Every relationship has times when we feel on top of the world, there’s a close connection and lots of fun and laughter. Love is flourishing.
Every relationship also has times when we feel distant, frustrated, angry perhaps, and all the fun seems to have leaked out.
Imagine there’s a love tank with a ‘fuel gauge’ for your relationship. How full is your love tank right now?
The question is not designed to be an opportunity to start criticising or demanding things from our partner because we know that love is about giving, not getting. It’s a question for self reflection that throws up additional questions:
- How much am I putting into the relationship?
- What can I do to fill up the love tank?
- Am I giving love in the way my partner needs and receives it?
Gary Chapman, author of the ‘Five Love Languages’ describes ways in which we can give love in the way our partner can receive it, when we know their “love language” (words of affirmation; physical touch, acts of service, thoughtful gifts and quality time). It’s a great tool, which works well as long as we are other centred.
I’m very aware that what comes naturally for me is to show love in MY love language. I tend to do things, like making a nice meal or organising time together. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, it’s just that my husband’s top love languages are: words of affirmation and physical touch. The candles on the table do very little for him. If I want to express love in the way he’s going to receive it I need to affirm him with the things I say and whisk him off to the bedroom! In short I need to be thinking of his needs.
I also need to turn any of my good intentions into action. There’s a myth that relationships just happen. THEY DON’T! Relationships take work and sacrifice, but it’s worth working at it daily.
FamilyLife’s App, Toucan, enables you and your partner to build friendship and intimacy in your relationship in a fresh way. The app delivers bite-sized content in video modules on a variety of topics (communication, conflict, loving…) wrapped up with interactive exercises so you can understand yourself and your partner more. Toucan will create significant conversations for you and your partner.
“A great app – it really helped to have a framework for discussion with my wife to talk about things that we probably otherwise wouldn’t ever do.” – Adam
“I really love the idea of being able to invest into our marriage anytime and anywhere we want. It adapts perfectly to our lifestyle.” – Debora
You may be thinking, ‘I’ve been giving and giving and getting nothing back. The love tank emptied a long time ago!’
The problem is we can’t change our partner, we can only change oursleves. Perhaps this is a time to find a different course of action: to get away for a couple’s retreat where you can spend dedicated time on your relationship, without distractions. Or it may be that it’s time for some help. If we had a broken leg we’d go to a doctor, so if part of our relationship is broken the best thing we could do is to see a professional counsellor.
Dr Sue Johnson, leading couple’s therapist, says: “The greatest gift one lover has to give another, is emotionally attuned attention and timely responsiveness.” Johnson defines love as “a special kind of emotional bond, the need for which is wired into our brains by millions of years of evolution.” We are not meant to be alone! Secure and close connection is the foundation of good relationships. Disconnection brings anxiety and distress.
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