one negative interaction or conflict between the couple, there are five positive behaviors.
Gottman’s list of caring behaviors include: showing interest in your partner; loving behavior; show that you care about your partner by nurturing your partner the way he/she needs to me taken care of; give appreciations to your partner; show if you are worried; have empathy with each other; accepting each other; make use of humor and jokes; have fun and share in each other’s joy. Unhappy couples, on the other hand, have a 1:1 ratio of positive and negative interactions.
How can you tell if your partner feels loved and cared for? It is those actions that make your partner say: “Awwwh – Wow! That’s great, Thank youuuuuuuuuu!”, “It is just what I wanted!” Such actions are probably pushing your partner’s “I am being loved button”. Gary Chapman (2003) also wrote about this in his book: The five love languages. His love languages include: Physical contact; quality time; words of affirmation; gifts and service (doing things for your beloved with your hands).
You can get hints about your partner’s “love buttons" by listening to what Wade Luquet (2007) calls “random droppings”. These are things your partner mentioned on numerous occasions, but that you have not really paid much attention to. For example, you might have heard your partner commenting on the theme music of a movie you were watching, and he mentions that he would like to have a CD of the soundtrack. Make a mental note of that, and surprise him or her with a CD. Or, you might hear her say that going to “ABC” resort is on her bucket list, make a mental note of it and next time you have the opportunity of going away for the week/end be sure to take your partner there. Make mental notes of these “random droppings” and surprise your beloved with it. You cannot go wrong because you heard him/her saying what it is that they would like.
Surprises are unexpected acts of kindness that need not cost you money. Maybe a note in the lunchbox suggesting a loving, motivational or sexy message, a note against the windscreen, a handwritten love letter, or an unexpected delicacy that shows you were thinking of him whilst shopping; giving your beloved a sensual massage or watching the rugby match with him (although it might not be your favorite pastime) can be ways of putting energy back into the relational space.
In order for you to have a good and satisfying relationship you need to incorporate creativity, playfulness and sometimes a little bit of naughtiness. You should be able to feel the bond between you physically, in your body. It is general knowledge that the body plays an important role in feeling loved. When someone touches or kisses you or stares in your eyes for longer than 20 seconds (with your faces being 15cm apart) the brain releases an endorphin called oxytocin – a so called ‘feel good’ and bonding hormone. It causes an extremely intimate sensation – almost equal to an orgasm. It reinforces the couple’s closeness, their bonding.
Caring for your relationship takes a conscious, aware and active decision as well as effort where romance and fun are planned, even though you might not feel up to it. The real question is "What does the relationship need from me?" rather than "What do I need from the relationship?" The secret is to communicate about it – to talk and to listen. Communication is the starting point to intentional, conscious romance. Couples who can consciously choose to re-romanticize their relationship are the truly happy couples.