What Makes Love Last?

what-makes-love-lastThis article is about ‘What Makes Love Last?’ based on some of the ideas in Gottman’s book of the same name. Putting words around what makes love work helps us improve our relationships.

Understanding Loving Attachment

Love is a mysterious thing. What is known that a large part of making love
last is to communicate with each other in a way that maintains loving
attachment. This is how to show you care.

It’s healthy to recognise that we all have loving attachment needs. The need to love and
be loved. The word attachment describes the emotional feeling of safetywe feel when we are emotionally safe , connected and relaxed inside when we are together with our partner. We invest a lot in each other. It's natural  to be  inter-dependent on our partner for emotional nourishment, intimacy and love. A healthy romantic relationship is based on doing regular things to show you care.

It’s normal for both partners to care about the following:

  • Are you interested in me?
  • Are you there for me when I need you?
  • Am I special to you?
  • Do you love me?

When these attachment needs are met we feel lovingly attached to each other. When they are not met we become busy trying to  reconnect with our partner usually through testing and arguing !

Maintaining Loving Attachment - Simple Stuff That Works

Let’s look at what you can do to communicate in a way that maintains a loving attachment and what to do when conflict weakens loving attachment.

JohnGottman in his book ,’what makes love last’ watched many couples interact and noticed that couples tend to send out signals that indicate they want attention/support/connection which he calls ,”bids”.  

Paying attention to these  bids maintains a loving attachment . It’s the practical things we can do in everyday to nourish our relationship. In good times it’s easy. In challenging times in takes loving effort. You might start to recognise that those arguments that you thought were 'over nothing"  were really  your partner testing and listening out for, 'Do you care about me?".All to often we miss it because we are busy "being right" and justfifying our point of view.

This article will hopefully make you more aware of the bids/ cues we give each other thatare attempts to feel close and connected. It's  a check list. If you pay attention to these things in your relationship then you will have that 'loving feeling'. If you don't your partner will be left wondering what they mean to you.

  • “Pay attention to What I Say”.If you give me good attention when I tell you things, and take an interest in what is interesting to me , then I feel valued and loved. You see me in the world and how I experience it.
  • “Respond to my  Requests”. When you give importance to what I ask, it makes me feel valued, cared for and important to you. It’s not that you need to agree to what I ask, just acknowledge it’s importance to me.
  • “Co-operate with me”.
    I feel a togetherness with you when we do tasks together. If you see me doing something, it means a lot when you offer to help me.
  • “Show interest and excitement in my accomplishments”.I want to share my joy with you and celebrate with you. Your encouragement is important to me. Please notice what I struggle to
    achieve . Support and encourage me. Notice what I do well.
  • “Chat with me, tell me about your day and ask me about mine”. Tell me the details about what is important to you, what you enjoyed, what excited you, what fears you had, what disappointed you.
  • “Tune into my mood and see if we can tune into together in what we want to do”.See if it’s possible to go with my mood/requests and I will in turn be receptive to you. If I want to go out and have fun, see if you can respond. Please don’t automatically put my ideas down.  See if you can get into the mood to engage with me.
  • “Emotionally respond to me”. When I’m emotional I feel vulnerable , I want you to be there for me. Please don’t solve my problem, tell me what to do or rationalise because I will hear you telling me that how I feel is not OK. Tell me what you sense I’m  feeling, e.g.”you feeling upset about….you don’t know what to do about….”
  • “Be Affectionate”.  When you put your arm around me, hug me, kiss me goodbye, hold my hand I feel loved and connected to you. When you initiate love making for the sake of love making and touching without it by default leading to intercourse I feel loved.
  • “Suggest things for us to do together”. I love going on adventures with you. I love it when you take me out of the usual routine. I like that you want to share and do things with me. It makes me feel special to you. I like that you have considered me and thought about what I might enjoy. It’s the intention and effort that counts. I love date nights. Just tell me to be ready and surprise me.

And when there is conflict….

  • “Tell me you want to work things through ”. This shows me that you care and you are not abandoning me or avoiding things in a sulk.
  • “Ask me about my feelings and opinions and how I see it” I might be too hurt/emotional to go first and ask you. If you listen out for what meaning I took from what you said rather than arguing the content, we will see that I felt vulnerable and the argument isn’t about the content more about not feeling considered or appreciated.
  • “Validate my Feelings”.I’m wanting my feelings validated which means tell me back in detail what I tell you. That way I feel I’m sane,my feelings are Ok and you get why I’m feeling this way. If you say,’I
    understand without the giving the detail of what you understand andwithout describing my feelings’ I’m left choked full of feelings that Ican’t let go.
  • “Show me some affection”.Make some kind of physical contact with me. Worse case : Even if I can’t accept right now, I’ll still appreciate the gesture. Best case: It will really help me feel connected to you.
  • “Persevere”.When I feel vulnerable it’s hard to trust what you say. Without really be aware of it, I might initially push you away. Please don’t be put off. I’m really saying, ‘go away, but please don’t leave me!’. Listen to the ‘please don’t leave me’. See that I’m just hurt and vulnerable and needing  reassurance.
  • "Agree a Time Out Before Leaving".If things are getting heated and you need a break, just tell me you need a time out and for how long. If you keep to the time and take responsiblity to restart where we left off I won't feel abandoned.
  • “Take Responsibility”.When you own what you did, express regret for how it impacted me and say how you will stop it happening again I feel so safe. For me it’s not about being right or punishing you. The magic words are “ “you are
    right, I did do …I regret…I realise I hurt you…I’ll do this to stop it happening again.”
  • “Re-enforce We-ness”. When you say positive things about ‘us’ together eg.” I'm so glad we are talking this through “. I feel we are together.

Men and Women's Classic Bid Conflicts

  • This list of bids can appear to be to what women want from men. This may be because women are better at maintaining loving attachment than men. Men have the same needs yet express them in different ways.
  • Typically  women need emotional intimacy through (bids being met) before they wantto make love whereas men are wired to seek sex/ make love first in order to emotionally connect. Men and women want intimacy but go about it differently. I often witness women being critical that their partner wants to make love with them when emotionally things aren't great between them them. For a large number of men sex is a way of attempting to emotionally connect. It would help if women were mindful of not being critical of their partner's sexual impluse and instead guided their
    partner on what they need in terms of emotional connection/ intimacy. It would if men tuned in to what their partner needed rather than focus on feeling rejected.

What you Can Do

  • Listen carefully to what your partner says, remain curious about what's important to them to feel connected to you.
  • Whenyou feel hurt about something or feel disconnected, don't sit on it.Speak to your partner and work it through rather than allow resentment to build.
  • Appreciate your partner when they get it right for you ( meet your bids)
  • Remain curious about how different your partner is to you

Examples:
'You know, I really love talking to you after work about what is going on, it makes me feel close to you'

'Oh I like it when you hold me . kiss me when you come in from work....'

'That means a lot to me..that you...told me what happened, ..asked me how I was feeling, noticed that I was feeling down'

In Conclusion:

Whatmakes love last is to remain curious and receptive to  what you need and what you partner needs to maintain a loving attachment - the feelingof closeness between you.

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